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Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

A collage of pillows with stains.

“Look at these beautiful crisp white pillows I just bought today. Oh, I sure do love crisp white pillows!” Gladys chimed as she shimmied a linen pillow case over a recently purchased crisp white pillow.

“There’s just something about their cloud-like perfection that makes me feel so good inside.” And for a while, Gladys’ love affair with her crisp white pillows was everything she could have dreamed of. They stayed nice and fluffy, and their bright, clean white color remained true.

But then, gradually but surely, something began to change. The once bright white pillows started to take on a yellowish tinge.

“What is happening to my beautiful pillows?” Gladys cried in dismay. “They were so perfect, and now they’re ruined!”

Glady has had this problem for years. No matter how often she washes her pillowcases or how carefully she chooses her pillow covers, her pillows always end up looking yellow and dingy. It’s so frustrating!

Gladys is not alone in her pillow-related woes. Many people have purchased crisp white pillows, only to find that they eventually turn yellow. 

Causes of Pillow Yellowing

So why do white pillows turn yellow? There are a few different reasons.

1. Sweat

Woman holding a sweaty pillow.

One common reason is sweat. When we sleep, our bodies naturally release sweat, and this sweat can seep into our pillows. 

2. Dust and Dirt

Another reason is that pillows can accumulate dust and dirt over time. This can also lead to a yellowing of the pillowcase.

3. Cosmetics

Woman with makeup sleeping.

Many people are unaware that cosmetics can actually cause pillows to turn yellow. Cosmetics often contain oils and other materials that can seep into the fabric of the pillows, causing a build-up of residue.

Over time, this can lead to pillows that are yellow and stained. Sometimes, it can even cause the pillows to deteriorate and fall apart. 

4. Mouth Drool

Saliva is a powerful digestive enzyme that can break down food and stain surfaces. When pillows come into contact with saliva, the proteins in the saliva can interact with the pillow material and cause it to turn yellow. While saliva is not the only substance that can cause pillows to turn yellow, it is a significant contributor to this problem. 

5. Absorbency

Man having breakfast in bed.

Pillows are usually quite absorbent, so they can also absorb liquids from food and drink. When these liquids dry, they can leave behind a yellowish residue. 

6. Medications

In some cases, pillows may also be stained by other substances in the mouth, such as tobacco products or medications.

7. Lack of Air Circulation

Any or all of the aforementioned pillow-yellowing culprits will stay trapped in pillows without regular air circulation. 

8. Natural Fibers

Natural fiber pillow with cotton flowers on top.

Pillow stuffing made from natural materials like down or feathers can start to break down over time and release oils. These oils can discolor the pillowcase, causing it to turn yellow.

9. Yellow Dye

Finally, some pillowcases are simply not as white as they appear. They may have been dyed yellow, or they may be made from materials that are naturally yellow in color.

If you’re dealing with yellow pillows, don’t despair! With a bit of care and effort, you might be able to brighten them up again. 

Fixing the Problem of Yellow Pillows

Pillows being dried on the clothesline.

If your pillows start to turn yellow, what can be done to try and fix the problem?

  1. Try soaking the yellow pillows in a mixture of water and lemon juice to help brighten the pillows and remove some of the yellowing. 
  2. You could also pretreat pillows with a solution of baking soda and vinegar. Use a sturdy brush to scrub the solution over the fabric, and then wash with standard laundry detergent. 
  3. Try washing your pillowcases in hot water to remove any oils or dirt that may be causing the yellowing.
  4. You can also try bleaching your pillowcases. Be sure to use non-chlorine bleach and follow the directions on the package carefully.
  5. Cleaning your pillows and checking them for stains is important. If you notice any yellowing, you should spot-clean the affected area with a mild detergent. You should also avoid using harsh chemicals on your pillows, which can further damage the fabric and cause yellowing. By taking these simple precautions, you can help keep your pillows looking their best.
  6. If your pillows are still yellow after you’ve tried washing and bleaching them, you may need to replace the pillowcases. You can find new pillowcases in a variety of colors and materials.

Preventing the Problem of Yellow Pillows

What can be done to prevent pillows from turning yellow in the first place? 

Woman covering the pillow with a case.

As they say, a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. If you’re tired of dealing with yellow pillows, you can do a few things to prevent the problem.

  1. Once you have new pillowcases, be sure to wash them before using them. This will help to prevent the problem from happening again.
  2. First, choose pillowcases that are made from synthetic materials like polyester. These materials are less likely to absorb oils and dirt.
  3. Second, keep your pillows clean by washing them regularly. Be sure to use hot water and mild detergent.
  4. Finally, don’t forget to fluff your pillows regularly. This will help to keep them looking their best.
  5. One is to use pillow covers. Pillow covers can help to protect pillows from sweat and sunlight and can also be easily removed and washed when they become dirty. 
  6. Another option is to fluff pillows regularly. This helps to keep them looking fresh and prevents them from becoming flat and yellow.

With a little effort, you can keep your white pillows looking crisp and clean for a while. Just be sure to wash them regularly and choose pillowcases that are made from synthetic materials.

Of course, nothing lasts forever, so no matter what measures are taken, you’ll eventually need to replace your yellow pillows with new fresh ones.