Am I doing pillows wrong?
July 21, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

How long do your bed pillows last? How do I keep mine lasting longer?

I seem to go through pillows really quickly, like lasting a year at most, and they are pretty dingy when I get around to replacing them. They also end up really unevenly stuffed. I assume a lot of this has to do with taking morning showers, so my hair is pretty dirty/oily by the time I sleep and that goes right on the pillowcase and then the pillow.

It makes me very reluctant to make an investment in nice expensive pillows since I would hate to throw them away.
posted by smackfu to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Quality German goose down pillows should be replaced after a couple of years.

These are the care instructions from the website I buy mine from:

Machine wash using cold water and a mild detergent.ᅠWe recommend Dawn dishwashing detergent because it is a grease emulsifier.ᅠThis helps strip the accumulated body oils from the down clusters, allowing the down to loft to it's maximum potential. Dry on the lowest heat setting (this is to protect the cotton fabric) until thoroughly dry.ᅠClean tennis balls can help speed up the drying process by gently breaking up the wet clumps of down. Do not use fabric softener. Do not use bleach.

posted by L'OM at 8:33 AM on July 21, 2010

Well I've had the same pillow for the last 7 years. It gets thrown in the washing machine maybe once a year.

I should probably get a new one...
posted by kthxbi at 8:34 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had a tempurpedic pillow for about 12 years now. It comes in a little zipped-on pillowcase, and I use a regular pillowcase over that, changed every week or so. And I'll wash the zipped on pillow case maybe once or twice a year, as needed. The pillow hasn't degraded at all in terms of comfort!

And bug/germologists, please let me continue to believe that it is not entirely full of disgusting microbes that when viewed under a microscope would make me run away screaming, only to promptly go home and burn my pillow in horror!
posted by Grither at 8:34 AM on July 21, 2010

Cheap pillows are pretty much a disposable item unless you're one of those people with perfect clean hair who never sweats.

There are pillow protectors that go betwixt pillow and case, usually to help prevent dust mite allergies, that also help to keep the pillow a bit cleaner. They tend to extend pillow life a bit.

And some pillows are perfectly washable. They take a bit of drying, so you'd either need to tumble-dry or else line-dry on a very warm dry day. I've found that the cheaper goose-feather pillows tend to smell a bit even after a really thorough wash and dry. My new Siberian goose down pillow doesn't seem to have that problem - I've washed it, done a bit of shaking, and it's as soft and clean as new. It did cost a bit, mind.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:35 AM on July 21, 2010

I grew up with either feather or down pillows that were...ancient. They're still functional. We put them in the dryer on high for a while every so often, which may or may not kill things living inside them and knock the dust out.

Pillows with man-made fluffy stuff inside them do seem to wear out (by getting hopelessly compressed) pretty quickly, though.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:38 AM on July 21, 2010

With good pillow protectors, the yuck shouldn't make it to your pillows, but I do find that the loft I loved in the first few weeks of even an expensive pillow disappears fairly quickly and I'm left wishing I had a different one. So I'm now all for cheaper pillows replaced once a year.
posted by cecic at 8:40 AM on July 21, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I didn't even know pillow protectors existed, so that's very useful to know.

(Too bad I am deeply allergic to down pillows. They sound nice.)
posted by smackfu at 8:43 AM on July 21, 2010

i'm also currently wrestling with pillows.
I too started out on the cheap ones, and they dont last for me either, and its really frustrating cuz within a year i'm buying pillows again, and they either go flat or bunch up and generally seem to become non-functional as pillows.

In desperation a couple of years ago I started paying $30 for pillows in the hopes that the more expensive ones might last longer or be different in this regard. Here is my experience with that:

-the expensive ones (in my experience) still arent quite doing it. They're slightly better than the cheaper ones though.
-I think it really comes down to a choice of the material.
-For instance, down pillows: on the recommendation of a friend, i paid big money for 2 down pillows. After all, my down comforter I've had for 10 years and its still perfectly functional.
-Down pillows: went completely flat for me in a year and a half or so. No amount of vigorous re-fluffing has helped. They're useless now. That said, they were great for about 8 months.
-Foam (contour) pillows: I tried an ergonomic thick foam pillow. It was great...for about 8 months. Today its flat (and despite being foam, has even started to bunch up in the pillow case).
-memory-foam pillow, donut-hole shaped. Just got this one 4 months ago, and so far it looks promising (tho they all did at first). One thing that makes this different from down or foam: the material is substantially "thicker". I think at this point I need material that is heavy and thick for the pillows to retain any semblance of support for my (admittedly large) head.
Also the shape may make a difference: by being a ring-shaped (donut) pillow, there's less chance of it bunching up cuz there's less space for the material to move around. I also rather like the donut shape, ergonomically speaking, it keeps the head flat while supporting the neck. Its comfy.
-overstuffed cotton pillows: havent bought one yet, tho that will be the next one i try if memory foam fails me. The reason I have hopes for overstuffed cotton pillows, is because I have a bedrest filled with the stuff, and i've always had a good night's sleep resting my head on one of its overstuffed arms. Great support actually, with no signs of fading (i've had that bedrest for at least 6 years). So if memory foam fails me, overstuffed heavy cotton cushion/pillow is what i'll try next.
posted by jak68 at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2010

My mum does double pillowcasing - thick pillowcase under and standard one on top. Same principle as pillow protectors.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:57 AM on July 21, 2010

You can get a dust mite case/protector or a waterproof cover, made from either a very tight cotton weave with waterproof backing or a type of plastic weave. They operate under the same principles as full mattress protectors, a bit different than merely double-pillowcasing. In other words, those kinds of protective pillowcases are designed to keep the dust mite corpses and poop/dirt/etc. out of your pillow.

I've had the same fiberfill pillow for... probably over a decade now. Besides using a hypoallergenic dust case (mine's cotton), I also keep a handtowel on the pillow (I have a thing against drooling into pillows--ew) to trap dirt/moisture and then wash the towel more frequently.

With a decent pillow that's getting old, you can undo the stitching and add more stuffing, which would also allow you to rearrange the stuffing position. I know my mom's done that.
posted by Ky at 9:38 AM on July 21, 2010

If you like the feel of down but are allergic, there are some great down-alternative pillows with the same cushy effect. I use one I got at Bed, Bath and Beyond for about 40 bucks- I've had it for about 2-3 years. I use a zippered cover because I am hopelessly allergic to dust mites, and a typical pillowcase on top. I wash and dry it maybe once a month or once every 2 months.

Seems fine to me. I try to fluff it as often as I can. It's served me well (better than the really puffy fiberfill type, those seem to get lumpy quickly) and shows no signs of needing to be replaced yet.
posted by rachaelfaith at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2010

Yeah, the down alternative pillows are often called microgel pillows -- they feel like down. I just bought some last month, along with pillow protectors, and I like them so far.

If you're interested in some research, has some very interesting info on mattresses, pillows, etc.

Here are the pillow ratings.
posted by Ouisch at 10:48 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, the chart is really the most helpful part.
posted by Ouisch at 10:50 AM on July 21, 2010

I second a Tempurpedic pillow. I've also had mine for seven years or so and it's still going strong.
posted by Addlepated at 12:02 PM on July 21, 2010

How do you sleep? I'm a stomach sleeper, and most pillows end up being way too thick for me. I have a latex foam pillow which is pretty excellent for me, and has not gone bad on me in about 5 years. I had another foam pillow prior to that, and it probably was at least 10 years old.

If you're a back sleeper, you probably will want a thicker pillow than I want, and you might actually be able to use something like a buckwheat pillow. There are also pillows that are filled with something that looks like cut up drinking straws, and those can be softer than buckwheat while still providing more support than feathers or polyfill.
posted by that girl at 5:23 PM on July 21, 2010

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