How to keep your pillows fresh in summer

A person taking pillows off a bed to clean them
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As summer sets in and temperatures start to rise, one unwelcome side effect can be getting hot and sweaty in bed for all the wrong reasons. Even if you have the best mattress, when nights get too warm, things can get unpleasant.

Leaving aside the whole business of sleepless nights spent throwing off the duvet and repeatedly turning your pillow over to get the cool side (assuming you haven't invested in a cooling option from our best pillow round-up), have you thought about what all those night sweats are doing to your pillows and the rest of your bedding? 

Maybe you don't wash your pillows quite as often as you probably should (our guide to how to wash a pillow can answer any questions you might have on that front), which in turn could lead to wondering why pillows turn yellow. However you don't need to be constantly on the pillow-washing case to keep your bedding fresh and your pillows ultra-fluffy in the summer months.

Jessica Hanley, the founder of Piglet in Bed and someone who knows a thing or two about bedding, has some top tips on how to keep your pillows fresh and free from horrible yellow stains, all summer long and beyond. And while you're on a spring cleaning kick, check our guide to how to wash your duvet, too.

1. Get some pillow protectors

Most of us have a mattress protector to keeping our bed safe from spills, sweat and other nasties, and help us avoid having to clean our mattress too regularly. So why not invest in proper pillow protectors rather than double-bagging your pillows with a second pillowcase? Jessica explains that waterproof pillow protectors are an excellent option if you tend to sweat (or drool) in your sleep.

"These will ensure that any moisture is kept from seeping down into your pillow which, over time, could lead to a build-up of bacteria and even the growth of mould and mildew," she explains. And like mattress protectors, pillow protectors are very easily removed and can be washed regularly with the rest of your bedding.

2. Hang them up outside

A pair of pillows airing in the sun

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You really don't need to wash your pillows that often (twice a year will do), but if they're getting a bit stale you can breathe some life into them by letting them get some fresh air, says Jessica.

"Airing your pillows outside is a good way to dry up any moisture and also reduce odours," she says. "With summer underway, now is a great time to get your pillows out and hanging on the line. The sun's UV rays are actually proven to reduce bacteria which is great, as a sweat-covered pillow can be a breeding ground for bacteria."

3. Wash your pillowcases weekly

Image shows a washing machine and dryer set in a stylish laundry room filled with plants

(Image credit: Getty)

Okay, so you're off the hook when it comes to washing your pillows, but your pillowcases are another matter; Jessica suggests you wash them twice a week.

"Pillow covers typically take the brunt of most sweat or dirt and therefore can start to look dirty and get a little bit smelly," she explains. "Keeping on top of cleaning them will not only keep your pillows looking and smelling fresh but can also prolong the life of your pillows."

4. Choose moisture-wicking pillowcases

Your choice of pillowcase can make a real difference to how well your pillows cope with the sweatier summer months; Jessica recommends cotton or linen, which have more effective moisture-wicking properties than artificial fibres. 

"The moisture-wicking properties of these materials will keep moisture from seeping down into your pillows," she says. "Not only this, but these fabrics also have great temperature-regulating properties which, in the heat, will help to keep you cool and thus reduce sweat production." 

5. Freshen things up with bicarbonate of soda

One weird old trick that can freshen up stained or smelly pillows between washes involves the application of bicarbonate of soda. Jessica explains: "Bicarbonate of soda is great for absorbing moisture and reducing odours, which makes it perfect for sweaty pillows! All you need to do is sprinkle an even amount across your pillows and leave to sit for a couple of hours. After waiting, use a handheld hoover with a small nozzle to hoover your pillow clean, making sure to remove all bicarb residue!" 

6. Get some Merino wool pillows

Woman sleeping on her side

(Image credit: Getty/Wavebreakmedia Ltd)

Finally, if your pillows are struggling in the heat, maybe it's time for some better ones. Jessica recommends Merino wool pillows, as Merino wool helps your body regulate temperature in both hot and cold climates. " Wool also helps to draw moisture away from the body," she adds, "allowing for a dry night’s sleep and allowing for your body temperature to remain stable no matter what the climate and keeping those pesky yellow pillow stains at bay!" 

Jessica Hanley, founder of Piglet in Bed
Jessica Hanley

Jessica is the founder of Piglet in Bed, which makes bedding, sleepwear and homewares using sustainably-sourced natural materials.

Jim McCauley

A professional writer with over a quarter of a century's experience, Jim has been covering mattress and sleep-related subjects for TechRadar, Tom's Guide and T3 over the past few years, gathering an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the mattress industry along the way. Previously Jim has covered a wide variety of subjects, working widely in the tech and gaming sectors, and more recently covering the design and wellness industries.