Sweet Dreams: Perfect Pillow Care

Getting a great night's sleep can often rest on where you lay your head. Even if your mattress is just right and the sheets are super soft, having the perfect pillow can make your slumber experience sweeter.

Discover what you need to know about choosing and caring for the correct pillow.

How long will my pillow last?

It depends on its contents. Natural pillows, made of feather or down, last five to seven years, which is longer than synthetic pillows. Synthetic pillows last only about two to three years.

How do I identify a "dead" pillow?

Do an initial test where you take off the cover. If there are old sweat stains, your pillow may not be totally dead, but it's a good indication it needs to be replaced. For natural pillows, you should fold your pillow in half. If it just lies there, then it's dead. A healthy pillow should spring back with ease.

You can administer a similar test for a synthetic pillow. Fold it in half or thirds and then add a 10-ounce weight on top. Release the weight. If the pillow springs back into shape, it's still healthy. If it lies there, it's dead.

Depending on the age of your bed pillow, more than 50 percent of its weight can be comprised of dead skin cells, mold, mildew, fungus and dust mites and mite feces. If it is dead, it is likely filled with a lot of those things.

How can a dead pillow affect my allergies?

It might not be an aversion to feathers that has you sneezing. It could be dust mites. If you have allergies, doing the dead check can be really important. Most people who are allergic to down or feather pillows use synthetic pillows.

An estimated 20 million people are allergic to dust mites, which thrive in synthetic fibers. You could be at risk of aggravating your allergy if you don't replace your pillow frequently.

How do I take care of my pillow?

Washing a pillow is a good way to protect against dust mite buildup in synthetic pillows and a good idea in general for pillow maintenance.

You also can buy a pillow cover with reinforced, double stitched seams to help keep the little critters out. It's important to note pillow covers are not the same as pillow cases.

Pillow covers can be washed once a month and are a great way to help your pillow last longer.

Polyester, foam, feather and down pillows can be washed with fabric soap in cool water right in your machine. Wash two at a time on a short delicate cycle. Rinse thoroughly.

You can machine-dry all pillows, except foam, on low or no heat. Ring out the pillow a little before drying.

For feather and down pillows, add a few tennis balls to the dryer to increase the fluff.

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