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Why Do Pillows Get Brown Stains & What To Do About It

Why Do Pillows Get Brown Stains & What To Do About It

Every night you use your pillow to cushion your head, support for your back, or you just want something to cuddle when you sleep. So, a pillow is considered as one of the most used items inside your household.

Therefore, there is no doubt that they get yellowish or brownish stains over time. However, have you ever wondered why does your pillow get brow stains?

Here are the reasons what cause this discoloration to happen:

Your pillows turn brown because of the following reasons: night sweats, drooling while you are asleep, sleeping with wet hair, residue from nighttime skincare routine from beauty products such as toners, lotions, and moisturizers that sometimes leave on the pillow. Other people jump off to bed without removing their makeup; thereby, it can also cause discoloration to your pillow.

So, you could just buy a new pillow to replace your stained and discolored pad; however, there is actually a way on how to whiten and bring them back to their original state by washing, pretreating the stain, and maintaining them clean.

But before we discuss the step-by-step procedure on how to clean them, we must know first what are the possible stains could turn your pillow into brown.

Stains That Can Discolor A Pillow

While you are so keen on applying your daily nighttime routine, you did not notice these thick moisturizing creams can actually cause discoloration on your pillow when you sleep on it at night.

Aside from these, there are other instances on which can cause the brownish color on your pillow, and they are listed below.

Night sweats

We tend to sweat during at night, but we don't notice it, maybe because maybe it is not that excessive, and it is normal since it is our body's mechanism to regulate body temperature through sweating.

However, there are people who tend to sweat a lot or the so-called hot sleepers. Because of this, the sweat and body oils produced by your body that is soaked into your pillow once it dried up can change the color of your pillow.


Sleep drooling is one of the major contributors to why your pillow turned into a brownish color. If you look at your pillow closely, you will see the dried stains of your saliva on your pillow.

These dried stains, when set on your pillow over time, can discolor your pillow into brown, and if you always drool at night, you will find these drool stains almost everywhere on your pillow.

Damp hair

Most of us have a habit of showering before hitting the bed, and since sleeping with damp hair will get into your pillow, making it wet, causing the moisture to seep on your pillowcase first down to your pillow.

So, in the presence of humidity, it tends to suck all the dirt, dust, and sweat on your pillow, which eventually turns it to brown stains.

Therefore, make sure when you sleep, your hair is completely dry to avoid this incident from happening.

The residue of nighttime skincare products

Most women, but also including men, have this daily skincare nighttime routine that they strictly follow, such as applying creams, moisturizers, toners, and lotions.

These products tend to leave residue on your pillow, which can discolor your pillow.

Sleeping with makeup

Some women, after a long night out, forget to remove their makeup, and they jump off straight to their bed, not knowing that these pillows absorb all the bronzer, BB creams, foundations, and highlighters, which can lead to pillow discoloration.

Hence, it is better you still remove your makeup using this micellar cleansing water to avoid your makeup seeping on your pillow.

micellar cleansing water

Finally, you have already known the factors that contribute to why your pillows turned brown stains.

You must know how to clean and get rid of these stains before they set to your pillow permanently by following this step-by-step guide on how to whiten your pillow.

How To Wash And Whiten Pillows

Over time, dirt, sweat, and natural oils produced by your body will seep down to your pillow until it becomes discolored and unattractive.

That is why you need to find ways on how to wash and whiten your pillows effectively so that you can bring back their original state. Therefore, follow this ultimate guide to help you achieve a clean and whiter pillow.

Things you will need:

  • 1 cup powdered laundry detergent
  • 1 cup powdered dishwashing detergent
  • ½ cup peroxide
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 cup white vinegar


  • Before anything else, make sure to check the care label tag/instruction attached on your pillow to know whether it can be washed or not since most down and synthetic pillows can be washed safely.
  • Remove any pillowcase or pillow protector so that you have access to the core pillow. Wash these pillowcases separately and make sure they are clean and dry thoroughly.

Machine Washing

Step 1: Pretreat stains

Before you toss your stained pillow into the washer, you can start doing pretreating them using a stain remover spray, or by making a baking soda paste by mixing baking soda with water. Leave the pillows for at least 15 minutes before you run them in the washer.

Step 2: Soak the pillows in hot water

Before you run the pretreated pillows in the washer, soak your pillows using hot water. By doing this, it will give a head start with the cleaning materials you will use since it will help in dissolving those rough stains.

Step 3: Toss your pillows in the washer

Instead of washing your pillow with the usual standard detergent, try to run a load with your standard detergent, alongside a cup of vinegar, baking soda, and dishwashing detergent.

Step 4: Run the second cycle using hot water

With the ingredients you use to clean the pillows, it will surely have a thick and grainy mixture that can stick to the surface of your cushions.

Therefore, you need to wash them thoroughly by running another cycle with hot water and a half cup of vinegar. In this way, it will remove any soap residues and will help in sanitizing your pillow.

Step 5: Check for any color improvement

Once the second cycle is done, you can now remove your pillow from the washer to check if the color has improved.

If there are still brown stains you can see on your pillow, you can place back the pillow inside the washer, but this time run another load using half-cup peroxide (safer bleach alternative solution).

After doing this and yet your pillow still has the brown stain, it means that it is no longer salvageable. Therefore, you must decide whether you need to replace it or outweigh it if the color is your only issue.

If the pillow does not smell mold, mildew, and sweat, you can still use, just cover the stain with a pillowcase.

However, if your pillow has a lingering smell, it is now time to replace your pillow.

Step 6: Dry your pillow completely

Once the pillow is cleaned, it should be dried on your household dryer with a setting of "air-dry." Make sure you toss some tennis balls so that it will give an even more dry cycle and a fluffier pillow.

Make sure to cover your tennis balls with socks to avoid some rubbery smell on your pillows.

Maintenance Tips To Keep Your Pillows Clean

  1. To keep your pillows free from dirt and stain, make sure to change your pillowcase once a week. If you are a hot sleeper, I recommend changing pillowcases and bedding at least twice a week.
  2. To keep your pillow from smelling fresh and clean, make sure you use linen spray in between washes. Make sure it is made from natural ingredients such as essential oils and witch hazel to help you relax and promote a good night's sleep at night.
  3. Make sure you wash your pillows at least twice a year to avoid the build-up of dirt and smell on your pillow.
  4. Before you hit the bed, make sure your face is clean, and your hair is dry. Do not forget to remove your makeup before you lay on your mattress since cosmetic contains active ingredients that can discolor your fabric permanently.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay