Doctors Explain Why We Should Replace Our Pillows Every Couple Of Years

Mason Joseph Zimmer
unmade bed with white sheets and pillows
Wikimedia Commons | Liz Lawley

A virologist and a surgeon have given us a good reason to change pillows every two years thanks to one disgusting fact about what happens to them over time.

When we use something for long enough, it can be easy to get into such a routine with it that we take it for granted. And since the only time we tend to think about our pillows are when they get uncomfortably warm in the summer or we're worried they have bed bugs, this is especially true for them.

That's why it's not so impossible to believe that one man's pillows laid unwashed for five years and why some folks have devised a test to determine whether a pillow has hit its invisible expiration date.

But according to multiple experts, it seems that the best way to determine when you should replace your pillow is to keep track of how long you've had it. And motivating ourselves to do that is as easy as listening to them explain why we should bother.

On July 18, a lecturer on viral evolution named Dr. CJ Houldcroft tweeted out what she considered her "weirdest journo request yet."

unmade bed with white sheets and pillows
Wikimedia Commons | Liz Lawley

As she went on to say, she put out an open proposal to appear on somebody's radio show and discuss how often you should replace your pillow and the virology behind why.

But while Houldcroft played it coy as to what happens to our pillows after a while, another virologist named Dr. Lindsay Broadbent soon enthusiastically replied and spelled it out for us.

Virologist Dr. Lindsay Broadbent standing in front of foliage
twitter | @LindsayBbent

As she put it, "Ohh. I love grossing people out telling them that if their pillow is >2 years old 10% of the weight is house dust mites and their poo!"

Yes, not only are we snuggling with dust mites after two years with a pillow, but also cuddling up with their toilet.

A year prior, London-based surgeon Dr. Karan Raj went into more detail about this phenomenon in a TikTok video.

Surgeon Dr. Karan Raj speaking in TikTok video in front of picture of dust mite
TikTok | @dr.karanr

He explained that these mites can end up numbering in the hundreds and with each one pooping about 20 times per day, that 10% figure becomes a lot less surprising.

And once that feces builds up, it can start causing us breathing problems and allergy-like symptoms.

But while that already sounds like a good enough reason to change out your pillow, Raj wasn't done.

As we can see in the full video here, he added that the yellow spots that can show on a pillow after a couple of years are the result of our bodies' sweat and oils building up over time.

These make ideal conditions for breeding mold and bacteria. Worse yet, pillows lose their elasticity when they expire, which means they're no longer helping to align our necks and spines. As a result, this can cause us neck and shoulder pain.

With all that in mind, it should be obvious that a pillow stops doing us any favors once it hits age two.