Among the most fulfilling aspects of a night’s rest is a cozy pillow, and one of the biggest bummers is a pillow going flat. Like mattresses and down comforters, pillows have their lifespans. That being so, how can one determine if a pillow is worn and in need of replacement, and often should you replace your pillows? The rule of thumb is every two years, but you will find useful information throughout this article as to when those pillows need to be freshened up or, if completely worn out, require replacing. Ultimately, pillow type will determine the longevity of a pillow. Luckily, we saved you the hassle of trying to research it on your own to provide insight on how often to replace pillows.

Why Is It Important To Replace My Pillows?

There are lots of reasons to prioritize replacing your pillows. After all, it’s the surface on which you put your face every night after a long day of, well, who knows what? There are lots of particles and other material on and inside your pillows that you probably don’t know about while you’re snoozing the night away. You could also be struggling with counting sheep because your pillow needs to be replaced. Let’s take a look at the top reasons to replace pillows.


Just like how the hand towel hanging in your bathroom needs to be washed or replaced because of daily use and handling, so do your pillows. All that skin-to-skin contact leads to a build-up of sweat, saliva, dead skin cells, hair and who-knows-what-else on to your pillows. In short, if you don’t replace or clean your pillows regularly, instead of remaining in the cozy cloud upon which you lay your head, it can quickly become pretty gross. This can also lead to the generation of mold and mildew on your pillows, which can create a whole new slew of problems. 

Better Sleep

Let’s be honest with ourselves: a flat or lumpy pillow won’t support a full night’s rest. Your spine doesn’t think so either. A pillow is meant to support your head, neck, and spine while you sleep away. A good pillow will help to keep your spine aligned, all while providing better quality sleep.


All of a human’s oil, sweat, saliva, dead skin cells, and hair will inevitably accumulate onto their pillows. The organic media will oxidize throughout the day, transferring back onto the sleeping person’s face and neck. The oxidized organic material can cause breakouts on your skin in what’s known as acne mechanica. Acne mechanica is caused when your face comes into contact with other materials or surfaces, forcing your skin and pores to absorb what contacts its surface. If you’re not regularly replacing or cleaning your pillows, this can cause a buildup of dirt and oxidized media in your pores, resulting in acne breakouts.


Eventually, your older pillows will begin to attract dust mites. As dust mites feed off of dead skin cells, all while thriving in warmer environments, your pillows inevitably become their dream habitat. Dust mites themselves won’t trigger your allergies, though. Moreso, after death, their deteriorated exoskeletons will form smaller particles in your pillow and mattress. These particles are often the overlooked culprit of allergies in your bedroom or when nearing bedtime. Since deteriorated dust mite exoskeletons resemble dust in size and geometry, your body’s immune system pings a histamine alert, all the same. 

Avoid Pain 

Your circadian rhythm isn’t the only factor that affects your sleep. For back sleepers, a worn pillow can make your head rest heavier due to the lack of support, tugging on your neck and placing strain upon your vertebrae. For side sleepers, a poor pillow can cause your unsupported head to gradually bend uncomfortably towards your shoulder during sleep, misaligning your spine. You can wake up the next day uncomfortable and in a lot of pain should you sleep with a pillow that no longer lines up with your sleeping position.

When Should You Replace Your Pillow?

How often you replace your pillow will depend mainly on the type of pillow you have. With cheaper pillow types, like polyester, you’ll have to replace more often than you would a memory foam pillow. Below is a graph in case you need a reminder on how often to change pillows.

Pillow TypeHow Often Should You Replace
PolyesterEvery six months
FeatherOnce a year or more
BuckwheatEvery ten years
DownOnce a year
Memory FoamOnce a year
LatexEvery two years
Down AlternativeEvery 18 months to two years

How Do I Know I Need To Replace My Pillows?

There are plenty of warnings your pillow will give you when it’s time to switch it out. Here are a few signs you should pay attention to that signal a replacement of your pillows:

  • Tattered fabric
  • Discoloration
    • Black speckling, which can be mold or mildew
    • A spreading stain that is brown, yellow, grayish, and anywhere in the color spectrum between the mentioned colors. A sign of microbes
  • Loss of volume
    • Not enough airflow in the pillow, it becomes flat even after fluffing.
  • A mild or foul odor that won’t go away
  • Your face still breaks out, or your allergies have not alleviated, despite cleaning your pillowcase covers
  • Poor quality of sleep 
  • An aching or strained neck
  • Upper back discomfort
  • For feather pillows, feathers begin to protrude from the pillow

How To Maintain My Pillows 

A pillow can endure longer than its average lifespan if the actual pillow itself is taken care of. There are countermeasures to prevent odor, acne, and the eventual deterioration of your pillows.

Apple cider vinegar

Vinegar is Earth’s overlooked and underrated all-natural cleaner. The acidity from apple cider vinegar, in particular, does a remarkable job preventing microbial life, like dust mites, from accumulating on almost any surface, including your pillow. Not only does the cleaning effect apply to your pillow, but the benefits will also translate onto your face and skin, as well. 

To dilute the vinegar, fill a spray bottle halfway with apple cider vinegar and then fill the remaining volume with water. When you spray the apple cider vinegar onto your pillow’s surface, the vinegar uses the water’s surface tension as a means to saturate the microorganisms and eliminate them.

Steam cleaning

Steam is a powerful sanitizer, covering areas and surfaces that general hot water may not effectively reach. Steaming your feather or buckwheat pillows can be a remarkably effective way to remove dust mites, microbes, as well as any particles that are clinging to your pillow due to static energy. 

If your pillows are not stuffed with feathers, you should not use this approach. Instead, use any other methods to maintain your filament, or other alternative and artificial materials, in your pillows. If your pillows fit in your washer machine, wash them on the coldest setting. When drying, tumble them on the most gentle, low-heat setting possible. Clean tennis balls during the drying process will prevent material inside your pillows from clumping. If your king or queen size pillows don’t fit in either machine, taking your pillows to a laundromat is another alternative.

Pillow protectors

Many consider their pillow covers as protection for the pillows themselves. In reality, pillowcases protect your face from the inevitable build-up of grime and dirt on the pillow’s surfaces. There are covers specifically for pillows to prevent them from becoming dirty and retaining dust. Pillow protectors are essentially tightly woven pillowcases that do a great job at inhibiting particles from entering inside. 

Final Thoughts 

Sleep is a powerful tool for recovery, playing a dynamic role in your day-to-day life. Just as pillows are an important part of your bedtime routine, replacing your pillows is also a part of the regular maintenance of your sleep schedule, all in order to provide for a quality night of rest. Be sure to maintain your pillows with either of the methods above to keep them fresh. When shopping for a pillow, keep and make a note of the recommended time span to replace pillows, so you may know when to swap them out down the road. Be mindful of how your body is resting at night and how it may be affected by your pillow’s current state. It may be the key to getting a good night’s sleep.