why do pillows turn yellow?
Questions And Answers

What Causes Yellow Stains on Pillow Cases?

Last Updated on January 30, 2024 by Louise Carter

Yellow stains on pillowcases and pillows are unsightly, especially on white bedding. Discoloration also suggests the pillows absorb excessive moisture, which can harm your long-term health.

Moisture on pillows is commonly caused by sweating overnight, so keep your temperature under control. Avoid laying down with wet hair, as this will cause water to sink into the pillow and lead to staining.

Drooling can lead to moisture on pillows and stains, so consider sleeping on your back. The supine sleeping position will keep skin oils off your pillows, although you may snore loudly.

While it’s not cost-effective to replace pillows every time they become slightly discolored, allowing yellow stains to fester encourages a build-up of bacteria and may attract bugs to your bed.

Avoid yellow stains on pillows with a routine that minimizes moisture exposure, and consider applying pillow protectors. This will save you from regularly washing and sun-drying stained pillows.

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?

We’ve all had pillows and pillowcases that were once brilliant white that turned yellow.

While it’s recommended that pillows be replaced after a maximum of 2 years of regular use, some can grow tarnished long before this time.

Why are pillows discolored, and can anything be done to prevent it? In most cases, yellow marks on pillows are due to moisture. This has many causes, including the following:

why do pillows get discolored?

Night Sweats

Sweat is the main contributor to moisture on pillows. If you’re too warm in bed, the body will automatically produce sweat to regulate your body temperature and keep you safe.

This sweat will sink into your pillow. Unless you have a high-end pillowcase and pillow protector, you’ll eventually experience staining. If you sweat excessively overnight, this will happen sooner.

Reduce your overnight body temperature to minimize the impact of sweating.

Cool the bedroom ahead of time, sleep without blankets, wear no clothes to bed, and change your bedding and blankets to a lighter, more breathable fabric.

Sleeping with Wet Hair

Many warnings exist surrounding sleeping with wet hair, but there is no denying that doing so will create a damp, moist environment on your pillow.

Somebody with long hair will likely wake up with a soaking pillow that takes days to dry. Getting into bed with wet hair will likely speed up pillow staining.

Showering before bed can help you sleep better, but use a cap to keep your hair dry, use a hair dryer, or wear a sleeping hat or silk headscarf before retiring for the night.

Drooling During Sleep

Drooling isn’t an attractive part of the sleep cycle, but it happens to everybody.

When we enter slow-wave deep sleep, our mouth and jaw muscles are entirely relaxed, but saliva production isn’t slowed. This means drool will escape onto your bedding.

Sleeping on the back can minimize the likelihood of drooling on the pillows, although this increases the risk of loud snoring. Sleeping on the side means a quieter night, but you will also produce more drool.

If you sleep on your side, ensure you are lying on the left side of your body.

This will benefit the digestive system and reduce the hazards of acid reflux. It’ll also restrict the throat muscles and significantly increase drool production.

Oily Skin

Like all organs in the body, the skin works to repair and rejuvenate itself while we sleep.

The skin releases sebum, a hydrating and moisturizing substance, from the sebaceous glands overnight. This is why we sometimes wake up with oily skin.

While sebum production is essential to healthy skin, it’s possible to produce too much, especially if you also perspire overnight, causing these oils to run and streak all over your face.

This will be rubbed off on your pillow and eventually cause stains.

To keep sebum production under control overnight, thoroughly wash, cleanse, and dry your face before getting into bed. You may also wish to consider applying beauty products.

Beauty Products

Every pharmacy has shelves packed with beauty products that promise to slow or reverse aging. Many are intended to be applied at night and can rub on your pillow.

Will you cause more damage to your pillows than you are helping your skin? You may be better off applying a simple aloe vera facemask overnight.

Why Do Guys Have Yellow Pillows?

Statistically, men are likelier to have yellow pillows than women. This is sometimes referred to as a “man’s sad pillow.” This isn’t because men are naturally unsanitary – it’s a matter of biology.

The International Journal of Women’s Dermatology explains how men who have passed the age of puberty typically produce more sebum from the skin pores than women.

According to Experimental Physiology, most men also sweat more freely than women.

The presence of testosterone in the male body encourages sweat production, meaning that men who feel warm in bed are likelier to perspire onto their pillows.

Is It Safe To Sleep on A Yellow Pillow?

Eventually, yellow stains are inevitable, so throwing away every pillow showing signs of discoloration may become expensive. However, it isn’t advisable to continue using a heavily-stained pillow.

If your pillow is now more yellow than white, this suggests moisture has worked its way into the fabric.

This will become increasingly challenging to shift and can potentially lead to a build-up of bacteria that can block skin pores or make you unwell.

Moisture in pillows also makes your bed increasingly appealing to bugs.

Dust mites, ants, cockroaches, and spiders are all attracted to damp. If these insects and arachnids are already hiding in your bedroom, they may feel emboldened to approach your pillows.

How To Prevent Yellow Stains on Pillows

You can remove yellow stains from pillows, but avoiding staining in the first place is preferable.

Wash and dry your face before bed, never sleep with damp hair, maintain an appropriate bedtime temperature, and be mindful of skincare products.

Washing pillowcases at least once a week will remove dirt, grime, and moisture before they accumulate. This won’t prevent yellow staining forever but can also slow its arrival.

You can also take further steps to protect your pillows from the ravages of age and moisture:

Change of Pillowcases

If you’re prone to sweating at night, consider changing the fabric used for your pillowcases and bedsheets to a more breathable fabric.

Cotton absorbs sweat and drool. This marks your pillows, meaning it’s time for an upgrade.

Flannel is more resistant to staining and will manage perspiration. This material is ideal for anybody who struggles to sleep in cooler temperatures but can feel hot if their temperature is elevated.

Tencel and bamboo are upgrades on cotton that are better at absorbing moisture, making them more resistant to staining. These materials are more expensive than cotton but will likely last longer.

You could also consider silk or satin for your bedding, as these luxurious fabrics will keep moisture on your skin and thus avoid yellow stains.

Pillow Protector

Pillow protectors are similar to mattress protectors and offer the same service.

Placed between a pillow and pillowcase, this additional layer prevents moisture from seeping into the cushion, thus staving off stains and prolonging the pillow’s lifespan.

If you’re interested in pillow protectors, review the number of microns.

This will explain the size of any holes in the weave. The smaller the microns, the more protection against allergens, moisture, and bugs will be offered.

Can You Make Yellow Pillows White Again?

Simply putting a stained pillow into a washing machine on a regular cycle will not remove yellow marks.

While yellowing pillows can be restored to their former glory, you must take additional steps, whether using a washing machine or cleaning by hand.

Be aware that some yellow stains on pillows are permanent. If these approaches don’t clear the marks from your pillows, you must replace them.

why do guys have yellow pillows?

Washing Machine

Before putting a pillow in the washing machine, check the label on the product and ensure it isn’t designed for hand washing only.

If the pillow is safe for a laundry cycle, apply some stain remover before placing it in the machine. Let the pillow sit for around 15 minutes, allowing the chemicals to loosen the stubborn stains.

Before adding the pillows to your washing machine, match the volume of laundry detergent with white vinegar or a quarter-cup of household bleach.

Wash the pillows at an appropriate temperature. If in doubt, wash twice on a cool cycle.

Once the cycle is complete, wash with warm water and half a cup of white vinegar. It’s best to air-dry pillows in the sun, especially if stained, but don’t exceed medium heat if you use a dryer.


If your pillows need to be hand washed, fill a sink or bathtub with cool water and add a cup of bleach. If the pillow can’t cope with bleach, mix up the following solution:

  • 1 cup of dishwasher detergent.
  • Half a cup of white vinegar.
  • 6 oz of sodium carbonate.
  • 3 tablespoons of laundry detergent.

Leave the pillow(s) to soak in the water for 30 minutes, periodically squeezing them. Don’t wring them, as this can cause damage. Once washing is complete, leave the pillows to air dry for 24 hours.

All pillows will likely become yellow eventually, as this is a side effect of regular use.

Don’t ignore the stains and consider them a price of sleep. If your pillows are excessively blemished and discolored, wash them thoroughly or replace them when possible.