If you're like me, then your pillow is the most important person — I mean, object — in your life, more important than your cell phone and your childhood stuffed animal combined. A good pillow can mean the difference between an awful night's sleep, and a sweet trip into dreamland for the proper amount of REM cycles, thus preparing you for the next day of your life. But even if you love your pillow as much as I do, you still can't keep it forever. Knowing when to throw out your pillow is a sad, but necessary part of adulthood, like paying your taxes, or finally facing up to all those parking tickets you've been avoiding for the last decade.
The first thing to know about proper pillow usage is that you have to distinguish the pillow from the pillowcase. According to The Cut, you should take your pillowcase off of your pillow and wash it as often as once weekly, along with the rest of your sheets. This is super important, because a pillowcase can be filled with germs, as well as debris from makeup and dead skin cells, because after all, you spend roughly eight hours or so each night with your face smushed right up against the thing.
Pillowcases can be gross, and you probably already know you have to wash them — but the pillow maintenance doesn't end there.
The lifespan of a pillow can be good news or bad news for you, depending on how seriously you invest in those fluffy head cushions. According to Greatist, you should be replacing your inexpensive polyester pillow as often as once every six months, but if you have a higher-quality pillow, such as one with memory foam, or one with the structural integrity to keep its shape for a long time, then these pillows might last anywhere from 18 to 36 months.
Per Greatist, there are two main reasons why you might need to replace your pillow fairly often. First, since your head is pressing against this pillow for anywhere from six to 10 hours a day, the structure of the pillow will begin to break down over time (which is why higher-quality pillows last longer). Secondly, even if you wash your pillowcase every day, it's inevitable that germs will reach your pillowcase, and mold may even grow. Gross.
Even though it's not exactly something any of us wants to think about, an old pillow is absorbing your body oil, dead skin cells, and hair over time, and it might even turn into an environment for dust mites to grow, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Although Greatist suggests you swap out pillows every six months, the National Sleep Foundation has a compromise for you, if you're fully unwilling to purchase a new pillow that often: Wash your pillow (yes, the full pillow, not just the pillowcase) once every six months, and then throw it out and buy a new one every two years.
Luckily, there's an easy trick that you can use to figure out if you absolutely have to buy a new pillow — no more excuses.
To find out if you definitely need to buy a new pillow ASAP, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that you fold your pillow in half. If it doesn't bounce back into its shape, and instead, just stays limply folded, then it's definitely time to give up your sweet, sweet pillow.
But now that you're going to up your pillow game, it might be time to consider an environmentally conscious pillow, so that you're minimizing the amount of waste you contribute to, while still keeping your hygienic lifestyle up to par.
Keeping track of all of the things in your life that need replacing can be downright impossible, and a massive money-suck on your monthly budget. But making sure that you always have a supportive pillow is key for your health, so it's definitely good to try to prioritize it.
Plus, now you can make a scene at Target by resting your head against every single pillow they have in stock, and that's always a good time.