When Should You Replace Your Pillow?

By ArtOfPillows | Bed Pillows

Apr 21

You love your pillow. It makes you feel good after a stressful day at work or a hard workout at the gym. Nothing feels better than falling on the bed and plopping up your head on your nice, fluffy pillow. Whenever you feel bad, it is there for you to hug until you fall asleep.

However, if your favourite pillow could talk, it would probably scream for mercy. Or report you to the pillow police.

We don’t know it, or perhaps we just won’t admit it, but the pillow is the most overlooked and abused member of the bedroom. We’ll think about replacing the mattress, changing the sheets and dry cleaning the comforter. The pillow remains an afterthought. Sure, once in a while we’ll change its cover.

Ask yourself: “When was the last time you washed your favourite pillow?” Better still, ask yourself:“When did you last replace your pillow?”

Like we said earlier, you love your pillow. For many, the pillow holds precious memories. In good and bad times, it is there to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Unfortunately, as the song goes, “If you love someone, set them free” or in this case, it could be time to replace your pillow.

Are There Health Risks For Not Replacing Pillows?

Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

What are we talking about? All the gross and nasty things that have been thriving and living in your pillow all of these years.

We spend a third of our day on the bed. Many of us climb into bed without thinking of changing our clothes or washing up first. Whenever you come in from the outside, you track in dirt, oil, dust mites and other unwanted things inside your house.

Getting on the bed without discarding your dirty clothes or taking a shower will bring all of those undesirable substances and particles on your mattress and pillows.

Are you getting more acne on your face?

Your pillow absorbs oil and dirt from your face, hair and body. Let’s not forget drool which normally happens during deep sleep.

Whenever you press your face against the pillow to give it a hug, all the dirt and bacteria that have been thriving on its surface for days will go on your skin.

Even if you spend time cleaning your face with astringent, as long as dirt and oil remain on your pillow, you will continue to get acne.

Is your allergy getting worse?

Every day, you shed dead skin. All of that dead skin will accumulate on your pillow and mattress. Dust mites love feeding on dead skin. Add oil, dirt and grime and you’ve recreated a Las Vegas-style buffet underneath your pillow for dust mites.

You don’t see them, but a small area of your pillow can house thousands of dust mites. What do dust mites have to do with your allergy?

When dust mites excrete the digested dead skin, the by-product becomes allergens which can trigger asthma and allergy attacks.

Are neck, shoulder and back pain becoming more frequent?

A pillow helps prevent neck, shoulder and back pain by keeping your body in proper alignment. That is why it is recommended to buy a pillow based on your sleeping position.

Once a pillow has lost its firmness and level of support, it will not keep your body in correct alignment. All of your body pain and ailments will come out.

If you’re a back sleeper, you will often find your neck hyperextended in uncomfortable positions that place more compression forces on your shoulders and back.

Are you experiencing any of these inconveniences? If you are, then it is time to replace your favourite pillow.

When To Replace Your Pillow

Nothing lasts forever and that includes your pillow. It doesn’t matter how expensive it is, what the manufacturer claims or what the retailer guarantees. Over time and with constant use, your pillow will wear out and will have to be changed.

Cleaning can help address the proliferation of gross and nasty stuff on your pillow. However, not all types of pillows can be cleaned regularly.

Down and synthetic down pillows can be dry cleaned. Polyester pillows are the most affordable types and can be washed. However, memory foam pillows cannot be cleaned. Thus, while cleaning your pillows can improve hygiene, it will not prolong its life.

There is no exact science or method to determine when to replace your pillow. Sleep specialists will recommend the folding test. If your pillow can retain its shape, firmness and consistency after folding it in half, then there is no need to replace it.

However, should the opposite happen, be ready to replace your pillow. Keep in mind that the fold test only takes into account its level of firmness. It does not consider the potential health risks the yellowish or brownish stains on its surface may present or the detectable putrid smell if it’s made of memory foam.

With constant exposure, we become numb or immune to certain smells. We may not know it, but your room could be emanating an unwelcome odour. It could be moldy or rancid. You may not be able to tell, but your roommate or bedside companion will.

If you bedside companion is becoming a less frequent sleepover visitor, for the sake of your social life, replace your pillow!

After all, who wouldn’t want that new pillow smell?

Manufacturers will generally recommend replacing your bedroom pillows every one to two years depending on its type and quality. Memory foam, down and synthetic down, latex and feather are highly durable materials. They may last you for up to three years before replacing them.

Polyester, which we mentioned is the cheapest type of pillow you can buy, should be changed every three to six months.

You should also replace your pillow when you start to feel pain in your neck, shoulders and lower back. This is proof that it is no longer firm and stable. If you continue to use pillows that have lost their firmness, it will only lead to more discomfort and sleepless nights.

A good rule to keep in mind is that if you’re already thinking of replacing your old pillows, you probably should!


Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about having a comfortable mattress and a warm, snuggly blanket. You need a good, firm and hygienic pillow to complete the triumvirate.

Don’t overlook the value of having a comfortable pillow to sleep on. Back-sleepers rest their heads on them. Stomach sleepers place a thin pillow underneath their hips to protect their lower back. Side sleepers need a pillow that is firm enough to keep their necks aligned with the head and shoulders.

And it’s not just regular sleep that should concern you when it comes to your pillow. There are serious health risks involved if your pillows are past their prime.

Trapped dirt, oil and grime can lead to unwanted skin conditions like acne and rashes. Dead skin will attract more dust mites and introduce more allergens into your environment. Constant sneezing will certainly not lead to a good night’s sleep. Besides, it’s easier falling asleep to new pillow smell.

Some doctors recommend buying two pillows: a plush one and a firm one. According to these sleep doctors, people are less stressed at the start of the week or from Monday to Wednesday. Your neck and shoulders do not need as much support so the plush pillow will do.

However, people tend to get more stressed toward the end of the week. Thus, you should replace the plush pillow with a firmer one from Thursday to Friday.

Regardless of your approach, do not hesitate to replace your bedroom pillows when you are starting to feel greater discomfort or irritation on your skin.

About the Author

The Art of Pillows team are made up of a group of ex professional physicians and professional sleepers who’s passion is to spread the word about how important having the right pillow for your posture and needs is crucial to living a happy and healthy life.

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