Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

Published Categorized as Pillows, Bedding

Ever wondered “why do pillows turn yellow?” The cause primarily lies in what your pillow is exposed to during the night.

In this article, we’ll uncover the mysteries behind why pillows turn yellow.

👉 You Might Also Enjoy: What To Do With Old Pillows?

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Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

Pillows tend to turn yellow due to various factors, most of which are related to moisture and humidity. The most common culprits are:

  • Sweat: Almost everyone perspires a bit at night, and this moisture can pass through your pillowcase, reaching your pillow. Over time, these sweat deposits accumulate and lead to the characteristic yellowing.
  • Natural body oils: Your skin secretes natural oils, which can soak through the pillowcase and into the pillow, contributing to yellow stains.
  • Drool: While it may not be the primary reason, saliva can combine with other forms of moisture like sweat and cause pillow discoloration.
  • Wet hair: If you go to bed with damp hair, the water gets absorbed into your pillow, leading to eventual yellowing. Certain hair products may also transfer onto the pillow, contributing to staining.
  • Cosmetics and beauty products: These can easily transfer onto pillows, especially if applied right before bed, resulting in yellow stains.
why do pillows turn yellow

If your bedroom environment is particularly humid, your pillow could yellow and flatten more quickly. Similarly, other types of moisture can cause yellowing. (Read more: Why Do Pillows Go Flat?)

Applying beauty products a couple of hours before bed can give them more time to absorb and minimize the amount that ends up on your pillow, helping to prevent staining.

Moreover, it’s not just pillows that stain and age over time; mattresses do too. Therefore, consider replacing your mattress if it’s over seven years old, shows signs of wear and tear, or is stained.

Just as with pillows, regular maintenance and cleaning are key to prolonging the life and appearance of your mattress. Various guides and sales roundups can help you find the best mattress at a competitive price when you decide to upgrade.

How To Stop Your Pillows Turning Yellow?

While it’s impossible to entirely prevent sweating while sleeping, you can protect your pillows from yellowing. Here are the primary ways to ensure your pillows stay pristine:

  • Use a pillow protector: A good quality pillow protector serves as an extra barrier against sweat, natural oils, and moisture, preventing them from reaching your pillow. These are inexpensive and can be washed weekly with your regular bed linens. Having a few pillow protectors in rotation ensures there’s always one available when needed.
  • Dry your hair before bed: Sleeping on wet hair can cause the water to seep into the pillow, leading to yellow stains over time. Therefore, make sure your hair is thoroughly dry before you hit the hay.
  • Avoid heavy oil-based products: Heavy oil-based serums and creams have a tendency to transfer onto pillows, contributing to staining. Try to avoid these before bedtime or give them ample time to fully absorb into your skin.
  • Remove make-up before sleep: Make-up can also lead to pillow discoloration. Always remember to remove it before going to sleep.

If you struggle with allergies then you might want to try these hypoallergenic zippered pillow protectors that allergists recommend to guard against dust mites and mold spores:

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Set of 2 Standard Size SureGuard Pillow Protectors - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Cotton Terry Covers

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By adopting these strategies, you can help to maintain the freshness and brightness of your pillows, prolonging their lifespan and ensuring you enjoy a clean and comfortable sleep environment.

why do pillows turn yellow

Can You Remove Yellow Stains From A Pillow?

Although completely eradicating yellow stains, especially older, deeply embedded ones, may be challenging, it’s certainly possible to reduce them.

As always, before attempting any cleaning process, including washing your mattress or pillow, it’s crucial to read the care instructions. You can typically find these on a small fabric tag attached to your pillow. This tag provides essential guidance on how to wash and dry your pillows correctly to prevent issues such as mildew, which can develop if you cover damp pillows with linens.

For removing stains, consider spot-treating them before machine washing your pillow (if it’s machine-washable).

Stain removal sprays and creams are powerful and effective options.

Alternatively, creating a paste from baking soda and water presents a more natural approach.

For stubborn yellow stains, some cleaning experts advocate a mix of bleach and laundry detergent. However, such a rigorous method should only be used if you’re absolutely certain the materials constituting your pillow can withstand this treatment.

Machine Wash Method to Make Yellow Pillow White

When your pillows turn yellow, don’t despair. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to restore their original whiteness using a machine wash method:

why do pillows turn yellow
  1. Inspect the Care Tags: Always check the care tags on your pillows before washing. Most pillows can be machine washed, but some may require dry cleaning or spot cleaning. Machine washing can degrade the fabric or the filler in these pillows.
  2. Spot Clean Stains: If your pillow has stains, spot clean them before putting the pillow in the washer. Yellow staining often results from dirt, sweat, makeup, or natural body oils. Use a regular stain removal spray or a paste made from water and baking soda to restore your yellow pillow to white.
  3. Prepare a Natural Washing Mixture: Don’t just launder your pillows with normal detergent. For cleaning two pillows, consider using a mixture of 6oz (3/4 cup) washing soda, 8oz (1 cup) dishwasher detergent, 4oz (1/2 cup) vinegar, and 1.5oz of laundry detergent.
  4. Wash with Hot Water: The washing mixture might be grainy and can stick to the pillows in one wash. Therefore, run a second wash with hot water or a mixture of hot water and 4oz (1/2 cup) vinegar for thorough cleaning.
  5. Check the Color: After washing, check for any remaining yellow stains. If they persist, try washing again with 2oz (1/4 cup) peroxide, a safe bleaching solution. If the pillow is still yellow but doesn’t smell of sweat or mildew, you can hide it under a pillow cover. However, if the odor persists, consider replacing the pillow.
  6. Dry with Tennis Balls: Once the pillows are clean, place them in a clean dryer and add 2-3 tennis balls with the air-dry setting. The tennis balls will help fluff up the pillows as they dry.

👉 Read for more pillow washing tips: How To Wash And Dry Bamboo Pillows

By following these steps, you can effectively transform your yellowed pillows back to their original white color, providing a fresh and clean sleeping environment.

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow: The Bottom Line

Understanding why pillows turn yellow is a crucial aspect of bedding care. Over time, white pillows may become tarnished with unsightly brown or yellow stains, often due to elements such as sweat, body oils, and skincare products. Even your memory foam pillows aren’t immune to this natural process.

Washing your pillows regularly in the washing machine with a gentle or mild detergent, as opposed to your usual detergent, can help mitigate yellow pillow stains.

For stubborn stains, consider adding a cup of bleach or white vinegar to the wash cycle, which can act as a powerful chemical stain remover. However, always check the care label first to ensure your type of pillow can withstand these ingredients.

Sweat stains, which are a result of body sweat, are common culprits behind a pillow turning yellow. The amalgamation of sweat, dead skin cells, and oils can discolor your pillow over extended periods, creating a yellow tint.

Preventative measures, such as using a waterproof pillow protector, offer an extra layer of defense against these stains. These protective covers are easy to remove and clean, aiding in maintaining a clean pillow. In the case of feather pillows (Read more: How To Stop Feathers From Coming Out Of Pillow) or polyester pillows, these covers can prolong the life of your perfect pillow, keeping those yellow spots at bay.

An essential rule of thumb is to never cover damp pillows with linens, as unwanted warmth and moisture can promote the growth of mildew and deepen those yellow stains.

Always dry your pillows properly after washing. You can use a couple of tennis balls or dryer balls in the drying cycle to fluff them up.

In the event that your pillow stains persist despite your best efforts, remember that comforters and bed pillows do degrade over time, and it’s healthy to replace them after a certain period of time.


Are yellow pillows bad?

Yellow pillows are not inherently bad or harmful. The yellowing is typically due to sweat, body oils, and skin products absorbed over time. However, these stains can attract dust mites, mold, and mildew, which can potentially trigger allergies or asthma. Therefore, even though the stains themselves aren’t harmful, they can harbor allergens.

Is it normal for a pillow to turn yellow?

Yes, it’s entirely normal for a pillow to turn yellow over time. This is a result of natural processes such as sweating and the secretion of body oils during sleep. These substances can seep into the pillow through the pillowcase, causing a yellow hue to appear. This yellowing can be more pronounced if you use hair products or cosmetics before bedtime, as these can also transfer onto the pillow.

Are pillows with yellow stains OK to sleep on?

Sleeping on a pillow with yellow stains isn’t necessarily bad for you. The stains themselves are usually just dried sweat and oils and are not harmful. However, if not cleaned regularly, these stains can become a breeding ground for dust mites and bacteria. These allergens could trigger reactions in individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions. Hence, maintaining cleanliness is crucial even if the pillow has yellow stains. Find out: What Are The Benefits Of Sleeping Without A Pillow?

When should you throw away yellow pillows?

The presence of yellow stains isn’t the only indicator for replacing your pillow. Consider factors like comfort, neck support, and any persistent bad odors. If the pillow smells musty even after washing, or if it’s lost its shape and no longer provides sufficient support, it’s time to replace it. However, if yellow stains persist after multiple washes, and the pillow shows signs of wear, replacing it can be a good decision for hygiene and comfort. Find out: Why Do Bamboo Pillows Smell?