This blog post is a detailed overview of the causes and effects of yellowing pillows. It aims to teach you how to avoid this issue and what you can do if your pillow already has yellowed upholstery or stuffing.

By the end, you should have gained a better understanding as to why pillows turn yellow as well as have learned what steps you can take to prevent it from happening again. Have fun learning!

Causes Of a Yellowing Pillow

Why do pillows turn yellow? All kinds of things: time, washing machines, sunlight–even just sitting for too long in one place can cause your fluffy friend’s exterior fabric to start turning an ugly color. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes:

UV Rays

The hardest pillows to keep looking their best are those that are placed in direct sunlight for long periods of time (think an open window). The actual color is caused by the exposure of the fabric to UV rays, and is probably the most common reason for pillows turning yellow. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet rays have a tendency to break down dyes and fabrics. The yellowing might not happen overnight, but it does happen. And normally, once you notice it, it’s already too late.

Type Of Fabric

Another reason why pillows turn yellow is because certain fabrics are more susceptible than others. Some types of fabrics are also dyed with dyes that are more prone to discoloration. Wool and silk get it done the quickest and worst, while cotton, flannel and polyester/cotton blend pillows have a more stealthy action towards yellowing. Memory foam pillows are also prone to easy yellowing due to the spongy absorbent foam which soaks up fluid and causes stains.


Chemicals in your pillow case or even the dye used to create the design can have an effect on the color of your fabric. It is important to note that these chemicals are usually present in small amounts so this does not mean that your pillow will constantly be yellowing. If you notice a decrease in the amount of yellowing, then it might be best to try washing the pillow more often or simply finding a new place for it to reside so that there is less wear and tear.

Beauty and Hair Products

Most pillows used by females using hair and beauty products will eventually end up with a yellow tint over time. That’s because if makeup isn’t removed properly at night time, it will gradually transfer and turn your pillows yellow.


Numerous detergents can discolor pillows. Some sources recommend not using bleach to clean your stained pillows because the bleach itself can also cause yellowing on certain fabrics. Among this group of detergents, enzymes in some laundry detergents can also cause yellowing on pillows.

Pets and Children

There are also many other factors that can influence the color of your pillow. If you have pets or children that often leave wet stamp on your pillow, this could cause it to turn yellow as well as a decrease in its fluffiness.

Cigarette Smoke

The same thing goes for smokers since nicotine residue on your pillow case can turn it yellow as well. When smoke lingers in a bedroom, it can also cause yellowing of the pillows. Cigar and cigarette smoke easily stains most things, especially white pillows.

Sweat and Saliva

Many people don’t realise that they sleep with their mouth open. Whilst you’re getting a good night’s sleep, saliva often drips out of the mouth and onto your lovely white pillow. Additionally, some people sweat from their head and face throughout the night. Pillows soak up all of this fluid thirstily. Any bodily fluids (i.e. wet hair from sweat, and saliva) will cause discoloration if left unattended. When a person’s sweat or saliva begins to sit on the pillow case, it can cause yellow staining over time. Also, if you’re seeing yellow and brown stains, it’s most likely due to body oils.


This is one reason why a lot of people prefer to use their own pillows, rather than the ones they find in hotels. Hotels are known for having plenty of bed bugs, dust mites and other parasites that leave bits of themselves behind in the pillows and other furniture, which stains them yellow permanently until they are washed multiple times or replaced entirely.

How To Clean a Yellow Pillow

Yellow tint on pillow

Regardless of the reason behind it, yellow pillow stains are something that you want to get rid of as soon as possible so be sure to take care of it properly and don’t let the discoloration become too severe.

The first thing to do is to determine if the yellowing is superficial or even if it’s something which you can fix. If there’s only a little bit of yellowing, it’s possible that your pillow can be revived with a few simple cleaning tricks.

If it’s turning yellow on the surface, you may be able to fix it with some neat cleaning tricks. However, if the staining is more of an overall change in color, the only thing you can do is throw away your pillow and buy a new one. It might be a practical option for some people, but it is definitely not advised as re-covering a pillow in an expensive fabric could end up costing you more than throwing away an old one and buying a new one. Take a look at some of the methods below.

Method 1: Use a Gentle Detergent

Wash the pillow in warm water with mild laundry detergent or soap. Be sure to change the water at least twice since the pillow is fluffy and may soak up a lot of water. After that, you will want to let it air dry by either hanging it on an outdoor clothesline or leaving it out in the sunlight. It may take a few hours or even a couple of days for the pillow to dry completely, but this is a great way to get rid of yellowing.

Method 2: Wash With Hot Water

If the yellowing is severe and you have tried washing it with soap, and it didn’t work, use hot boiling hot water to try to get rid of the stain. Once the pillow is dry, you will want to re-fluff the material with a vacuum cleaner so that the filling is back to normal. This isn’t the best method of cleaning pillows because depending on the filling, it could cause the pillow to shrink.

Method 3: Use Baking Soda

Baking soda will help restore your pillow’s color. You can make a paste by combining one cup of washing soda with two cups of warm water. Apply the paste to your pillow, and allow it to sit for at least a few hours until the color has been restored. Using warm water is preferred as this reduces the chance that your pillow will be damaged by using too much washing soda.

Method 4: Use Vinegar

If you cannot get the yellow stains out of your pillow, you can also try getting rid of it with vinegar. Spray the vinegar directly on your stained pillow and leave it for an hour or two before removing as much liquid as possible with a dry cloth. Afterwards, air dry outside or in ultraviolet light for 24 hours.

Method 5: Use Lemon

Another thing you can try is using lemon juice. It’s a well-hidden fact, but for those who know, using lemon juice for stain removal is a wonderful little trick. Apply the lemon juice all over the stain as well as on top of the fabric where possible and leave it for an hour so that it dries completely.

Method 6: Dry Clean

If the yellowing is more of a surface discoloration, you may have success by taking your pillow to the dry cleaner. Although dry cleaning will most likely not clean away the yellowing completely, it will at least make it fade so that your pillow looks as good as new. Just be sure to clean it right away once you notice it’s changing color.

Method 7: Vacuum Clean

You can always use a vacuum cleaner to clean off dirt and grime from your pillow case. This might not get rid of yellowing, but it will prevent any further discoloration from getting worse.

Method 8: Steam Clean

If you can’t live with your pillow turning yellow, you may have success by cleaning the pillow with a steam cleaner. Be aware that steam-cleaning is not always a permanent solution, but it does get rid of yellow stains on many surfaces.

Method 9: Use The Sunlight

This is the oldest trick in the book for whitening things up. Whether or not this technique works depends on how long it’s been since your pillow was new, but it’s definitely worth a shot!

Method 10: Washing Machine

Last but not least, check the care tags of your pillow and see if it can be placed in the washing machine. If so, check the care instructions for best results. It will most likely advise you to use a low heat cleaning cycle, but make sure you select the extra rinse option if you can. Also, don’t overfill and avoid putting anything else in at the same time, incase it ruins the shape of the pillow.

How To Prevent Your Pillow From Yellowing

Pillow with yellow stains

There are a lot of things you can do to prevent pillows from yellowing. Some of these steps have to be done right away, while others you can do over time. Here are a few things to keep in mind if your pillow is starting to turn yellow:

  • Vacuum out your blankets, sheets and pillows on a regular basis. This will help to eliminate any tiny fibers that might have inched their way into the fabric and cause pillows to turn yellow or decrease in fluffiness.
  • Use color-blocking pillowcases to keep the pillow from yellowing. This is easily done by using two different colors for your pillowcase, such as white and black or light blue and dark blue.
  • Do not wash your pillows too frequently so that the fabrics will not be worn out too soon. It might be best to just replace them altogether.
  • The sun can cause your pillows to yellow, so if you are going on a vacation or moving outside of your current home, simply place them in plastic bags before they get exposed to the sun’s rays.
  • The same rule applies to long-term storage. If you will be keeping your old pillows in boxes or containers for quite some time, simply cover them with a sheet before packing them away.
  • Try not to sleep with wet hair. It’s best to always use a blow dryer to completely dry your hair before going to bed.
  • Use pillow protectors to stop any of the above causes from occurring in the first place. They can be purchased relatively cheap and can be washed in your washing machine along with the rest of your laundry.
  • Wipe off all your makeup and any other beauty products before going to sleep. Any residue left on the skin will easily transfer within a few seconds and cause pillows to turn yellow very quickly.


A yellow pillow is not a serious problem, but it can be an eyesore if you’re sensitive to certain colors, especially in regard to how it looks when you go to sleep every night.

As you can see, there are all sorts of ways you can try to get rid of yellow pillow stains and many different options that range from the most expensive to the easiest and cheapest.

Whatever your choice is, be sure to take good care of your pillowcase and make sure that the color doesn’t change over time.

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