How often should you replace pillows? Here's what the experts recommend

Your pillows might need changing more often than you think

neutral bedroom with wooden bed and natural bedding
(Image credit: Secret Linen Store)

We all know how important a good night's sleep is, and the role our bedding - in particular our pillows - play in this. And if you've been wondering how often should you replace pillows, it's probably more often than you think.

The best pillows offer support, comfort, and stability throughout the night so that we wake up feeling well rested and energised. But even if you know how to wash pillows, they're going to need replacing eventually. The question is, how often should you replace pillows exactly?

'When it comes to getting the best night's sleep, your pillow is crucial in making sure you get the right support and comfort to rest your head perfectly,' says Emily and Jonathan Attwood, Founders, Scooms. 'Pillows get a lot of punishment so it’s important to check them and see if it's time for a replacement.'

So if you haven't been feeling as well rested lately and you're wondering how to sleep better, it may be because your pillow is no longer doing its job properly. We've asked the experts to tell us how often should you replace pillows, so you know whether or not it's time to upgrade.

How often should you replace pillows?

neutral bed with blue and white striped bedding and cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Our pillows are as important as the best mattresses when it comes to getting good quality sleep. And even if you follow bedroom design tips for better sleep, you also need the right equipment. So here's everything you need to know about how often should you replace pillows, according to the experts.

How often should you replace pillows?

Pillows on bed with mattress protector

(Image credit: Terrys)

The general consensus from the experts is that we should be replacing our pillows every two years, which will help ensure that they give full support to our necks and heads and are also clean and free of allergens. Good support and spinal alignment is vital for a good night's sleep, whether you're using one of the best pillows for side sleepers, or a pillow designed for front or back sleepers.

'We recommend changing your pillows with no more than two years of use, as they’re unlikely to be providing your spine with the necessary support for a good night’s sleep after that point,' says Jackie Shephard, Head of Homeware, Terrys

Fabio Perrotta, Director of Buying at Dreams, agrees. ‘ As a general rule of thumb, we recommend replacing pillows at least every two years, although some styles have a shorter lifespan and will need replacing more often than others.’ 

Take two years as a rough guideline to how often should you replace pillows, but know that yours might need replacing sooner, or in some circumstances, less often.

How do I know when it's time to change my pillow?

Bed with neutral bedding next to plant

(Image credit: Floks)

There's a simple test you can do to find out how often to change pillows. 'Simply fold your pillow in half and squeeze out the air,' says Martin Seeley, CEO and Sleep Expert, MattressNextDay. 'Let the pillow go and if it unfolds back to its original shape, then it has enough filling to support your beck and head. If it doesn’t spring back, then it’s lost its support and needs to be replaced.'

This is a handy little hack which will indicate whether your pillow is past its expiry date and you need to invest in a new one. It's absolutely essential that your pillow is doing its job and supporting your head while you sleep, so if after folding it in half it doesn't go back to its original shape, it's definitely worth investing in a new one.

'For a good night's sleep, your pillow should support your head and neck comfortably, so if you're waking up with a stiff neck or your pillow is too flat or lumpy, then it's time for a change', says Emily and Jonathan from Scooms.

There are several factors which influence exactly how often your pillow needs replacing. We'll break them down below.

The type of pillow matters

Duvet and pillows on stool next to plant

(Image credit: Floks)

The type of pillow you're sleeping on will influence the answer to how often to change pillows. Sleep Expert Martin Seeley from MattressNextDay gives the following guidelines on how long different types of pillows tend to last:

  • Feather and down pillows tend to only last around 1 year due to the filling wearing down over time, which cause lumps and, therefore, negatively impacts your sleep.
  • Bamboo pillows are made from bamboo fiber and shredded memory foam, and are slightly more sturdy. They tend to last 1 year and a half.
  • Memory foam pillows only need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.
  • Latex pillows also last 3 to 5 years.

'Although memory foam pillows are expensive upfront, they are more cost-effective in the long run,' Martin says. 'Latex pillows are also expensive to buy because the material is eco-friendly and sourced from rubber trees. However, this sturdy material allows them to hold their shape over time, resulting in a lengthy time span of 3 to 5 years.'

Investing in one of the best memory foam pillows could be well worth it, as you won't need to buy a replacement as frequently. There are also plenty of latex pillows on the market that will serve the test of time. If there's one area of the home to invest in, let it be on your sleep set-up - you do spend a third of your life enjoying it after all!

Simba Hybrid Pillow, £109 at Simba

Simba Hybrid Pillow, £109 at Simba

This pillow is an investment, but one that could pay off thanks to the clever little cubes of open-cell foam - Nanocubes - that it's packed with. They provide flexible support for your neck and head and help air flow through the pillow, and you can add/remove them to your preferred height. It's also made from a breathable, lightweight material that helps maintain a cool temperature.

Other signs it's time to change your pillows

two pillows in stack

(Image credit: Frida Home)

The following are all signs that your pillow needs replacing:

  • Pillow feels lumpy or the filling has clumped together 
  • Stained, discoloured or the pillow smells unpleasant
  • Loss of height and the pillow feels flat and compressed

‘There are many ways of knowing when it is time to replace your pillow,’ says Chris Tattersall, Sleep Expert and Managing Director, Woolroom. ‘The first and most obvious one is when it starts to smell, turns yellow and there are noticeable, permanent stains from body sweat and oil. Aside from this, you might start to wake up with aches and pains, particularly in your neck or shoulders, or begin getting headaches.’

Can I wash my pillows?

washing machine with basket and laundry

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jon Day)

If you're wondering how often you should wash your pillows, most pillows, including synthetic fibre, feather and down pillows can be cleaned in a washing machine using warm water on a gentle cycle, but always check the pillow’s care label first. Memory foam or latex pillows shouldn’t be washed in a machine as the agitation can break up the foam, but they can be gently hand washed. 

‘Like duvets, pillows should be washed at least twice a year,’ says Fabio. ‘However, as up to a third of the weight of your pillow can be made up of dead skin, bugs, dust mites and more, a more regular wash can be beneficial. In fact, an average unwashed pillow can contain sixteen species of fungi!’

‘Therefore washing every three months is a good idea. Make sure you wash your pillows at a minimum of 40 °C and, like duvets, dry them quickly and thoroughly. But check the care label first as some pillows can’t be washed,’ adds Fabio.

‘If you don’t look after your pillows and wash them regularly, bacteria, dead skin cells and dust mites thrive,’ says Susan Fermore, Cleaning and Laundry Expert, Dr. Beckmann. ‘We’d recommend investing in pillow protectors to keep the surface of your pillow clean and bacteria free. However, make sure to pop your pillows (always check the label first) into the wash every three months on a hot wash to kill off any lurking bacteria.'

ComfyCozy Luxury Memory Foam Pillow, £29.99 at Amazon

ComfyCozy Luxury Memory Foam Pillow, £29.99 at Amazon

This pillow has all the benefits of memory foam but without the high price tag. It's a great budget friendly option if you're looking to upgrade to a memory foam pillow but you don't want to pay triple figures. It's contoured to support your neck in the correct position, and it even comes with a silk eye mask, silk pouch, and a deluxe pillow cover. Bargain!

How do I prolong the life of my pillows?

pillows with pillow protector cases

(Image credit: Woolroom)

Like using the best mattress protector to look after your mattress, always use pillow protector covers underneath pillowcases. This gives another level of protection to prevent pillows getting stained or allergens getting inside the pillow. Wash pillowcases weekly and pillow protectors monthly.

Wash pillows themselves at least twice a year, putting them inside the washing machine two at a time to balance the load. Avoid using fabric conditioner as the oils and polymers in them can cause fillings to clump. To plump pillows up when drying, add a couple of clean tennis balls as you put them in the tumbler dryer, which will help fluff them up and bring back some of the volume.

Get into the habit of shaking pillows to fluff them up on a daily basis as you make the bed. Grab the ends and pull in and out (like using an accordion) which will help air to circulate inside, or hit them in the centre a couple of times to disperse the filling. 

Should I throw away my old pillows?

bed with green and beige linen bedding

(Image credit: Secret Linen Store)

When it’s time to replace pillows, avoid just chucking them in the dustbin to see them get sent to landfill and try to repurpose them if you can. Consider using old pillows outdoors in the garden as floor cushions, bench pads or kneelers if you do lots of gardening. Or consider using old pillows to bolster pet bedding and make dogs or cats more comfortable.

If you can’t re-use or re-purpose your old pillows, then find a local textile recycling facility where the old pillow stuffing can be recycled and made into insulation or carpet padding.


Why do pillows turn yellow?

'Ultimately, moisture is your culprit for pillows turning yellow', says Hayley Thistleton, Sleep Expert, Sleepseeker. 'Keeping pillows dry is key to keeping them looking bright and white.'

‘Pillows turn yellow because of body oils, makeup, dead cells, sweat, and dirt seeping through the pillowcase and into the pillow,’ says Chris from Woolroom. ‘One of the best things you can do to prevent this is by sliding a natural pillow protector over your pillow before you add a pillowcase. This gives you an extra layer of protection in-between the pillow and pillowcase.’

Sleeping on your pillow every night means bacteria and moisture build-up are pretty unavoidable, but adding a pillow protector will definitely maintain the original white of your pillow for longer.

Why is it important to change pillows?

Your pillows are in direct contact with your face, head and hair, which means that they absorb sweat, oils, drool, dirt and dead skin cells, which seep through pillowcases and are retained inside pillows. If this is then transferred back onto the skin, it can clog pores and trigger rashes and acne breakouts in anyone with sensitive skin.

In addition, old pillows will also accumulate allergens like dust mites, fungus, mould and pet dander, which can cause allergic reactions such as a runny or stuffy nose, itchy skin and irritated eyes that may then impact on sleep quality.

Aside from the cleanliness aspect, your pillow also plays an important role in maintaining proper spinal alignment while you sleep, so by replacing pillows regularly, you’ll get to keep on enjoying a restful night’s sleep and avoid waking up with aches and pains. 

‘Sometimes you might also need to change your pillow for other reasons than its old age,’ adds Chris. ‘Other factors that can affect the longevity of your pillow might be if you’ve recently changed sleeping positions. For example, if you’ve switched from sleeping on your back to your side, you’ll need a new pillow with a different height.

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.

With contributions from