Types of Pillow Filling and How Often to Replace Each | well+well


When I became an “adult,” I was relatively prepared to be tired all the time and inexplicably super at getting socks as a gift, but I was no prepared for how expensive it is to furnish a home. The pillows were particularly shocking, so for years I slept on used pillows from the family (you can ignore the yellow age stains when you put on a pillowcase!) or super cheap pillows. But pillows they’re one of those things you don’t think make much of a difference…until you use a really awesome one and realize what you’ve been missing. Now my boyfriend and I fight over him. Purple Harmony Cushion ($179) in our bed, just like W+G business writer Francesca Krempa and her boyfriend. (Yes, the pillow is that good.) But even the most expensive ones don’t last forever, and depending on which pillow you fill, their lifespan (lifetime in bed?) may be shorter than you think, especially if you plan on keeping yours forever. .

“Generally speaking, most pillows last one to two years, although this definitely depends on a few different factors,” says Michelle Bowler, director of marketing for Everything’s okay. “There are a variety of filling options available for pillows. None is best, they all have pros and cons, depending on your needs and preferences,” says sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, chief sleep advisor at Purple. So how long do the pillows last? I asked Bowler and Dr. Breus to break down the most common types of pillow fill and how often to replace them below.

Common types of pillow filling

memory foam

“Composed of a flexible polyurethane foam, memory foam pillows are durable and super moldable, making them a great pillow for a variety of people,” says Bowler. “There’s the traditional block memory foam pillow as well as shredded memory foam which is great for adjustable support.” In other words, memory foam pillows conform to the lines of your head, neck, and shoulders by responding to your weight and body heat, says Dr. Breus. He notes that memory foam retains heat, which can lead to discomfort and sweating, but high-quality memory foam pillows often have built-in ventilation to compensate for this.


“These pillows are light and soft; if you like a soft place to rest your head at night, you may like a feather pillow,” says Dr. Breus. He adds that many people worry about allergies or sensitivities to feathers, and while there are people who do have severe allergies, it’s often lower-quality feathers that haven’t been properly cleaned. “The dirt left on the down, rather than the animal fiber itself, can cause allergies and discomfort,” he explains. “You can look for hypoallergenic down, often called hypodown, which is a rigorously clean blend of pure down and a natural substance called syriaca, which helps reinforce the down’s anti-allergy properties and increases the longevity of the pillow.”

At this point, down pillows are usually made from goose or duck fibers; goose tends to be softer and more expensive than duck. Pillows are made with different combinations of down, feathers and other fillers, and even if a pillow says “all down” or “all down,” it may still contain feathers and other fillers, Dr. Breus warns. “Good-quality down pillows are expensive, but they’re worth it if this is the type of pillow you prefer,” he says.

down alternative

“Made from synthetic polyester microfibers, down alternative fill is hypoallergenic and more affordable than the average down pillow,” says Bowler. However, Dr. Breus notes that they will need to be replaced more frequently than feather pillows.

polyester filling

“Polyester-filled pillows are a relatively inexpensive pillow option, compared to other types of pillows,” says Dr. Breus. “They tend to be medium to soft, although less soft than down. They will flatten out over time and generally need to be replaced more often than other types of pillows.” Bowler adds that this popular pillow insert is machine washable.


According to Dr. Breus, wool pillows are naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mold and dust mites. They can also help regulate temperature while you sleep by wicking moisture away from your head and neck. These pillows tend to be quite firm, but they are one of the most durable types of fill. “If you want the benefits of wool without all the firmness, look for alpaca wool, rather than cashmere fibers,” he advises.


This is one of the most widely available (and most widely used) types of pillow filling, says Bowler. “Like wool in many ways, cotton pillows are also naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites and mold,” says Dr. Breus, adding that they are a smart choice for people with allergies and sensitivities. chemicals.


“Latex pillows tend to be firmer than down pillows, but they are still very comfortable,” says Dr. Breus. “These pillows hold their shape. This is not the kind of pillow that you squish into the position you like.” He points out that these pillows, which are made of rubber, are often designed to provide extra support for your head and neck, or to restrict movement during sleep. They are also resistant to mold and dust mites.

How often to replace your pillow

“As a general guideline, I tell people that if it’s a foam-based pillow, you should replace it every three years,” says Dr. Breus. “If it’s anything else, every 18 months or so. And if you wake up with a stiff neck more than three mornings a week, it’s time to change the pillow.”

Other telltale signs that it’s time for a new pillow include: upper back stiffness or cheating, the pillow looks like a saddlebag when you sling it over your arm, or if it starts to smell bad. “Because your pillow is something your face comes in contact with every night, feel free to replace it if it feels a little less than clean,” says Bowler.

How to extend the life of your pillow

You can help keep your pillow fresh by using a pillow protector or by choosing a pillow with a removable and washable cover. Bowler recommends an antimicrobial cover such as the Allswell Reversible Pillow ($48), which is also editor’s approval. “Pay attention to the washing instructions and be sure to care for your pillow as recommended. Not all materials are machine washable and it’s important to do it correctly,” says Bowler. She adds that you can even vacuum your pillow from time to time to remove dust. “It’s an easy way to keep your pillow looking and feeling in great condition,” she adds.

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