Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

Have you ever wondered why your once pristine, white pillows gradually turn yellow over time? It's a common occurrence that many people experience, but few fully understand. In this piece, we'll explore the science behind this occurrence and uncover why pillows develop a yellow hue.

The Science Behind Why Pillows Turn Yellow

To understand why pillows turn yellow, we must dive into the science of fabric and how it interacts with various substances. Most pillows are made of cotton or a blend of natural and synthetic fibers. When sweat and body oils come into contact with these materials, they undergo a process called oxidation.

During oxidation, the molecules in sweat and body oils react with oxygen in the air, causing a chemical change. This reaction leads to the formation of yellow compounds that become trapped within the fabric, resulting in the visible yellowing of pillows.

Why Do My Pillows Turn Yellow?

Pillow discolouration often occurs because of the gradual buildup of body oils, sweat, and dead skin cells. This fosters conditions favorable for the proliferation of bacteria. Transfer of natural oils from hair and skin to the pillowcase, along with inadequate ventilation, contributes to this discolouration. Regularly washing pillowcases, using high-quality covers, and choosing pillows with removable, washable cases can help combat yellowing, ensuring a cleaner and more hygienic sleep space.

Reasons Why Pillows Turn Yellow


Moisture from indoor humidity and perspiration during sleep can harm luxury down bedding by reducing its loft and insulation. This leads to yellow stains on pillowcases and gradual pillow discolouration. Addressing these moisture issues is essential for preserving the quality of your bedding.


If you usually shower in the evening and fail to dry your hair thoroughly, the residual moisture in your hair can reduce the lifespan of your Pillow. Neglecting to dry your hair fully before bedtime will have a considerable impact on your Pillow's longevity and lead to premature yellowing.


Your morning weight is often lighter than your evening weight for various reasons, and it's not solely due to the digestion of the previous night's dinner. One contributing factor is sweat during sleep. While you rest, the average person can lose up to 1 litre of water overnight, and this moisture needs a destination. While some of the liquid is internally processed (explaining the need to urinate in the morning), a portion also manifests as sweat absorbed by your down comforter, feather bed, pillows, or a combination of these.


While unintentional drooling during sleep cannot be prevented, it contributes significantly to the yellowing of pillows.

Maintaining the Freshness: A Guide to Avoiding Yellowing in Your Pillows

Utilize a pillow cover

A pillow cover is a sealed fabric layer positioned between your pillowcase and the Pillow itself. Acting as an additional barrier, Pillow covers add a shield against moisture, helping to prevent potential discolouration.

Opt for a high-quality pillowcase

Sleep preferences vary, and various bedding options cater to different types of sleepers. Nevertheless, pillowcases crafted with superior construction are more effective in preventing moisture from reaching your Pillow. They can help slow down the yellowing process.

Regularly launder your pillows

Washing pillows is often a neglected aspect of bedding maintenance. However, it's essential to maintain a clean sleep environment. Cleansing your Pillow eliminates potentially harmful contaminants and enhances its comfort for sleeping. Aim to wash your Pillow at least every four to six months.

How to Remove Yellow Stains From Pillows

Lemon Juice and Baking Soda Paste

Prepare a mixture using lemon juice and baking soda to form a paste. Gently rub it onto the yellow stains, let it sit for approximately 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and allow the Pillow to dry.

Hydrogen Peroxide Solution

  • Prepare a solution by blending hydrogen peroxide and water in equal amounts.
  • Then, apply the solution to the stained areas by dabbing it gently. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse with water.
  • Test a small, hidden area first to ensure fabric safety.

Vinegar Soaks

Submerge yellowed pillows in a warm water and vinegar mixture (1:1 ratio) for a few hours or overnight. After soaking, wash the pillows in the machine with mild detergent to eliminate any lingering vinegar scent.

Oxygen-Based Bleach

Use a chlorine-free oxygen-based bleach suitable for fabrics. Follow the product instructions, soak pillows in a solution to break down and remove yellow stains. Always adhere to care label instructions and avoid excessive bleach use.

Sunlight Exposure

If concerned about using harsh solutions, sunlight can naturally bleach and freshen pillows. After spot treatment or washing, hang pillows in direct sunlight to dry. Rotate them occasionally for even exposure, ensuring they are completely dry before use.

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Cleaning and Maintenance Tips For Yellowed Pillows

If your pillows have already turned yellow, don't fret. There are cleaning and maintenance tips that can help restore them to their former whiteness. One effective method is to soak the pillows in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent. Gently agitate the pillows to loosen the dirt and stains, then rinse thoroughly and allow them to air dry.

Another option is to use a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Make a paste by blending these two elements, then put it on the yellowed sections of the Pillow. Allow the paste to sit for a few hours or overnight, then rinse and dry the Pillow.

Pillowing Sweat And Body Oils as Culprits

Sweat mainly consists of water, electrolytes, and waste substances like urea. When we sweat, these substances are relPillow on to our pillows. Urea, in particular, plays a significant role in pillow yellowing.

Body oils, on the other hand, are secreted by our sebaceous glands and serve to moisturize and protect our skin. However, when body oils come into contact with pillow fabric, they can leave behind a residue that attracts dirt and dust particles. This accumulation of debris can further contribute to the yellowing of pillows.

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The Role of Bacteria in Pillow Discolouration

Bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments, making our pillows an ideal breeding ground. As these microorganisms multiply, they release enzymes that break down sweat and body oils. In the process, they produce waste products and by-products that can react with the fabric, leading to discolouration.

Additionally, the metabolic activities of bacteria can generate acidic substances. These acids can weaken the fabric fibers, making them more susceptible to staining and discolouration. Therefore, proper pillow hygiene is crucial to prevent bacterial growth and minimize the risk of yellowing.

 How do I Avoid Yellow Stains?

A pillow protector acts as an extra layer between your pillowcase and your pillow and can help catch some of your sweat before it reaches your pillow. This help to prevent discoloration. This is especially useful for those who perspire excessively while sleeping. Going to bed with dry hair and a few hours after using your evening skin care products will help stop yellowing, as will using a pillow protector and washing your bedding often.


Implementing preventive measures, such as using moisture-wicking pillow protectors and regularly washing pillowcases, can significantly reduce the likelihood of yellowing. Additionally, proper cleaning and maintenance techniques can help restore yellowed pillows to their original color.

Remember, a clean and well-maintained pillow not only enhances the aesthetics of your bedroom but also promotes a healthier sleep environment. So, invest some time and effort into taking care of your pillows, and you'll enjoy a better night's sleep on fresh, white bedding.