How Often Should You Replace Pillows?

Replacing your pillow isn’t just about not being gross, although that should be motivation enough! Along with your mattress, your pillow plays an important role in maintaining proper spinal alignment while you sleep.

By regularly replacing your pillows, you get to keep on enjoying a restful night’s sleep, and avoid waking up with aches and pains.

Why is it so important to replace your pillow?

Every night as you sleep, your body sheds skin, hair, and body oil that your pillow absorbs. The buildup of these materials can cause your pillow to smell, although washing it regularly will prevent that (keep reading for pillow maintenance tips below).

Besides odor, over time these conditions will naturally attract dust mites to grow in your pillow. These tiny creatures add extra weight to your pillow and impair its ability to stay supportive long-term. Dust mites are not dangerous, but they feed on your skin and are simply unsettling to think about. But for people with allergies, dust mites can worsen their symptoms to the extent that they interfere with their sleep.

Even if you address the dust mite problem with regular washing, your pillow can’t last forever. Our heads are heavy, and bearing the weight of your head night after night will eventually wear your pillow out and cause it to flatten in spots.

Signs you should replace your pillow

You’ll know it’s time to replace your pillow if you notice any of the following:

  • There are noticeable lumps in the foam or filler materials
  • There are noticeable, permanent stains from body sweat and oil
  • You wake up with aches and pains, particularly in your neck or shoulders
  • You wake up tired (due to the above aches and pains interrupting your sleep)
  • You wake up with headaches or are developing tension headaches
  • You wake up sneezing from the dust mites
  • You constantly have to re fluff your pillow to get comfortable (feather pillows only)
  • If you fold your pillow in half, it stays that way instead of expanding back out (feather pillows only)

Sometimes you need to change your pillow for other reasons than old age. Other factors that can affect the longevity of your pillow include health conditions like allergies, or if you’ve recently changed sleeping positions.

For example, if you’ve switched from sleeping on your side to your back, you’ll need a new pillow with a different height. Different sleeping positions require different heights to keep the spine, neck, and head aligned.

If you have allergies, you’ll need to replace your pillow more regularly than the suggested lifespans below, simply because you’re more sensitive to dust mites.

When should you replace your pillow?

The rule of thumb is to replace your pillow every 1 to 2 years. Certain types of pillows last longer than others, due to the quality and construction of their materials.  

Below we’ve listed the average lifespans for different pillow types, organized from most to least durable:

Type of pillow Lifespan
Latex 3-4 years
Buckwheat 3 years
Feather 18-36 months
Memory foam 18-36 months
Down 2+ years
Synthetic down/down alternative 18-24 months
Polyester 6-24 months

How to maintain your pillow

In order to ensure you reach your pillow’s maximum lifetime, you need to maintain it by using a pillow cover and cleaning it regularly.

Washing your pillow

Always check your pillow’s label to see whether it is machine washable. However, typically only pillows with down or synthetic down fillers are washable. Others you may have to dry clean or spot clean.

If your pillow is indeed washable, wash it every 6 months on the hot water setting. Use mild liquid detergent, and wash two pillows at once so the washing machine cleans them equally. Run your washer a second time on the rinse cycle without detergent.

Then, dry your pillow on the air only or low-heat setting, and keep drying until it is fully dry without any moist or damp clumps inside (which leave room for mold to grow).

If your pillow has feathers or shredded material for filler, fluff it daily to help it maintain its shape.

Pillow covers

Always use a pillow cover in addition to your pillowcase. A pillow protector with a zipper is ideal for enclosing your pillow, before you put on the pillow case. The extra buffer helps prevent some of that excess skin and body oil from getting absorbed by the pillow and attracting dust mites.

Using a protective case is so effective it can double your pillow’s lifespan. Wash the cover every 3 to 4 weeks.

Additional resources