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 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.
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.
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.
Keep your mattress in great shape along with your pillow to get the most out of your purchase and enjoy great sleep. Our article explains how to maintain and clean your mattress, from a random stain or odor to bed bug infestations.
Check out our blog post to find out if your pillow is causing your neck pain, and if you need to switch to a new pillow to support your sleeping position.
Need to buy a new pillow? Our pillow buying guide explains the pros and cons of each pillow, buying tips, the top-reviewed brands, and everything else you need to know. If you’d like to learn more about a specific type of pillow, check out our in-depth guides below: