Pillows don’t last forever. But how often should you replace them?

Winkl pillow with great neck and spinal alignment
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 have multiple opinions. 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. 

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. 

How To Test Your Pillow

If you’re unsure whether or not your pillow is usable or ready for the bin, we have a simple tip for you! Simply fold the pillow in half - 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, and look at getting one that will help your head rest easy. 

How Pillow Types Age Differently 

If you think you’re in need of a new pillow, it can be hard to know which type you need! Different pillows have different lifespans, and support sleepers in different ways - so let’s compare pillows and take a closer look at approximately how long you can expect different pillow types to last. 

Memory Foam Pillows & Feather Pillows 

Good quality feather and memory foam 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 they’re still supporting you with the spring-technique above. 

Polyester Pillows  

Polyester pillows are the cheapest and most popular pillows for most people. Unsurprisingly, they wear out the fastest too. Cheap polyester pillows can literally start falling apart after just six months, and 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. 

Down Pillows  

Natural down pillows are another popular choice for sleepers. Most down pillows 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 & 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’ve been using the same pillow for a while then you’ll start to notice clear signs that it could be time to start looking for something new. 

Discolouration  

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. 

Shape Loss 

All pillows are made with different fillers, but 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 & Pains in the Morning 

If you've been sleeping fine and then suddenly start waking up with aches and pains – especially in your neck or shoulders – your old pillow could be the culprit. 

Changing Your 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 being a back sleeper, you should get a new pillow with a different height to support your spine. Not many people realise that different sleeping positions require different pillows for back sleepers, as well as side and stomach sleepers, to keep your head, neck and spine aligned for the best night’s rest. 

Allergies 

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.  

How To Look 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 need to look after it properly. Unless pillows and pillowcases are cleaned regularly, they can become full of bacteria and dust mites, which can affect everything from your skin to your allergies to the integrity of the pillow. 

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 remember to run them through your washer a second time on the rinse cycle without detergent. 

Always air and dry pillows in the sunshine. If you have to use heat, use a low setting until they’re fully dry without any moist or damp clumps inside.  

Pillow Covers 

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 - a good pillow cover can double the life of your pillow.  

Pillowcases  

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. Therefore it’s important to wash your pillowcases at least once a week to keep them fresh and in good condition.  

What Pillow Should I Buy? 

For the perfect night’s sleep, take a look at Winkl's memory foam pillow. The pillow is soft and supportive in any position and you can sleep on it for 120 nights risk-free - love it, or return it! That way you can be certain it’s the pillow you’ve been looking for to help you rest soundly.