It seems a little odd to put it that way, but it’s true: down pillows will provide quality comfort and support up to a limited point. After that, the down will begin to break apart and lose its cushioning ability, thereby “expiring.”
Most pillows come with a warranty, which can last anywhere from 3–5 years. A general guideline for mattresses is that when the warranty expires, it’s time to replace it. The same principle could be applied to pillows. After a certain length of time, the materials in the product aren’t worth protecting with a warranty, since they’ll have broken down enough that the support they provide is sub-par.
However, bedding products play a large role in your overall health, so waiting 3–5 years is pushing it. Dust mites, skin cells, and other allergens will get into the body of your pillow over time — so even if you clean it regularly, there’s still several years’ worth of unwelcome bedmates lurking in there. You don’t want to put your face on that.
So how do you tell if your pillow is worth keeping?
First, lay it on a flat surface and look it up and down. If there are unnatural bumps, ridges, or sinkholes, it’s probably time to replace the pillow. A pillow that is still in good shape has a smooth, slightly curved silhouette — not an uneven one.
Second, try the fold test. Simple fold your pillow lengthwise, compressing it so that the air gets squeezed out. If your pillow is still good, it should spring back to its natural shape in a couple seconds. If it takes longer than that, or it if doesn’t move at all, it’s time to replace the pillow. The down inside has lost its buoyancy and loft, and therefore will not provide you with the support you need to get healthy sleep.
A couple quick tips:
- Always use a pillow protector underneath your pillowcase. This will keep your pillow safe from warranty-voiding stains, and it will also slow the build-up of allergens inside it.
- Wash said pillow protector according to its instructions. Feel free to put it in the laundry with the rest of your bedding.