Most of us don’t really think too much about pillows. Unless we’ve had a bad night’s sleep because our pillow is too hard, too soft, too lumpy or simply too long past its use-by date. But what is that date? How long do pillows actually last?
Well, even the experts disagree. Many budget chain hotels replace their pillows every six to eight months. Luxury brands like Hilton say their down feather pillows last two to three years. While their synthetic varieties last 18-24 months with proper care and washing.
Like budget hotels, if you’ve been sleeping on a plain old, inexpensive polyester pillow, you should be replacing it every six months. However, if you have a memory foam pillow or one with structural integrity, it will last you anywhere from 18 months to three years.
Here’s an easy tip to test how good your pillow is: Simply fold it in half and if it doesn't spring open straight away by itself then it's past its usefulness. The pillow can't properly support your head and neck anymore, so bin it.
Every pillow ages differently
Different pillows have different lifespans. So let’s compare pillows and take a closer look at approximately how long you can expect the most popular types of pillows to last.
Memory foam and feather pillows
Surprisingly for two very different types of pillows, both good quality memory foam and feather pillows will give you around two years of decent sleep. We recommend that you give them a thorough check after about 18 months to make sure everything is OK.
Polyester pillows are the cheapest and most popular pillows for the majority of people. Unsurprisingly, they wear out the fastest too. Cheap polyester pillows can literally start falling apart after just six months. You’ll almost certainly need to replace them after a year. Unfortunately, that’s the price you pay when you sacrifice quality for an inexpensive price-tag.
Natural down pillows are another popular choice. Most are fairly durable and should give you at least two years good rest or slightly longer if you keep them in good condition. You’ll notice that they’ll start to become flatter and less comfortable after about 18 months, which is a sign that they’re getting close to their use-by date.
Buckwheat and latex pillows
Both these pillows are either loved or hated by people who have tried them. The reason for that is because of the way they feel and how comfortable – or uncomfortable - they are to lay your head down on. Opinions are split on these pillows but everyone agrees that they last. You can expect to use buckwheat or latex pillows for at least three years before replacing them.
Signs your pillow needs replacing
If you’re been using the same pillow or pillows for a while then you’ll start to notice clear signs that it could be time to start looking for something new.
A classic tell-tale that your pillow needs replacing is when you start seeing yellow stains on it. This is dried sweat. Once sweat stain discolouration starts appearing, it’s time to think about getting new pillows as it will only continue to get darker over time.
All pillows are made with different fillers. But they all have one thing in common. Once lumps and bumps start appearing then it’s time to think about ditching them. A misshaped pillow is one of the primary causes of head and neck pain and can lead to many nights of poor quality sleep.
Aches and pains
If you've been sleeping fine for months or years and then suddenly start waking up with aches and pains – especially in your neck or shoulders – or you have a headache and feel like a zombie, your old pillow could be the culprit. This is your body’s way of saying: “Please replace your pillow”.
New sleeping position
Changed your sleeping position recently? Then you might want to think about changing your pillow too. For example, if you’ve switched from sleeping on your stomach to sleeping on your back (and you should definitely try this position), you should get a new pillow with a different height. Not many people realise that different sleeping positions require different pillows to keep your head, neck and spine aligned for the best night’s rest.
If you are one of the millions of New Zealanders who suffer from allergies, then you need to keep a close eye on your pillow: you’re more sensitive to dust mites that love to make their home in pillows. You’ll know it’s time to toss your pillow out when you continually wake up sneezing more than usual. Especially when the wildflowers haven’t yet bloomed. Check out the article here on sleeping safely
If you’ve been sleeping on a feather pillow and it’s constantly flat, then it might be time to start thinking about replacing it. You shouldn’t have to constantly fluff your pillow to make it comfortable to rest on. Also, if you fold your feather pillow in half and it remains that way, then it’s time to ditch it.
Looking after your pillow
If you’ve diligently compared pillows for quality, longevity and price, then paid good money to get the best pillow you can find, then you really need to look after it properly. Unless pillow and pillowcases are cleaned regularly, they can become full of microscopic creepy crawlies. Bacteria and dust mites love pillows because they’re great places to grow and multiply. When you perspire in bed – and everyone does – you’re creating the perfect environment for this invisible microworld to flourish.
Every time you lie down on a pillow, you also shed tiny pieces of skin which become embedded into your pillow. Dust mites love this free nightly meal and simply keep breeding. The tiny creatures are not dangerous, but there over time millions of them become trapped in your pillow and start to impair its ability to remain supportive.
If you have allergies, dust mites are also one of the reasons you can wake up sneezing. Your face has been buried in them all night. Some experts believe that of every Kiwi who has allergies, around two thirds may be allergic to dust mites found indoors – particularly in the crevices of pillows.
Washing your pillow
Always check your pillow’s label to see whether it is machine washable. Typically, only pillows with down or synthetic down fillers are washable so yours may have to be dry or spot cleaned.
If your pillow is washable, do this every six months on a hot water setting. Always use a mild liquid detergent and wash two pillows at once so both are cleaned equally. Remember to run them through your washer a second time on the rinse cycle without detergent.
Always air and dry pillows in the sunshine. Or, if you have to use heat, use a low setting until they’re fully dry without any moist or damp clumps inside. You don't want mould growing inside your pillow.
If possible, always buy a pillow with a cover that’s removable and machine washable. This is the perfect way to protect your pillow before you put on your pillowcase. It’s an extra barrier that helps stop skin flakes and sweat getting on to your pillow and attracting dust mites. A good pillow cover can double the life of your pillow.
Many people think that pillowcases are just for making your bed look nice. But pillowcases play an important role in protecting your pillow by absorbing perspiration while you sleep. They are a barrier to skin flaking on your pillow too. Wash your pillowcases at least once a week to keep them fresh and in good condition. Your pillows will thank you for it.
Your pillow plays a big role in getting a good night’s sleep
Two of the most important things for getting in a good night’s sleep are your mattress and your pillow. Both help align your head, neck and spine while you’re asleep so you wake up fresh to face the day. Instead of tired, irritable, glassy-eyed and aching all over.
If you prefer feeling refreshed, then take a look at Winkl's pillow perfection. The pillow is soft and supportive in any position and you can sleep on it for 120 nights (yes, four whole months). That way you can be certain it’s the pillow you’ve been looking for your whole life. Little wonder people are saying that sleeping on a Winkl pillow is like sleeping on a cloud.