Skip to Content

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow? (COMPLETE CLEANING GUIDE)

Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow? (COMPLETE CLEANING GUIDE)

Wondering what makes pillows turn yellow? It can be unpleasant to spot yellow stains on a pillow you consider a worthwhile sleep investment. Also, is it possible to clean the yellow maps, and how do I prevent them from forming in the future?

Pillows turn yellow due to sweat, natural body oils, saliva, or moisture from wet hair. Other reasons include the accumulation of oil-based hair and body products like serums, oils, and makeup.

If your pillow turns yellow and gives you sleepless nights, this article offers you a solution. Please keep reading to discover why they turn yellow and how to clean and prevent them.

dirty pillow

Reasons Why Pillows Turn Yellow

Here are the main culprits of your white turned yellow pillow;


Sweat is the most common reason why white pillows turn yellow. The average person loses about one liter of water during nighttime. Warm duvets, blankets, duvet covers, and sheets also contribute to the high perspiration rate at night.

Still wondering where the lost water goes? I bet you guessed that right. Some get absorbed and end up as urine, yet some end in perspiration. But how exactly does sweat make your pillow turn yellow?

Sweat contains a chemical by-product known as urea which disintegrates into ammonia. It is this ammonia that is responsible for the yellowing of white pillows.


People who drool at night usually find wet spots and maps on their pillows in the morning. The continuous accumulation of drool on your pillow forms a breeding ground for bacteria which turns the pillow yellow.

Natural Body Oils

Your body releases natural oils, which seep through your pillow covers and accumulates in your pillow. Continuous accumulation of the same on your pillow eventually makes it turn yellow. However, natural body oils have a slower impact on the yellowing of your pillow than artificial serums and oils.

Wet Hair

People who take a shower or bath in the evening risk going to bed with hair that is still dripping water. This careless habit results in your pillow absorbing all the moisture in your hair.

Constant moisture buildup forms a conducive breeding environment for bacteria, mold, and mildew. These destroy your pillow and lead to yellowing or browning of your pillow.

Hair And Body Lotions, Serums, And Oils

To most, having an extensive evening face, body care, and hair care routines forms a considerable part of self-care. However, most fail to realize how the same routines could harm their pillows and health.

Hair and body lotions, serums, and oils are among the leading causes of staining and the yellowing of pillows. These oils seep through your pillow covers and get to your pillow, destroying cotton in your feather and down pillows. These also result in the yellowing of pillows.

Sleeping With Makeup On

We all have lazy days. However, sleeping with makeup is harmful not only to your skin's health but also to your pillow. Most makeup products are oil-based. Hence, this greasiness ends up in your pillow and stains it, leading to yellowing.

High Humidity In Your Bedroom

Some people switch on their humidifiers during the night for health and aesthetic benefits. However, increasing the humidity level in your bedroom can be detrimental to your pillow.

High room humidity increases the amount of moisture that gets to your pillow, which destroys cotton shells in your pillow. Such also turns your white pillow yellow.


The fabric of your pillow tends to age with time, causing yellowing. Experts recommend changing your pillow every one to two years.

How To Prevent Pillows From Turning Yellow

Here are ways to prevent the yellowing of a pillow;

Use A Protective Pillow Casing

It is impossible to prevent sweating during sleep. Therefore, the surest way to protect your pillow from sweat, oils, and other causal agents is through protection. Most protective pillow covers are oil and waterproof, making them effective in preventing pillows from turning yellow.

Avoid Using Heavy Oil-based Bedtime Products

If you can, limit or avoid the amount of oil-based products in your evening skincare routine. It will reduce the chances of oils seeping through your pillow cover and into your pillow during sleep.

Use A Satin Hair Bonnet Or Scarf

Get a quality satin hair bonnet or scarf if you cannot skip your elaborate evening hair care routine. Such will also help avoid moisture and oils dripping from your hair and your pillow.

Besides, satin bonnets improve your hair's health by preventing cotton in your pillow from absorbing all the moisture and oils. It results in healthy hair and spotless pillows.

Dehumidify Your Bedroom

Now that we know the effects of high humidity levels on your pillow, it is best to dehumidify your room. Start by reducing the amount of humidity or eliminating your room humidifier. It will lower the amount of moisture in pillows that cause pillows to turn yellow.

Remove Makeup Before Bed

However tired, wasted, or unwell you are, please avoid sleeping with makeup. Ensure that you go over your skin to remove every trace of makeup before going to bed.

Complete Guide To Removing Yellow Stains From Pillows

Follow the following steps to remove ugly yellow stains from your pillows;

Check Pillow Tag

Check the care tag guide at the seam of every pillow to find cleaning instructions. For instance, experts advise against machine-washing memory foam pillows. Washing them could spoil the pillow and even fault their warranty. However, you can machine-wash feather, down-alternatives, cotton, and polyfill pillows.

Gather The Cleaning Essentials

You will need the following tools and products to eliminate yellow stains from pillows;

  • Fabric stain-remover in a spray bottle
  • One cup of white vinegar
  • One-quarter cup of Oxygen bleach
  • One cup of powdered dishwasher detergent
  • One cup of powder-form laundry detergent
  • One cup of washing soda
  • A half a Cup of Borax
  • A piece of clean cotton fabric or brush

Spot-Clean Your Pillow

Spray your stain remover onto the yellow spots and let that sit for fifteen minutes. Use a clean toothbrush or a piece of cotton fabric to rub on the stains to loosen them.

This seems to be the only solution to most memory foam pillows that discourage whole washing. If that is the case, dip your cotton fabric in white vinegar, oxygen bleach, and detergent, then rub. Repeat until the yellow stains are gone.

Soak Overnight

Put water into your basin or laundry tab and add one-quarter cup of oxygen bleach and powdered laundry detergent. Place your pillow into this solution and let it soak overnight.

Machine-Wash The Pillow

Drain water from your soaked pillow and put it in your machine washer. Set the water temperature to hot. Add laundry detergent, borax, dishwasher detergent, white vinegar, washing soda, and oxygen bleach. Agitate to ensure that the pillows have enough saturation before running the cycle for about an hour.

You will find that the first cycle will be sticky. Once the first cycle ends, select an extra rinse option and add hot water, oxygen bleach, and vinegar. Pick the longest cycle available and repeat the cleaning cycle.

Once the second cycle ends, check the color of your pillow for an improvement. If the change is negligible, repeat the wash process using only hot water and half a cup of peroxide. If there is still no color change at the end of the second rinse, your pillow has a permanent yellow stain.

bad smell pillow

Machine-Dry Then Air-Dry

Place your pillow in your dryer, add clean towels or tennis balls, and set the dryer to warm or low heat. Ensure that the pillow is completely dry. Still, you can opt to air-dry the pillow after removing it from the dryer.


Most pillows turn yellow due to sweat, oils, moisture, makeup, and dead skin accumulating. Others get yellow stains from aging. Thankfully, you can eliminate these yellow stains using everyday home supplies like oxygen bleach, washing soda, and borax.