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Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

Two pillows with yellow staining are stacked on top of one another.

Sometimes, more nitty-gritty cleaning tasks can fall by the way side. Cleaning your pillows is one of those tasks, and if it’s been a minute, you might notice some yellow stains. Does that mean it’s time to toss them and buy new ones?

The yellow stains on pillows are caused by sweat, and the good news is that the staining is fixable.

Particularly sweaty sleepers will likely notice more yellowing than others, but it happens to everyone. As people sleep, they sweat, and pillow case or not, it can seep into the pillow. Urea, a chemical in sweat, is what causes the staining because, over time, it breaks down and turns into ammonia, which stains.

No, the yellow spots on your pillows don’t mean they’re harboring some sort of weird mold. The staining is normal, but you don’t want it to stick around, and yes, you can get rid of it.

Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows

In case you just really want new pillows.

While you might be tempted to turn to traditional bleach, oxygen bleach is the way to go as these are protein stains.

First, you’ll spray your pillow with a stain-removing pre-treatment and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Then, use a toothbrush to loosen any debris on the pillow. Dissolve a scoop of OxiClean (or other oxygen bleach) in hot water in your bathtub, sink, or laundry basin overnight. The next day, launder and dry the pillow as usual.

If you’ve got new year’s goals centered around keeping your house clean and organized, this easy, pillow-cleaning might be a great way to stay on track.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Assignments Editor at LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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