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Do Pillows Expire? How Can You Tell If You Need A New Set

Sep 16, 2022

Do pillows expire? Many sleepers don’t know that pillows are only good for 1-2 years. Here are other signs it’s due for replacement.

RELATED: How Many Pillows Do You Need On Your Bed?

Do Pillows Expire—Signs You Need a New Pillow

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Do Pillows Expire?

red and white bed pillows | do pillows expire

Yes. Pillows do expire.

Pillows, like your mattress, collect much of the dirt and bacteria that you’ve accumulated throughout the day. And at night, it can absorb bodily fluids like drool, sweat, or your nighttime skin care routine.

And without proper hygiene practices and regular cleaning, dust mites and bed bugs may also find a home within your pillows, beddings, and mattress.

These could be detrimental to your health and cue the need for a newer, cleaner pillow.

How Can You Tell When a Pillow Is Expired?

1. You’ve Had Your Pillow for Years

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The average pillow can typically last you around 1-2 years. However, some good quality pillows may have a lifespan of up to five years and it largely depends on the fill type:

  • memory foam – 2-3 years
  • poly foam – 2-3 years
  • feather/down – 1-3 years
  • synthetic down feathers – 2-4 years
  • polyester – 2-4 years
  • buckwheat – 3 years

2. There Are Stains on Your Pillow

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Brown stains may be a sign of mildew on your pillow, while yellow stains may be evidence of night sweats.

Mildew spores thrive and grow in moist environments. In addition to a humid climate, drool and sweat may also trigger an infestation.

A vinegar wash and naturally drying them under the sun may stop an oncoming growth in its tracks. However, read the care instructions carefully. Some pillows can only be spot cleaned or gently hand washed.

Any stains on your otherwise pristine white pillows should be dealt with immediately. By allowing the stain to settle, you might also have given the fluid enough time to seep into the fill of your pillow.

And if you find that you’ve left plenty of evidence of breakfasts in bed, consider investing in pillow protectors. They can lengthen the useful life of your pillows by protecting them from bodily fluids, accidental spills, insects, and dirt.

3. Your Pillow Is Lumpy, Sagging, or Flat

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Do you wake up with a stiff neck or aching shoulders? Over time, your pillow can go from high loft to medium loft to no loft at all.

An old pillow may not support your muscles and cradle your neck/shoulder area as well as it should. The ideal pillow should have enough loft or thickness depending on your sleeping position.

If you’re a back sleeper, your pillow should be just high enough to prop up your neck and help maintain the natural curve of your spine. Side sleepers will benefit from thicker or higher loft pillows that ease pressure off of their shoulders and keep your neck aligned.

But a pillow that sags won’t be able to support your neck or shoulders. And unless you’re a stomach sleeper who may not have much use for a pillow, consider shopping around for a new set. If you can’t fluff up your pillow to the heigh and loft you want, it’s time to shop for a new pillow.

RELATED: 8 Simple Ways A Bolster Pillow Can Add Luxury To Your Bed

5. Your Pillow Is Smelly

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In addition to being sleep-conducive, muscle-cradling, and spine-aligning, your mattress and pillows must be hygienic. And when your pillows begin to give off a funny smell, it’s time to invest in a new set.

Though you wrap your pillows with pillow cases, dirt and grime may slip through the fabric and taint your pillow. A quick and gentle round in the tub may do the trick. But if mild detergent and some time under the sun don’t get rid of the smell, then it’s time for new pillows.

Pillow protectors are great at shielding your pillows from dirt, bodily fluids, viruses, bacteria, and coffee spills. These help extend the lifespan of your pillows and keep them hygienic. Wash protectors along with your other beddings every two weeks to avoid dirt buildup.

6. Your Pillow May Be Triggering Your Allergies

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Old pillows can make you sick. And your own pillow may be the very cause of your allergies.

Dust mites are microscopic critters that love your bed as much as you do and are major triggers for those with asthma or people allergic to dust. You cannot see them with the naked eye and the very first sign that they’re there could be a stuffy nose.

And for dog lovers—unfortunately, hypoallergenic dogs simply do not exist. And if you share your bed with a pet, you risk spreading pet dander all over your pillows. But if you love your pooch too much to deprive them of the comfort of your Serta mattress, make sure to wash your beddings once a week.

Regular washing may help rid your pillows of allergens and prevent them from accumulating in what should be one of the most hygienic spots in your home. However, when washing doesn’t do the trick, it’s time for a replacement.

7. Your Pillows Do Expire—Just Like Your Needs

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Your mattress and pillows need to change with you.

Over time, you may prefer a different sleeping position, your body may change, or you may have a completely new preference when it comes to your sleeping environment.

Sleepers that run hot at night may prefer pillows and bolsters that help them stay cool throughout the night. And if they typically sweat, they may also opt for a pillow that’s easy to wash and dry.

Pregnant women need extra support both from their mattress and pillow. More than choosing a sturdier or support fill type, they may also want a pillow with a shape that helps them maintain the optimal sleeping posture.

Injuries may also drastically change your sleeping environment. You might find yourself looking for denser pillows to help prop up an injured leg. A thin pillow between you legs might also help you find a more relieving sleeping position.

Stain or not, a pillow that doesn’t let you rest well is simply not working for you and should be replaced.

Can You Delay Your Pillow’s Expiration Date?

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While pillows do, in fact, expire, there are things you can do to improve the lifespan of your favorite pillow.

It includes:

  • using pillow protectors
  • regularly washing pillow protectors and pillow cases
  • immediately cleaning and wiping off accidental spills
  • washing your face and hair before bed
  • keeping cosmetics and skin care products off of your pillow

In addition to providing you a plush and cozy sleeping space, pillows support your neck and shoulder area. But to provide you with optimal support, they need to be in tip-top shape.

Is It Important to Replace My Expired Pillow?

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Like many of your household items, pillows have a shelf life. Pillows past their expiration date may feel lumpy and sag in areas that you lay on most frequently. Worn out pillows may be unable to cradle your neck and shoulder,  hurting your sleep quality and bankrupt you of much needed rest.

And, yes—your pillow may make you sick.

An unsanitary pillow may trigger your allergies and even give off unsavory smells. Those prone to allergies and asthma are often advised to wash their beddings—pillow cases and protectors included—every week to prevent the buildup of allergens.

Keep an eye out for warning signals. It may include questionable stains, a foul or musty smell, or a pillow that simply doesn’t support you the way you need it to.

Did you know that pillows actually do expire? Do you think yours are way past their useful life? What are you replacing them with? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.