Why is My Pillow Fabric Yellowing and How Can I Clean It?

Posted by Matt Cardoni on 25th Jan 2023

Why is My Pillow Fabric Yellowing and How Can I Clean It?

Pillows tend to yellow as they age. This discoloration can be unsightly, and regardless of how clean the pillows are, it gives the impression that they’re dirty. This is especially important for rental hosts and hoteliers because guests expect pillows to be crisp and clean. Here are our best tips on why pillows yellow and how to prevent and clean them.

What Causes Yellowed Pillows?

One of the leading causes of yellowed pillows is sweat. As we sleep, our bodies naturally produce sweat, which can seep into the pillowcase and onto the pillow itself. Over time, sweat can cause the pillow to yellow. Additionally, oils from our skin and hair can contribute to the yellowing of pillows.

Another common cause of pillow yellowing is dirt and debris. Pillows can accumulate dirt and debris from the environment, such as dust and pollen. These particles can settle into the pillow and lead to discoloration over time.

Sun damage also causes pillow fabric to yellow. If your pillows are placed in direct sunlight for long periods, the UV rays can cause the fabric to fade and yellow.

To avoid yellowing due to sun damage, try moving the pillows to a location where they will receive less direct sunlight, invest in pillow covers, or use a thin fabric to drape over the pillows when they are not in use to protect them from the sun's rays. Shading the windows can also help by installing curtains, blinds or other sun-blocking tactics.

Makeup and hair products also accelerate pillow yellowing. Beauty products discolor the pillows directly with their oils and pigments and indirectly by facilitating the transmission of face, hair and body oils to the pillows.

How to Prevent Yellowed Pillows

You may be wondering, how do hotels keep their bedding so white? There are a few steps that you can take to prevent pillows from yellowing in the first place. First, wash your pillowcases regularly. This will help remove residue from the pillowcase and from soiling the pillow initially. Additionally, it is a good idea to, which is a removable cover that fits over the pillow and helps to prevent dirt, sweat and oils from reaching the pillow itself. Pillow protectors extend the life of the pillow and also protect the sleeper from allergens.

It is also important to wash your pillows regularly. Most pillows can be washed in the washing machine using a mild detergent and cool water. Be sure to read the care instructions on your pillow to determine the best way to wash it. After washing, it is important to dry the pillows thoroughly to prevent mold and mildew from forming.

Another way to prevent yellowed pillows is to use a lower pillowcase thread count. Higher thread count pillowcases are more prone to trapping sweat and oil, which can lead to yellowing. You should always be selecting hypoallergenic pillows.

Finally, it is a good idea to replace your pillows every few years. Over time, pillows can lose their shape and become less supportive, leading to discomfort and an increased likelihood of yellowing. Replacing your pillows regularly ensures a fresh, clean, and comfortable night's sleep.

How to Clean Yellowed Pillows

If your pillows are already yellowed, there are a few steps that you can take to clean them. One option is to use a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar to spot clean the yellowed areas. Simply apply the mixture to the yellowed areas using a cloth and allow it to sit for a few minutes before wiping it away.

Another option is to use a specialty pillow cleaner, which can be found at many bedding and home stores. These cleaners are specifically designed to remove sweat, oil, makeup, and dirt from pillows and can effectively restore their original color.


Pillow yellowing is a common issue caused by various factors, including sun exposure, sweat, oil, beauty products, and dirt. You can prevent yellowed pillows and restore your yellowed pillows to their original color by following the steps above. With proper care and maintenance, you can extend the life of your clean, comfortable pillows for years to come.