While your mattress may last between 7 to 10 years, don't expect your pillows to live up to the same expectations. 

Bed pillow inserts wear down over time. In addition, they are rarely cleaned as often as pillowcases, which allows them to become the perfect environment for allergens, bacteria, and even dead skin cells. 

Replace your pillows every few years to ensure that they are both hygienic and supportive, to help you get a good night's sleep. 

Synthetic polyester pillows can last six months to two years, while down pillows may last upwards of three years. 

Similar to mattress quality, memory foam pillows and latex pillows can last longer, but even the best pillows only last upwards of four years with proper care.

You might know if your pillow is bad if you sense improper neck support, experience back pain, or notice yourself tossing and turning at night. Allergy symptoms might be more consistent as well if your pillow is old or dirty. Discolorations on the pillow itself, and changes in the fill can also be indicative of your pillow's age.

When you're ready to buy a new pillow, choose one that's high-quality and suitable for your sleeping style. Opt for a pillow that's easy to clean, or has an additional pillow cover that provides an extra barrier that may allow it to last longer. 

Latex and memory foam pillows are highly-rated for comfort, and because they contour to help support regardless of sleeping position, can actually help you sleep better.

Why do pillows turn yellow?

Yellow stains on your bed linens and pillow cover can be caused by body oils, moisture (including sweat, drool, or wet hair), and even by droppings left by dust mites. Keeping your pillow clean by routinely washing and drying it can extend its life, and also be a habit that keeps your health in check. 

If your pillow has yellow stains and is several years old, toss it and buy a new one. They simply don't last forever. 

If you have a new pillow that's already staining, follow manufacturer guidelines for cleaning; there are different guidelines for different types of pillows. You will likely be able to treat it in the washing machine using white vinegar. 

Avoid bleach, as it can break down feather pillows, fabrics, and other sensitive fill (and never, ever use bleach and vinegar together as it will mix to create a highly toxic gas). After washing, run the pillows through the dryer until they are thoroughly dry.

How often should you wash your pillows?

Wash your pillows in hot water twice a year, but also run them through the dryer more often on low-heat more frequently to help keep bacteria at bay and extend the pillow's lifespan. It may be impossible to truly disinfect your pillows, but by cleaning and drying them, you can kill dust mites, manage the spread of germs during COVID-19 or cold and flu season, and reduce the build-up of allergens. 

Using a pillow protector and washing it nearly as often as you wash your bed sheets is also a good practice.

Putting wool balls or tennis balls in the dryer while pillows are drying can help speed up the dry time and help fluff your pillows.

When can you tell it's time to throw away an old pillow?

Age is the biggest factor in knowing when it's time to throw out a pillow (they might have persistent stains, lumps, or no structural integrity). 

But a good rule of thumb is to listen to your body, too. If you're routinely waking in the morning with any of these symptoms, it's time to replace your pillow:

  • General neck pain and shoulder discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Spinal pain
  • Nighttime allergies, such as sneezing, or congestion

When it's time to discard your old pillow, know that it can't be sent to a recycling center, but many pet shelters do welcome them for animals. Check with locations in your area to see if your old pillows would be a helpful donation.