If pillows could talk: The health hazards lurking in your favourite pillow

Yellow stains usually signify that your pillow could be harbouring an army of germs that is hazardous to your physical health. Source: Getty Images.

There’s just something about a decent pillow that makes us feel secure, supported and cozy. So it’s no surprise that we hang onto the good ones until they are yellow and crusty with age.

While it may be good for your mental health, mottled yellow stains usually signify that your comforting pillow could be harbouring an army of germs that is hazardous to your physical health.

US-based dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky recently posted a video to Tik Tok explaining that ageing, yellow pillows are indeed a health hazard.

“If you’re sleeping on a dirty, old, yellow-stained pillow like this, this could be hazardous to your health,” she said.

She explained that the yellow discolouration generally comes from moisture, which could in turn come from night drools, sleeping with wet hair, oily skin buildup, heavy makeup or dead skin cells – things we all have.

@dermguru this is a sign- throw away your dirty old yellow pillows!!!! #yellowpillow #pillowstain #dermguru #hygiene #hygienetips #dermtok #acneproneskin #acnebreakouts what causes acne breakouts#greenscreen ♬ Sneaky Snitch – Sam Sora

Zubritsky was quick to point out the various risks that may be lurking in that yellow pillow.

‘If your pillow is yellow, that can put you at risk for clogged pores, and cause breakouts and acne,” she explained.

“And, if you have sensitive skin, it could cause flares of things like atopic dermatitis, eczema and rosacea.”

She added that, shockingly, our pillows are also crawling with dust mites which love to eat dead skin.

Thus, the more discoloured your pillow, the more dust mites will head for your bed which is bad news for those with allergies and could also mean you’re inhaling them or their excrement.

Additionally, dust mites may cause respiratory issues especially if you are asthmatic. 

You would expect that most people, if they did not turf that treacherous cushion, at the very least would be up at night agonising over the ghastly activity that could be happening as they sleep.

However most Tik Tokers seemed unperturbed by the state of their pillows admitting they would rather hang onto them than give them up.

“But it’s my favorite pillow,” one person wrote.

“I ain never givin up my yellow pillow.”

“It’s my tea bag pillow tho,” commented another.

“It’s like my fave pillow since I was a kid. I bring it everywhere!!!”

“Been sleeping with this pillow for 20+ years haha.”


Happily for the non-germophobes there are ways of getting around having to throw out your pillow. 

Domestic service entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Hygea, Lily Li recently told Starts at 60 that prevention was better than cure and suggested washing out hair products, drying your hair, and removing makeup or any face cream before going to bed.

For a little added protection she recommended adding a pillow protector over your pillow before you put it into a pillowcase.

“This gives a layer of protection between the pillowcases and pillows. Buy pillows that are made from fluid-preventing fabric. They are designed against sweat and spills,” she said.

Finally, if you’ve left it too late and you absolutely MUST hold onto your pillow she suggested using stain remover spray or a paste of baking soda before you put it into the washing machine.


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