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How to care for your pillow

When it comes to sleep, you should never underestimate the importance of the right pillow. Difficulty falling and staying asleep, or waking up with a sore neck can be signs that you need a pillow. But it's not just about choosing the right pillow; how much thought have you given to the type of care that your pillow needs in order to keep it in good condition for longer?

While there are no hard and fast rules for pillow care, there are a few general guidelines you can follow. These will vary depending on the shape and material of your pillow, and you should always check the label on your pillow to see if there are any specific manufacturer guidelines.

How often should you buy new pillows?

How long your pillows last will depend on the material and how well you look after them. A standard inexpensive polyester pillow should be replaced every 6-12 months, while other materials can last much longer. Cotton, wool, and down pillows can last anywhere from 3-5 years, for example, while memory foam and latex pillows typically last up to 5 years.

So, investing in a more luxurious pillow than the standard fare doesn’t just mean a more comfortable night’s sleep, you will also save money in the long run by not having to replace them as often.

How can you tell if you need to replace your pillows?

One standard test is to fold your pillow in half (if it's not a foam pillow) and let it go. If the pillow doesn't spring back to a flat position, then it's time to move on to a new one. Other signs can be stains that won't come off with washing and if the pillow has become lumpy or broken up inside.

If you've got an old pillow that looks like it's had tea spilled all over it, get rid of it – that's sweat and drool that's built up from every time you've slept on the pillow. 

dirty old pillow

How to make your pillows last longer

You want to get the most out of your pillows, so let's look at some tips for prolonging their lives:

  • Wash your pillows on a regular basis
  • Air them out once a week to expose them to fresh air and sunlight – this helps to kill germs and reduce odours
  • Keep them in pillowcases and pillow protectors

Washing tips for your pillows

You probably wash your bedding on a regular basis, but things like pillows are often left as an afterthought. Well, if you knew what was hanging out inside of your pillows, you'd be throwing them in the wash with your sheets each week. According to the Sleep Council, up to ten percent of your pillow's weight could be made up of a bunch of delightful things like dead skin cells, bed bugs, dust mites and all the unthinkable things they leave behind. 

This isn't just extremely gross, it can also be harmful to people with serious allergies and conditions like asthma. If you often wake up in the night sneezing or reaching for your inhaler, then your pillow could be to blame.  

So, how do you go about washing your pillow properly? First of all, check the label to see if it's machine washable or not. If it is, then here are some basic guidelines for you to follow:
  • Wash every 3 to 6 months on the hot water setting
  • Use mild liquid detergent; avoid fabric softeners
  • Use the gentle cycle
  • Run them through a second time on the rinse cycle without detergent

It's a good idea to wash two pillows at once so the washing machine stays balanced and cleans them equally. Machines without agitators are best as the agitator can damage the pillow.

If your pillow is not machine washable, then you may be able to hand wash it (but check this too). For hand washing pillows, the following guidelines are helpful:

  • Submerge the pillow in lukewarm water with mild detergent and gently squeeze
  • Using cool water, rinse using the same method
  • Gently squeeze out excess water

Drying your pillows after washing

Whichever method is best suited to washing your pillow, you need to make sure you dry it properly afterwards. You can't just hang it out on the washing line next to your pillowcase as this will cause it to become misshapen. It is best to leave your pillow to air-dry on a flat surface, either outside in the shade or in a cool, dry room inside.

Some pillows may be able to go in the dryer while others will become damaged from this, so check the label before putting it in to dry. If you do use this method, keep it on a low heat and check it regularly to fluff the pillows back into shape.
white pillows being fluffed after washing

How often should you change your pillowcase?

Your pillowcases help to absorb some of the sweat, skin cells and dust that plague your pillow, stopping them from reaching your pillow as quickly. This helps to increase the time needed between washes as well as prolonging the overall life of the pillow, but only if you keep your pillowcases clean, too. We recommend washing your pillowcases at least once a week.

You can also invest in a pillow protector for even tougher protection. These are usually placed between the pillow and the standard pillowcase, zipping up around the pillow. This blocks even more absorption and is great for anyone with allergies. They should be washed regularly with your bedding.

Proper pillow care can do wonders for your sleep, which has knock-on effects on your energy levels, stress levels, productivity, and much more. Take care of yourself by taking care of your pillows, but remember to always check the label and the manufacturer’s guidelines first.

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