How to get yellow stains out of pillows

Pillows play a crucial role in our sleep and overall comfort, but they can be prone to unsightly yellow stains over time. These stains can be caused by a variety of factors, including sweat, oil, and skin cells that accumulate on the pillow surface. While these stains may not necessarily indicate a health hazard, they can be aesthetically displeasing and make your bedding appear dirty or unkempt.

Fortunately, there are several effective methods you can use to remove yellow stains from your pillows and restore them to their former pristine condition. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various techniques and discuss the steps you can take to get your pillows looking fresh and clean again.

get yellow stains out of pillows

Identifying the Cause of Yellow Stains

Before you can tackle the stains, it’s important to understand what’s causing them in the first place. Yellow stains on pillows are typically the result of:

  1. Perspiration: As we sleep, our bodies naturally perspire, and the moisture, combined with body oils, can seep into the pillow fabric and leave behind yellow discolouration.
  2. Skin cells and oil: Over time, our skin naturally sheds cells, and these, along with the natural oils our skin produces, can accumulate on the pillow surface and lead to yellowing.
  3. Makeup or skincare products: If you don’t thoroughly remove makeup or skincare products before bed, the residue can transfer to the pillow and cause staining.
  4. Environmental factors: Exposure to sunlight, dust, and other environmental pollutants can also contribute to the yellowing of pillow fabric.

Understanding the root cause of the stains can help you choose the most effective cleaning method and prevent the issue from recurring in the future.

Preventing Yellow Stains on Pillows

While removing existing stains is important, it’s also essential to take steps to prevent future staining. Here are some tips to help keep your pillows looking fresh and clean:

  1. Use a pillow protector or cover: Investing in a pillow protector or pillow cover can create a barrier between your pillow and your skin, helping to prevent the transfer of oils, sweat, and other substances that can lead to staining.
  2. Wash pillows regularly: Aim to wash your pillows every few months, or as needed, to remove any accumulated dirt, oils, or skin cells that could contribute to staining.
  3. Consider the pillow material: Some materials, such as cotton or linen, are more prone to staining than others, like memory foam or microfiber. When selecting new pillows, choose a material that is less likely to show discolouration over time.
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes removing makeup, moisturizing, and changing into clean sleepwear before going to bed. This can help reduce the amount of oils and residues that transfer to your pillow.
  5. Rotate your pillows: Regularly rotating the pillows you use can help distribute wear and tear more evenly, reducing the likelihood of concentrated staining in one area.

By implementing these preventative measures, you can help extend the life of your pillows and keep them looking their best for longer.

Methods for Removing Yellow Stains from Pillows

If your pillows have already developed yellow stains, don’t worry – there are several effective methods you can use to remove them. Here are some of the most reliable techniques:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are a powerful duo when it comes to removing stubborn stains. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Remove the pillowcase and machine wash the pillow according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Once the pillow is dry, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the stained areas.
  3. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, then mist the baking soda-covered areas.
  4. Allow the solution to sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then use a soft-bristled brush or cloth to gently scrub the stains.
  5. Rinse the pillow thoroughly with clean water to remove any residue.
  6. Repeat the process as needed until the stains are fully removed.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Dish Soap

Hydrogen peroxide and dish soap can also be an effective combination for tackling yellow stains on pillows:

  1. Mix together 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part dish soap, and 2 parts warm water in a bowl.
  2. Dip a clean cloth or sponge into the solution and gently blot the stained areas of the pillow.
  3. Allow the solution to sit for 15-30 minutes, then rinse the pillow thoroughly with clean water.
  4. Repeat the process until the stains are gone.

Lemon Juice and Salt

The natural bleaching properties of lemon juice, combined with the abrasive action of salt, can be a great option for removing yellow stains:

  1. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a small bowl and add a tablespoon of salt.
  2. Use a clean cloth or sponge to gently rub the lemon-salt mixture onto the stained areas of the pillow.
  3. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then rinse the pillow thoroughly with clean water.
  4. Repeat the process as needed until the stains are removed.

Enzymatic Laundry Detergent

Enzymatic laundry detergents are specifically formulated to break down organic stains, making them a great choice for removing yellow pillow stains:

  1. Machine wash the pillow according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using an enzymatic laundry detergent.
  2. If the stains persist, you can pretreat the affected areas with the detergent before washing.
  3. Avoid using hot water, as this can set the stains; opt for cool or lukewarm water instead.

Professional Cleaning

For particularly stubborn or set-in yellow stains, you may need to enlist the help of a professional cleaning service. They have access to industrial-strength cleaning solutions and equipment that can effectively remove even the most stubborn pillow stains.

Maintaining Clean and Fresh Pillows

Once you’ve successfully removed any yellow stains from your pillows, it’s important to establish a regular cleaning routine to keep them looking and feeling their best. Here are some tips for maintaining clean and fresh pillows:

  1. Wash pillows every 3-6 months: Depending on how often you use your pillows, aim to machine wash them every 3-6 months to remove any accumulated dirt, oils, or skin cells.
  2. Use the right detergent: Choose a mild, fragrance-free laundry detergent that won’t irritate your skin or leave behind a strong scent.
  3. Avoid fabric softener: Fabric softeners can attract more dirt and oil to the pillow, so it’s best to skip them.
  4. Fluff and rotate pillows: Regularly fluffing your pillows and rotating them can help redistribute wear and tear, preventing uneven discolouration.
  5. Replace pillows as needed: Over time, even the best-maintained pillows will start to show signs of wear and tear. As a general rule, replace your pillows every 1-2 years, or sooner if they become lumpy, misshapen, or excessively stained.

By following these tips, you can keep your pillows looking and feeling fresh for longer, ensuring a comfortable and restful sleep experience night after night.


Yellow stains on pillows can be unsightly and difficult to remove, but with the right techniques and a little elbow grease, you can get your pillows looking as good as new. By understanding the causes of these stains and implementing preventative measures, you can help extend the life of your pillows and maintain a clean, fresh sleeping environment.

Whether you choose to use baking soda and vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and dish soap, lemon juice and salt, or enlist the help of a professional cleaning service, the key is to act quickly and be persistent. With a little effort, you can say goodbye to those pesky yellow stains and enjoy the comfort and cleanliness of your pillows for years to come.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.