Are Old Pillows Bad For Health? (Of Course They Are Bad)

So you may have been using a pillow for a long time, or have kept one in the storage ever since the dawn of time. Is it still safe to use that old pillow? Will it cause funky health issues?

Old pillows are generally bad for health, having absorbed dust, dirt, oil, and sweat for years. It is most definitely not recommended to use old pillows, as it can cause various health issues such as allergic reactions, irritation, rashes, headaches, back, and neck pains.

Yes, if you are thinking “but I have washed the pillow before storing it” – It is still not recommended to use that old pillow if it smells putrid or musty. While it may look good on the surface, mold and bacteria may have destroyed the “insides”.

So just why are old pillows bad? What health issues can they possibly cause? When is a good time to change to a new pillow? Read on for more!




Old Pillows Are Bad When To Change The End



Just why are old pillows so bad? In what ways can an old musty pillow affect health? Let us walk through some of the concerns in this section.



Just put on a brand new pillowcase and the ancient pillow should be safe to use again, right? Well, no. Think about it, the pillow has accumulated dust, dirt, oil, dead skin, drool, and sweat over the years. Even if that pillow is “originally hypoallergenic”, it is probably “not hypoallergenic” anymore.

A new pillowcase will only help a little, and washing the pillow cannot fully get rid of the accumulated gunk either. So if that does not sound disgusting enough, think about what has happened to the fillings inside the pillow after so many years. It has probably become a nest of bacteria, dirt, mold, dust, and dust mites.

For the people who are somehow still able to brush these off, those nasties can cause some serious allergic reactions – Sneezing, coughing, headaches, and even asthma.



To follow up with the above, allergic reactions are not the last health hazard of sleeping on a dirty pillow. People with sensitive skin are going to suffer from skin irritation and develop rashes. Yes, that’s a double whammy for having rashes on the head and face.




As a pillow ages, the fillings typically become “lumpy”, “crumpled” and/or “flattened”. In other words, the level of support that the pillow can provide diminishes over time. Once past a certain point, it is more likely that the old pillow will cause more pain than provide comfort.



Finally, these should be pretty “Captain Obvious self-explanatory”.

  • A flat pillow is not going to be comfortable.
  • It causes body aches and sores.
  • A dirty pillow is not hygienic.
  • It causes rashes, sneezing, coughing, etc…
  • A bad night’s sleep will result in an unhappy grumpy human.

So even if that trusty old pillow has accompanied you through many nights, the relationship will probably turn even more sour and toxic over time (literally). Some things don’t last forever… There are just times to let it go for the better.




Now that we have addressed the possible health issues that an old pillow can cause, let us now get into the other elephant in the room. Just when is a pillow considered “old”, and when should we change it?



If you are experiencing some of the “funky health issues” as described in the previous section, it is probably the work of an old moldy pillow (and maybe even the mattress as well).

  • Body Aches – You wake up with body aches every morning, especially around the neck and back area. That is because the pillow is too low or has become too soft to properly support the neck/back area.
  • Headaches – Following up with an aching neck, the bad sleeping posture also “travels upward” to give terrible headaches. Bad nights and a lack of sleep can also contribute to headaches as well.
  • Sneezing & Coughing – Watery eyes and running nose too, all thanks to “eating pillow dust and mold” for an entire night. But after walking out of the room some time for fresh air, you “miraculously recover”. Don’t brush it off, it’s not healthy to trigger allergy reactions every night.
  • Irritation – Skin rashes and itching… If there are insect bite marks, something really bad is making that old pillow home.

Of course, everyone will experience some of these symptoms once in a while. But if it happens very frequently, something is definitely wrong somewhere, especially if it is upon waking up every morning.




Apart from the “health signals”, the other “Captain Obvious” way is to inspect the pillow.

  • Funky Smell – All pillows will have a “certain human smell” after absorbing all kinds of “essentials” after some time. But the red flags here are “sour vinegar smell” and/or “putrid rotten eggs smell”. If that does not go away even after washing, it is an indication of bacteria and mold infestation.
  • Permanent Stains – People do droll, sweat, and even bleed on the pillow. Some stains can be removed by rubbing a mix of baking soda, water, and lemon directly on the spot itself. But if there are too many permanent stains, it is a good time to change to a new pillow instead.
  • Flat Pillow – The pillow is way too low, and you don’t feel any support at all. If it is a cotton or down pillow, you can try to fluff it. But if it remains flat, it’s time to get a new one.
  • Lumps and Bumps – Lumps are a common sign of “overused past expiration” cotton pillows, just poke the pillow and feel if there are lumps. Those lumps are actually “cotton balls that are stuck together with dirt”. Eww.




Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this short guide. I hope it has helped to answer your doubts. Good luck and have better nights of sleep!