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How Often to Replace Every Type of Pillow

Lara Vargas

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Many people have a favorite pillow, and once you find the most comfortable pillow, it may be hard to let it go. However, even the best pillows experience wear and will eventually give out. While proper maintenance can extend a pillow’s life, it’s still important to regularly replace pillows not only for comfort but for hygiene reasons, too.

Different pillow materials have specific lifespans and maintenance needs, though generally, pillows should be replaced every 1 to 2 years. Using a fresh and good quality pillow improves your sleep and prevents any aches and pains in the morning.

The Importance Of Replacing Your Pillows

Sooner or later, all pillows develop lumps, feel unsupportive, and are usually filled with germs. Once your pillow feels used, it can no longer provide the support it originally offered, leading to poor sleep and achy muscles.

Hygiene

Your pillow acts as a sponge, trapping bacterias such as dirt, sweat, dust mites, and skin cells every night. Even if you wash your pillows frequently and thoroughly, washing is not perfect in ridding pillows entirely of these germs.

Over time, the bacteria from the air and our bodies build up within our pillows, causing odors, stains, and dust. If you suffer from allergies, the dust clinging to your pillow can trigger reactions or cause skin irritation, making sleep an insufferable experience.

Support

Eventually, even the best of pillows develop soft spots. Our heads are heavy and wear on a pillow’s supportive materials. Pillows are meant to be sturdy enough to keep our heads neutral with our spines, and older pillows no longer provide the necessary support. Worn out pillows throw your neck and spine out of alignment and cause pain.

Signs You Need A New Pillow

If you’re unsure exactly how old your pillow is, there are multiple traits signaling your pillow’s loss of structural integrity to indicate it’s time for a replacement. Look for some of the signs below to determine if you need to swap your current pillows for new ones:

  • Your pillow has gotten noticeably bumpy
  • You constantly have headaches in the morning
  • You wake up with allergy flare-ups, including itchy, reddish skin or difficulty breathing
  • Your head tilts downward on your pillow
  • Your shoulders and neck feel achy, and even cramp up, in the mornings
  • Your pillow feels or looks flat
  • Despite washing, there are yellowish stains on your pillow.
  • Your pillow folds in half easily and stays in that position

When To Replace Each Pillow Type

The general advice is to replace your pillows every 1 to 2 years to prevent bacteria build-up and keep your head sufficiently supported. However, some pillows may last longer than others based on the stuffing used to fill them.

Memory Foam – Every 1 to 3 Years

Memory foam pillows are made from a block of foam and are often produced in different shapes to provide added head and neck support. The pillows contour to your head and neck well and are useful for alleviating chronic aches in your body. Memory foam is hypoallergenic and affordable, making it a popular choice for many.

The pillows should be replaced every 1 to 3 years with suitable maintenance. Memory foam is not machine-washable and is best when hand-washed and air-dried.

Down – Every 2 Years

Down pillows are filled using the soft feathers around the stomach of ducks and geese. The pillows provide great support and softness, and typically sleep quite cool; though down is not hypoallergenic and can trigger allergies for some.

With care, down pillows will only need to be replaced every 2 years. Generally, down is best when simply machine-washed and tumble-dried.

Feather – Every 18 to 36 Months

Similar to down, feather pillows are filled using duck and geese feathers. What differentiates feather pillows from down is how feather pillows contain the coarser, outer feathers from these birds. These feathers create a soft pillow suited for hot sleepers but are not hypoallergenic.

Most feather pillows will last between 18 to 36 months with the correct maintenance and should be machine-washed and tumble-dried.

Down Alternative – Every 18 to 24 Months

Down alternative, also called synthetic down, pillows are filled with a polyester material meant to mimic the properties of genuine down while being more widely available. The pillows offer the same softness of down while being hypoallergenic, making them great for allergy-sufferers wanting a fluffier pillow.

Typically, down alternative pillows need to be replaced every 18 to 24 months. Their care is simple, as they simply need to be machine-washed and tumble-dried.

Latex – Every 3 to 4 Years

Latex is a popular pillow material because it has the contouring capabilities of memory foam while being more durable and staying cool throughout the night. The material is produced using rubber tree sap and is naturally hypoallergenic, making it great for individuals who sleep hot or have allergies.

Pillows made from latex generally last 3 to 4 years with proper care. Latex pillows are best maintained when hand-washed and air-dried.

How To Care For Your Pillows

To ensure your pillow lasts the expected life span, proper care is needed to maintain its quality. Every pillow has its own care instructions, however, there are general guidelines to keep most pillows like-new. Below, we run through the basics of cleaning your pillows and pillowcases.

Pillowcases and Covers

Pillowcases and covers are thin removable covers for your pillows meant to protect them from moisture absorption, stains, and bacteria build-up. We recommend always using a pillowcase over your pillow. Pillowcases and covers maximize your pillow’s lifespan by guarding your pillow against germs and debris.

Also, using a pillowcase makes maintaining your pillow somewhat simpler, as you won’t need to wash it often. Instead, you can just wash the covers every other week (or every time you wash your sheets), and this is much easier than cleaning the entire pillow every month.

Pillowcases and covers are often decorative to match your bedding, and they come in different styles. Most covers are open-ended bags, though some are closed with ties or zippers, further preventing dirt and dust from infiltrating your pillow.

Washing And Drying Your Pillow

On a general basis, pillows need to be washed every 3 to 6 months, whether it be machine washing, dry cleaning, or merely spot-cleaning. Always consult the care instructions for your pillow so as not to damage it.

Typically, most down and down alternative pillows can be machine washed with hot water—the hot water best kills germs and reduces allergen build-up. Plus, it’s important to always wash two pillows at once, since this keeps your washer balanced. If you don’t have two pillows, blankets or towels can replace one pillow, just be sure not to overload your machine.

Once you have the washer loaded, add mild liquid detergent and run two cycles: one cycle with the soap, and then a rinse cycle to ensure your pillow is completely free of leftover detergent. If soap is left in your pillow, it can encourage mold growth, and mold is not only toxic, but it can also trigger allergic reactions in some.

After washing your pillows, throw them in the dryer on a low heat setting. Some people like to throw tennis or dryer balls in with their pillows to fluff them up. Just remember, dry your pillows as soon as they’re washed and don’t leave them sitting damp or moist, moist pillow fill is the perfect environment for mold growth.

Common Questions

Why do pillows turn yellow?

It’s pretty gross, but pillows turn yellow as they absorb sweat. Even if you maintain your pillows well and wash them when needed, discoloration happens over time. If your pillows have yellow stains, toss them and replace them with new ones.

How much should I spend on a pillow?

Generally, the best, longest-lasting pillows typically cost between 50 to 150 dollars based on their fillings and any added technologies used. If you don’t have any issues sleeping, you can get by using a pillow cheaper than 25 dollars, though it may have a poor-quality filling and not last very long.

Contrarily, if you’re an individual struggling to get restful sleep, using a good quality pillow plays a part in helping you better. It’s best to invest in a supportive and oftentimes, pricier, pillow to ensure you stay comfortable and foster better sleep.

Are pillows recyclable?

Some pillows can be recyclable, though generally, most pillows need to be tossed in the garbage. You may want to donate old pillows, though most secondhand stores or non-profits will not accept them for sanitary reasons.

If you’re hoping to create less waste, old pillows can be repurposed as pet beds or, with a new cover, be decorative. Pet and wildlife shelters also gladly accept old pillows to also be used as beds for the animals.

Can I use baking soda to clean my pillows?

Baking soda is quite effective when removing stains from your pillows. For the best results, make a paste of water and baking soda and then dab it onto your pillow. Leave the mixture on for 30 minutes before washing your pillow as normal.

How many pillows should I sleep with?

Many people keep several pillows on their bed at once, though one pillow under your head is all that’s needed to keep your neck and spine aligned. Extra decorative pillows don’t hurt aesthetics, but layering multiple pillows under your head at bedtime may throw your neck out of alignment and cause discomfort.

Conclusion

Clean, quality pillows foster better sleep, though are often neglected. Do your best to prolong the life of your pillows by properly washing and protecting them, however every pillow needs to be replaced periodically, typically after 1 to 2 years of use.

Old pillows contain germs and allergens, causing an array of discomfort and making sleeping difficult. For the sake of your health and the quality of your sleep, be aware of the indications of an aging pillow, including soft spots or yellow stains on it. Once you replace your worn-out pillows with an upgrade, you’ll be amazed by your improved sleep.

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