Periodically replacing your pillows is something that you should do to ensure the best night’s sleep possible.
You may not think it, but over time, your pillow will lose its fluff, gather up dust mites and lose its fresh look – even with cleaning. And that’s not a good thing.
A pillow is meant to support your head and neck as you sleep and it will eventually lose its ability to do that. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to replace your pillows every 1 – 2 years (recommended by the Sleep Foundation). But this rule will vary depending on the type of pillow you are using.
If you are not convinced that you need to replace your pillows, here are reasons why you need to do just that.
Problems That Arise When Using Old Pillows
You use your pillows every night. And as every night passes, your pillows get a little more used and a little more aged. This will eventually lead to several problems that aren’t so good for your health and sleep quality:
1. Poor Hygiene
All kinds of grotty things are absorbed by your pillows as they are being used. This includes your skin oils, hair, saliva, and sweat. Even your dead skin cells will find a home on your pillows.
This can create an environment that is suitable for mold and allergens to grow. A study back in 2005 found 4 – 16 different species of fungi on the pillows they sampled.
Not to mention the bad odor that you will eventually start to smell.
Dust mites will also multiply and can cause a variety of unwanted symptoms – especially if you have a dust mite allergy.
2. Limited Support
Over time, pillows lose their support capabilities. You may notice that the pillows you bought 2 years ago aren’t looking so fluffy anymore. A pillow is supposed to support your head and neck so it aligns correctly with your spine.
As your pillows begin to flatten from supporting your head – night after night – they eventually won’t be that comfortable to use anymore. Chances are you’ve woken in the morning with a sore neck or headache.
There’s nothing much you can do to try and fix this problem. Fluffing your pillows every night is a good way of slowing this process down but eventually, the only solution is getting new pillows.
When To Replace Your Pillows
Now you know the reasons why you should replace your pillows, but when is the right time to do so?
The 1-2 year guideline is just that, a guideline. Your pillows may indeed last a whole lot longer. Here is a checklist that you can go through to be sure that it’s time to throw out your old pillows:
- You have muscle cramps in the morning. Specifically, around your neck, head, or shoulders.
- You suddenly wake up more frequently during the night. This is likely the result of an uncomfortable pillow as your body tries to make its own adjustments. You may find yourself tossing and turning.
- Allergic reactions. You may find your nose a bit runny or stuffy, watery eyes or redness, and an itchy throat. This is a sign that your pillow is building up its own environment of microbes that are disturbing your sleep.
- Your pillow begins to look off-color. This can be a result of washing it too many times or a build-up of the body’s natural oils and sweat. A typical sign of this is a yellowish stain.
- Your pillow feels lumpy and/or flat. If you find yourself constantly fluffing your pillow to get that snug fit on your head, it’s a good sign that it’s losing its structure. If you feel your mattress through your head that’s also an indication that the pillow is getting a little too flat.
- The Fold Test. Experts from the National Sleep Foundation recommend a fold test. Simply fold your pillow in half. If it stays that way without returning to its original shape, it’s now a good time to look for a new one. This may not work on all pillow types, especially foam.
The Lifespan Of Different Pillows
Different pillows come with different lifespans, depending on the materials they are made from. Whilst a pillow will wear out at different speeds depending on how they are used and how often, it’s also handy to keep an eye out for how long they should last.
For example, if a pillow expires before it’s used by date, then you might be eligible for a refund or replacement (depending on the warranty).
Here is a general guide for how long different types of pillows should last you:
|Latex||5 – 10 years|
|Feather or Down||5 – 10 years|
|Polyester||6 months – 2 years|
|Cotton or Wool||3 – 5 years|
|Foam and Memory Foam||5 – 10 years (3-4)|
|Buckwheat||Up to 10 years|
Note: This data was extrapolated from multiple sources to give an average lifespan.
Notice how this goes against the idea of replacing your pillow every 2 years or so? Well, listed above are the ideal lifespans given that you take good care of your pillows. The reality is most people don’t adhere to all the care instructions that manufacturers provide, resulting in significantly reduced lifespans.
Following the manufacturers cleaning instructions will help you get the most out of your pillows and ensure that they perform as expected for as long as possible.
Can Pillows Be Washed?
Most pillows can be washed. Though make sure to be observant of the manufacturer’s label as some are dry clean only depending on the type of pillow.
If there are stains on the pillows, be sure to spot clean them before putting them in the washing machine. This will improve your chance of removing the stains.
- Memory Foam or Latex. These should not be washed. Instead, perform spot cleaning for any stains.
- Down or Feather. Use your washing machine’s gentle or delicate cycle to prevent clumping. Ensure to use a small amount of a weak or mild detergent that you can massage into the pillow before washing it.
- Polyester. Again, a gentle washing cycle is recommended with minimal detergent.
- Buckwheat. Cleaning a buckwheat pillow is a little more tricky. First, empty the buckwheat hulls into a large container. It’s better that this container is wide and shallow so the hulls can be evenly spread. You can set them in the sun to remove any odors. Alternatively, if your hulls appear very flat (this happens over time) or you’ve soiled them with something hard to clean like beer or soft drink, you may opt to buy a new filling of hulls. As for the fabric case, you can place this into the washing machine. We recommend a delicate cycle of cold water (if the case is cotton) to prevent shrinking with a small amount of detergent.
- Wool and Cotton. Spot cleaning is the best method for these pillow types as wool and cotton fibers can be very delicate and clump or shrink. However; you can still clean these pillows in the washing machine. A delicate or wool cycle will do, along with cold water to prevent shrinkage and some mild detergent.
You may decide to handwash your pillows instead. This is especially handy for foam or latex pillows.
To do this, fill a large tub, sink or bucket with enough warm water to ensure you can submerge the pillow completely. Then add about 15 ml of detergent (about a tablespoon) and mix it in.
Put the pillow in the water and gently massage it to remove dirt and stains. Once done, rinse it with cold water. Again, gently massage it to remove all the soap.
After cleaning your pillows, you now want to dry them.
It’s best to follow the care instructions. You will be able to machine dry them on low to moderate heat or hang them outside.
Ensure that they are completely dry before using them as damp pillows will cause mildew. To ensure this, you may need to hang them out for longer than expected or set your machine cycle for a longer duration.
How Often Should You Wash Your Pillows?
Pillows should be washed anywhere from 2 – 4 times a year. Think every 3-6 months. Of course, this is a general rule and you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pillowcases on the other hand can be washed more regularly. After all, the pillowcase is protecting the pillow itself and exposed to the most dirt. Every two weeks is what you should be aiming for.
Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?
The number one cause for pillows turning yellow is sweat. As you sleep, your body will produce sweat that will seep into your pillowcase and onto your pillow. Water and other chemicals on your face – such as makeup – can also cause the pillow to go yellow.
Many people simply throw out their pillows when they see a bit of yellow staining. However; a good clean should fix the issue and get your pillows looking new again.
How Do You Protect Your Pillows?
One of the best ways of extending the life of your pillows is by using pillowcases or pillow protectors. You can essentially insert your pillows into these pieces of fabric. They will protect your pillows from wear and tear.
There are a variety of pillowcases that you can purchase depending on your needs.
- An allergen-free pillowcase will help prevent the growth of dust-mites which is one of the most common causes of allergic reactions.
- A waterproof pillowcase will stop liquids like water or coffee from seeping through to your pillow. It’ll also stop sweat and prevent those unsightly yellow stains.
- Don’t like bed bugs? You can also get anti-bed bug pillowcases that seal your pillow completely from all points of entry. These cases use zippers instead of open sleeves.
It’s possible to get a pillow cover that has all of these attributes. Sometimes they will come with the pillow itself or you will have to shop for them separately.
Pillow covers can be made out of a variety of materials including cotton, polyester, bamboo, and TENCEL lyocel.