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Why do pillows turn yellow?

In a word: sweat. While hot sleepers will relate to this most, it’s a problem that affects everyone, even if you don’t realize it in the moment. “As we sleep, we tend to sweat,” says laundry expert Lori Williamson, founder of Now It’s Clean. “[This is why you] see yellowish stains on your pillow.”

Our sweat causes those yellow pillow stains because of a chemical it contains—urea. A harmless byproduct of our sweat (and, in much larger quantities, our urine too), urea breaks down and turns back into ammonia over time. If you want to get technical about it, it’s actually the ammonia that causes those yellow stains.

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How to remove yellow stains and odours from pillows without a washing machine

When washing a pillow without a washing machine, you will need a bucket of hot water, a cup of white vinegar, a quarter cup of borax or baking soda and 4 teaspoons of washing up liquid.

Soak and then vigorously stir and then leave completely submerged in the liquid for 12- 24 hours ( the length of time depends on the state of the pillow). Remove, rinses in fresh cold water, wring out as much liquid as possible and hang up in a breezy, sunny place to dry thoroughly.

How to remove yellow stains and odours from pillows with a washing machine

Most pillows are machine washable, although some need to be dry cleaned or spot cleaned as the fabrics of these pillows can be destroyed when it gets washed in a washing machine. Check the label on your pillow to see if it can go in the washing machine.

You will need a cup of white vinegar, a 1/4 cup of baking soda (NOT more), two teaspoons of washing up liquid and a 1/4 cup of liquid or powder laundry detergent.

Place laundry detergent powder and baking soda in the washing machine drawer compartment and set your washing machine’s temperature to its highest position and directly add the liquid washing soap to the water. 

Fill the softener dispenser with the vinegar. You just need a half cup of vinegar to clean a set of linens and pillows. If washing many pairs, add extra.

Then add the pillow to the washing machine and select a regular wash cycle. After washing your pillows, dry them by hanging them outside or using a dryer. Once dried, you will have “fresh-looking, clean” pillows.

Think about washing the pillows at least every six months to prevent perspiration accumulation that might draw germs and bacteria.

For those who notice stains on their pillows, soak them right away to prevent permanent stains. The sooner you deal with dry stains, the better because they are more difficult to remove.


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