From time to time we get this type of question at DOWNLITE: "How long will my pillow last?" The simple answer is that it's really a personal choice. Our detailed analysis to help you determine the life of your pillow is below, with possibly more information than you may care to know.
Down pillows, feather pillows, down alternative pillows, memory foam pillows or latex, will consist of these two key components:
- The Outside Fabric
- The Inside Filling Material
The outside of the pillow material is fabric, whether it's 230 TC (thread count) cambric or 400 TC sateen. The outside of the pillow may feature a bonus pillow protector (common when a nice TC or fabric is featured for the item thus, the actual material tends to be a 230 TC cambric cotton). What we will really focus on is the inner fabric, regardless if there's a nicer bonus protector on the outside. Each type of pillow filling requires a fabric to house it. In the case of down, feathers, or down alternative, the fabric has to be at a high enough thread count and treatment to resist down or feathers from pushing out through that fabric. Other fills like polyester pillows or foam/latex are not limited to the fabric choice. So these are usually are at 150 TC or higher, and are often paired with a plush or terry-like cover (typically in the case of foam/latex interiors).
On every bed each item receives a different purpose. The pillow and mattress receive the majority of the repeated heavy pressure and weight (either by your torso or your head). Although the weight of the average human head is only approximately 9 pounds, it is the added elements of snoring, drooling, nose bleeds and other life events that will impact and wear on the fabric the most. While most bedding products are machine washable (except memory foam/latex and some cheaper polyesters), most of us don't like the appearance of our pillows past 10 years. It's the accumulating speckled drool spots, old makeup, or yellow sweat stains that eventually drive us to replace them.
Inside Filling Material
The inside of the pillow will alter the pillows longevity. The life of your pillow is largely based on the filling you choose. Notably, and in order of durability, or 'toughness' your fill options are: feathers, down, down alternative, polyester, and foam or latex products.
Feathers tend to be pretty resilient due to the quill at their core which provides a natural strength. It is very common to receive a call from a customer whose shared they own a 25 year old feather pillow. Although naturally resilient, feathers alone don't feel great on most folks' skin. That's why they are usually blended with down. Over time feathers do eventually break and soften. However, in our opinion this factor really equates to a desirable lumpy pillow; lumpy in a good way! Just like grandma's old pillow.
Down fill comes from the underside of a bird's chest area, and is very light, fluffy and soft. A good down pillow can last for decades. And over time, the down clusters will break or pull apart due to the friction and weight of your head on the pillow.
At DOWNLITE we make two distinct synthetic types of pillows. One is called 'polyester' and is made by use of a semi-automated machine that spins, collects and turns strands of polyester into a 'bun' which is then inserted into a shell. The second pillow we make is the down alternative polyester. It features loose polyester that's usually microfiber with the capability to move freely inside a pillow; much like down.
Down alternative pillows require a thread count and fabric treatment, much like natural down or feather pillows (due to their microfiber polyester component). These pillows, at least the ones from DOWNLITE, can be machine washed and dried for ease of care. Examples of down alternatives include: PrimaLoft, EnviroLoft, MicroLoft, as well as other fine denier staple polyesters. Down alternative pillows can last up to 2-3 years before their 'hand' (shape) changes in excess, causing the user to replace it.
The 'polyester bun' type pillows (also called garnetted pillows) are very durable and hold their shape due to the polyester formed web shape that's glued or melted into place. This type of pillow can be used over and over (often found at some 2 and 3 star hotels, due to their durable nature and cheaper price point). They don't wash very well, so extra care is needed for cleaning (unlike down alternative pillows). The polyester 'garnetted pillows' can last up to 1-2 years or longer.
Last on the list of filling choices we have available are memory foam or latex products. They behave a bit differently, but are generally not machine washable and are rigid in form. The rigidity overtime breaks down, and the molded form you started with can react to your head weight to form indentations. The chemicals used for memory foam products also tend to be pretty noxious and turn a yellowish color over time. Because memory foam products are so new, it's not certain exactly how long they will last, but an educated guess is at least 2-3 years of 'good' use (unless you spill something on them, in which the wetness would ruin them).
What About Folding A Pillow?
We've been asked for our opinion on folding pillows. And collectively, we don't like the pillow fold test. We find it is meaningless because some people like soft pillows, while others have large king pillows (both of which can cause a pillow to not fold over, like you might see on TV). The main criteria for determining a pillow's appeal is really a subjective choice. Unless a pillow is leaking or poking you with feather quills, you can hold onto it. At least until it starts looking unsightly (dingy or yellowed).
Are Old Pillows Unhealthy?
If you're concerned an old pillow could be prone to dust mites and or unwanted allergens, we recommend two great websites that cover those topics by addressing related questions and concerns: beddingcare.com or dustmitefacts.org.
At the end of the day, the life of each pillow, whether it's determined too flat, too old, or too dingy, is a subjective choice, and really up to the end user... YOU!