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Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow? Here’s How to Prevent Pillow Yellowing & Clean Yellowed Pillows featured image

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow? Here’s How to Prevent Pillow Yellowing & Clean Yellowed Pillows

 by David Smith

Updated on October 16, 2023

Have you ever wondered why those once-pristine white pillows gradually take on an unsightly yellow hue? We delve into the science and causes of pillow yellowing, recommend tips to prevent pillow yellowing, and offer tricks to restore your pillows to their former glory. Discover the secrets to maintaining fresh, clean pillows and tackle pillow discoloration head-on.

Why Do My Pillows Turn Yellow?

Pillows turn yellow because of sweat. There are other reasons why a pillow may start to turn yellow including falling asleep with wet hair, lotions and oils on the skin, and moisture. When moisture or sweat remains on the pillow for long periods of time, the pillow will turn yellow.

What you’re about to learn may surprise you.


#1 Moisture:

Moisture is everywhere: We are not talking about the moisture and humidity outside because you probably don't sleep outside. But the level of humidity inside your house; the temperature you keep your thermostat at while you sleep, moisture from your hair and perspiration while you sleep, can have a significant impact on the longevity of your luxury down bedding. Regardless of the temperature, it's not really something we think about in terms of its impact on our down bedding or our sleep environment, but its impact is very real.


Moisture and humidity can destroy down causing it to lose its loft and its ability to insulate properly. Moisture and humidity will create yellow stains on pillowcases and your pillows will start to turn yellow.


Hair: if you typically take your bath in the evening and don’t completely dry your hair the moisture in your hair can shorten the life of your pillow. Not completely drying your hair before you go to sleep will significantly impact the life of your pillow and cause your pillow to yellow prematurely.


Perspiration: There are many reasons why you weigh less in the morning than you do in the evening, and it's not because your body has had a chance to digest dinner last night. One of those reasons is that you perspire while you sleep. The average person can lose as much as 1 liter of water overnight and that 'water' has to go somewhere. Sure, some of the liquid is processed internally (why you need to urinate first thing in the morning) but also it's sweat into your down comforter, feather bed or pillows or combination.


Do NOT underestimate the impact a duvet cover and your flat sheet can and will have on the amount of additional, and potentially unwanted warmth, they can add to your bedding environment.

SalivaWe can't help when we drool in our sleep, but this is a big factor in why pillows turn yellow.


#2 Skin and lotions:

why pillows turn yellow lotion

The oils from your skin are another enemy that is difficult to overcome but can definitely be managed. Those same oils are also responsible in large part for the yellowing you may see on the 'shells' or 'ticking' of your down pillows, feather beds and down comforters over time.

The oils from your skin take years to actually impart any yellowing, but the oils from lotions applied after an evening bath do the real damage to the cotton used to make the down shells. Bathing habits are understandably difficult to change but the lotions and perfumes that are applied sooner rather than later will reach the luxury down feathers and goose down clusters inside the cotton shells.

How to Prevent Pillow Yellowing

We have designed a protective pillow casing that is both simple and cost effective that can help reduce the impact of moisture and the oils from your skin on your luxury pillow. It may seem relatively common at first glance but it is designed to have the least impact on your pillow ‘firmness’ while helping manage both the moisture and oils from your skin while you sleep.

We don’t want you sleeping on an unprotected pillow and this is one of our most popular items and they don’t stay in stock for long.

How to Remove Yellow Stains From Pillows

There are a few tried and true methods that can help reduce or eliminate yellow stains from your pillows and pillowcases, and plenty of them can be accomplished with everyday household staples! You can try:

  • Lemon juice and baking soda: Create a paste using lemon juice and baking soda, then gently rub it onto the yellow stains. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly and allowing the pillow to dry.

  • Hydrogen peroxide solutions: Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. Dab the solution onto the stained areas, let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse with water. Make sure to test a small, hidden area first to ensure it doesn't damage the fabric.

  • Vinegar soaks: Submerge the yellowed pillows in a mixture of warm water and vinegar (1:1 ratio) for a few hours or overnight. After soaking, wash the pillows in the washing machine with a mild detergent to remove any remaining vinegar smell.

  • Oxygen-based bleach: Use an oxygen-based bleach (without chlorine) suitable for fabrics. Follow the product instructions and soak the pillows in a solution to help break down and remove the yellow stains. Always follow the care label instructions and avoid using too much bleach.

  • Enzyme cleaners: Enzyme-based cleaners (like stain & odor removing sprays, or pet urine removal sprays) are effective at breaking down organic stains. Apply the cleaner to the stained areas, gently scrub, and allow it to sit for the recommended time before washing the pillows.

  • Sunlight exposure: Worried about damaging your pillow or pillowcase with harsh solutions? Sunlight can help naturally bleach and freshen pillows. After spot treating or washing, hang the pillows in direct sunlight to dry. Rotate them occasionally for even exposure and ensure they are completely dry before using them again. 

Remember, it's important to read care labels and test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire pillow. Different fabrics and pillow types may react differently to cleaning methods.

If these cleaning methods don’t work for cleaning up your yellow stains, consider investing in a new quality feather pillow and a matching pillow protector.


Grab one of these protective pillow casings today for free and just pay for the shipping.

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