Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow? What to Know

Having a clean and comfortable pillow is essential for getting a good night’s sleep. If you’ve already taken the time to shop around for the right pillow, the last thing you want is for it to become unusable. No one wants to sleep on a pillow that has become covered in yellow stains. But why do pillows turn yellow in the first place?

Is it something you should be concerned about? In this guide, we’ll answer these important questions and more to help you understand why pillows turn yellow and what you can do about it.

What Makes a Pillow Turn Yellow?

If you’ve ever looked down at your bed and asked yourself, “Why is my pillow yellow” you’re not alone. Yellow stains are fairly common on pillows, even if you do your best to keep them clean.

Here are some of the reasons your pillow might be turning yellow:

  • Sweat
  • Saliva
  • Wet hair
  • Oily skin
  • Lotion

Whether you’re a hot sleeper or not, you probably sweat on your pillow from time to time. In fact, you probably sweat more at night than you realize. The average person loses as much as 6 to 7 ounces of water during an 8-hour period of sleep. While not all of that moisture loss comes from sweat, some of it does and some of it ends up on your pillow.

Not only can sweat stain your pillow yellow, but saliva can as well. It’s not just the moisture that’s a problem, either. Saliva can transfer bacteria from your mouth or create an environment in which bacteria can grow. Moisture from sleeping with wet hair can cause yellow stains and affect the lifespan of your pillow as well.

Finally, your skin can contribute to yellow pillow stains. If you have oily skin, it could accumulate in the form of yellow stains over time. Skin and hair products can also discolor your pillows.

Should You Be Concerned?

If your pillows tend to turn yellow over time, it’s probably nothing to be concerned about. You spend roughly one-third of your life sleeping, so it’s understandable that your pillow is going to accumulate some moisture over time. There’s generally nothing dangerous about the stains, but if you’re concerned with the appearance, you can always use a pillow protector or a pillowcase.

The average lifespan of a pillow is only one to two years, so if you’ve been using your pillow longer than that you shouldn’t be surprised if it develops a few stains. If you’re in the market for a new pillow, we recommend Becky Cameron pillows. Made with premium materials, these pillows deliver the optimal combination of comfort and support to ensure you get a good night’s rest.

How to Remove Yellow Stains

why do pillows turn yellow

Removing yellow stains from your pillow is fairly easy and there are a number of products you can try. In some cases, simply tossing your pillow into the washer with laundry detergent will do the trick. Just make sure the label says your pillow is machine washable before you do!

If the stains are stubborn and you need something more than laundry detergent, try adding equal parts bleach and borax to the mix – about ¼ to ½ cup of each. A combination of washing soda, dish detergent, and vinegar might work as well.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to remove yellow stains:

  1. Treat any significant stains with stain remover, letting it sit on the fabric for 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Throw the pillow into the washer and set it on the hot water setting.
  3. Fill the washer and let the pillow soak for at least an hour.
  4. After an hour, prepare a solution of Borax, dishwasher detergent, and laundry detergent.
  5. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil on the stove.
  6. Add ½ cup Borax, 1 cup powdered dishwasher detergent, and 1 cup powdered laundry detergent.
  7. Stir until well combined then pour the solution into the washing machine.
  8. Agitate the pillows for a few minutes to make sure they soak up the solution.
  9. Start the cleaning cycle on the washing machine.
  10. If you have an extra rinse cycle, select it and add 1 cup of white vinegar during the final rinse.
  11. After the washing machine has drained, place the pillows in the dryer on the low heat setting.
  12. Add tennis balls or dryer balls to help fluff the pillows as they dry.

For multiple stained pillows, you may need to repeat this process with individual pillows, depending on their size. You should be able to wash two standard-sized pillows or one king-sized pillow at a time.

Tips for Preventing Yellow Stains

Whether you’ve just done the work to remove yellow stains from your pillow or you’ve just bought a new pillow, we don’t blame you if you want to avoid stains in the future. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to achieve this goal.

Here are some ideas:

  • Change your pillowcase every few days
  • Sleep with a head wrap or scarf if you use oil-containing hair products
  • Buy a pillow protector or water-resistant pillow encasement
  • Wash your face before bed to remove skincare products and excess oil

Remember, even if your pillow hasn’t developed yellow stains, it could still be time for an upgrade. Experts recommend replacing your pillow every 1 to 2 years because sweat, oil, and dead skin cells can build up inside the pillow as well as on the surface. Pillows tend to lose shape over time as well, and that can compromise the degree of support you’re getting.

Bottom Line

If you find yourself asking, “Why does my pillow turn yellow,” you’re far from alone. This is an incredibly common problem and, fortunately, fairly easy to prevent or remedy. Now that you have a better understanding of what causes pillows to develop yellow stains, you’re better equipped to deal with the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when your pillow turns yellow?

If your pillow turns yellow, it likely means that it’s been exposed to some kind of moisture. This moisture could come from sweat, saliva, or wet hair.

Why do men’s pillows turn yellow?

A man’s pillow is likely to turn yellow for the same reason as a woman’s: moisture. Some men tend to sweat more than women and the larger you are, the more moisture you’ll lose overnight.

Can you remove yellow stains from pillows?

Yes. There are several things you can use to remove yellow stains from pillows including laundry detergent, bleach, borax, and even vinegar. Be sure to check the tag on your pillow before throwing it in the washing machine to make sure it’s safe to do so.

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