Shopping for bedding isn’t always easy. Trying to pick out materials that feel and look good is hard enough, but how do you pick the right size pillow? Knowing which pillows to choose and how often to replace pillows can feel like a guessing game, especially if you’re sleeping pretty well and your pillows feel comfortable.

So, how often are you supposed to replace pillows? Let’s find out — and look at some ways to make your pillows last longer.

How Often Should You Replace Your Pillows?

Exactly how long do pillows last? While many pillows can last for many years, experts at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommend replacing your pillows every two years. Body pillows have a longer lifespan but they still won’t last forever.

Why Pillows Need To Be Replaced

Just like any other home item, pillows wear out over time. Worn-out pillows lose their loft and supportive qualities, causing neck pain, headaches, and a dip in the quality of your sleep. Over time, pillows also accumulate dead skin cells, sweat, and dust mites. Allergens can irritate your skin and respiratory system, leading to allergies, asthma, and skin irritation.

Illustrated chart covering some of the reasons a pillow needs to be replaced.

7 Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Pillows

If it’s been a while since you got new pillows or you aren’t sure whether your pillows are causing poor sleep or aches and pains, here are a few signs that it’s time to get new pillows.

  1. Your pillow is discolored. Pillows are usually stained by sweat and saliva, but if you eat or drink in bed, foods and beverages could stain your pillows, too. The older a pillow is, the more likely it is to collect stains. Stains look bad and they can be a source of odor.
  2. Your pillow smells. Saliva and sweat can penetrate your pillows and lead to odor-causing bacteria. Depending on the type of pillow you use, you may not be able to clean it deeply enough to get rid of these bacteria.
  3. Your pillow is flat or won’t keep its shape. Even if you have a thin pillow designed for stomach sleeping, it shouldn’t be completely flat or misshapen. Flattened pillows that won’t fluff should be replaced.
  4. You’re experiencing more allergy symptoms. Pillows collect allergens, including scores of dust mites. If you’re waking up with more allergy symptoms than usual, it may be time to buy new pillows.
  5. You’ve experienced a significant life change. Life changes, like an injury or getting pregnant, have a major impact on how you sleep. As your body changes, what you need to sleep comfortably can also change. Consider ditching old pillows in favor of a specialized pillow to accommodate an injury or a body pillow if you’re pregnant.
  6. You don’t feel rested when you wake up. Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Not only will you feel better, but sleeping well keeps you healthier. If you’ve noticed the quality and quantity of your sleep dipping, old pillows could be to blame.
  7. Your neck or back is sore when you wake up. If you wake up with neck or back pain, it could mean your pillows are too old and aren’t offering the support you need. A new pillow designed to decrease neck pain or back pain could be all you need to start the day right.

How To Make Pillows Last Longer

There’s nothing wrong with trying to make a pillow last. With a little effort, you can add a few months or more to the usable lifespan of a pillow. But you should replace your pillows eventually, no matter how well you take care of them — you’ll be more comfortable, and you’ll sleep better.

Keep Your Pillows Clean

Spot cleaning and deep cleaning your pillows will keep them looking and smelling better and can reduce the number of allergens trapped inside them. Follow the instructions on the label for how to clean a memory foam pillow or pillows with other synthetic or natural materials.

Use Pillow Protectors

Pillow protectors put an additional barrier between the pillow and the outside world. Pillow protectors protect the pillow from sweat, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens. They also help keep your pillows from staining and absorbing odors.

Clean Your Pillowcases

While your pillow protectors are going to offer better protection from moisture and allergens, clean pillowcases can help, too. Wash your pillowcases at least once a month to keep them fresh and to remove stains, dust mites, and other allergens.

Deodorize Your Pillows

When your pillows stink, it’s time to deodorize them. Removing the pillowcase and protector and leaving the pillows on a clean surface near an open window is usually enough. But if you have allergies, a light dusting with baking soda can do the trick.

Fluff Your Pillows Every Morning

Fluffing your pillows after you wake up may not seem like it will make much of a difference, but you’d be surprised. When you fluff a pillow, you’re decompressing the fill material and restoring the pillow to as close to its original shape and lift as possible. Fluffing also gives a pillow a better chance of drying out, which reduces bacteria and odors.

Illustrated chart with tips to make pillows last longer.

New Pillows, New You

Now that you have a better understanding of how often you should replace pillows, take a few minutes to go through the pillows on your bed to figure out how many of them need to go. If you need new pillows, consider trying a memory foam side sleeper pillow or a pillow designed for your sleep position.

When To Replace Pillows FAQ

Still have questions about how often to change pillows and why? We have answers.

What Kinds of Pillows Last the Longest?

Pillows filled with synthetic materials like latex and memory foam tend to last longer than other synthetics and natural fills. Be mindful of the different pillow materials when you’re buying, especially if you’re allergic to common fills and fabrics.

Will I Sleep Better With a New Pillow?

If you buy a new pillow, it may take you a few days to adjust to it (especially if your old pillows were very flat or designed for different sleeping positions), but you will likely sleep better. When looking at new pillows, take your sleeping position into account to find the perfect pillow with the right shape and lift.

What Happens If I Don’t Replace My Pillow?

If you don’t replace your pillow, you may start to feel neck, shoulder, or even lower back pain when you wake up. You could also have more intense allergy symptoms and may not feel as rested as you normally do. While none of these symptoms are only caused by an old pillow, replacing a pillow is a fast, easy, and affordable way to reduce the number of allergens you’re exposed to each night, and it could help improve your spinal alignment for a better night’s sleep.