How Often Should You Replace Your Pillow?

By Sheryl Grassie

Feb 13th, 2020

To replace, or not to replace, that is the question. In general, pillows need to be replaced when they stop functioning properly, or approximately every one to two years according to the National Sleep Foundation. The factors for consideration are freshness, support, and health issues.


There is nothing else besides your pillow that has such prolonged and direct contact with your face. You spend eight hours, night after night, rubbing your eyes, ears, and skin against your pillow. You breathe in close proximity or directly into your pillow. You wouldn’t want dirty hands or dirty clothes touching our face for eight hours every night, would you?

Although your pillow may look clean, it often holds lots of unseen contamination. When you sleep, you shed your biology in the form of skin and hair, drool and body oil, which your pillow absorbs. These various elements can accumulate causing stains and foul orders. Dead skin cells also create the perfect environment for dust mites to breed.


For foul smell and permanent stains, replace your pillow as needed. For maintaining fresh pillows between purchases, use both a pillow protector and a pillowcase or cover. These can be laundered every few weeks. For the pillow itself, it should be washed every three to six months. Hot water is best, washing your pillow twice, once with a mild soap and once with no soap. Dry at a low temperature or air dry. For down or feather pillows add a tennis ball to the dryer to fluff the pillow.


Pillows are designed to support your head and neck and keep your body aligned during sleep. A pillow can fail to support you if it wears out and is no longer structurally supportive. Or, you might change sleeping positions, gain or lose weight, or have an injury that requires a different kind of pillow. Your pillow might feel lumpy, or you notice you are constantly adjusting or fluffing it. When support fails, you may notice neck strain, back aches, and headaches you wake up.


With down or feather pillows you, can fold it in half and watch for the spring back factor. If the pillow unfolds itself, it still has life; if it stays folded, it needs to be replaced. You can have additional down or feather fill added at your local dry cleaners. For foam, latex, or buckwheat pillows, consider these variables:

  • Does your neck hurt?
  • Do you have headaches?
  • Is the pillow no longer comfortable?
  • Has it been a year or more?

If you answer, “yes,” then it is time to replace.


A pillow affects your health directly and indirectly. If it interferes with a good night’s sleep, it compromises your immune system. Additionally, a dirty pillow, one full of old dead skin and oil, can cause acne. Dust mites may precipitate an allergic reaction in a percentage of people. If you wake with allergy symptoms like sneezing, that go away after you get out of bed, dust mites are a likely culprit.


Think your pillow may be behind your acne? If you have washed it regularly and are still having problems, ditch it. The same goes for allergies or sleep strain. Even if you have only had your pillow a year or less there are good reasons to replace it if you are having symptoms.

Average Lifespan of Different Types of Pillows

Buckwheat 3 years
Down 2 or more years
Down alternative/synthetic 1.5 to 2 years
Feather 1.5 to 3 years
Latex 3 to 4 years
Memory foam 1.5 to 3 years
Polyester .5 to 1 year