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Here's how often you should clean and replace your pillows, according to allergists

If you're like most people, you probably find a pillow you like and stick with it until it basically disintegrates. But while having a comfy, lulling pillow is crucial to a good night's sleep, sticking with the same one for ages isn't the best thing for your health. And if you rarely — or never — wash your pillow, that's even worse. "Your pillows are filled with dust mites as well as other allergens that you bring into bed with you," Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, tells Yahoo Life. If you're an allergy sufferer, you're doing yourself a huge disservice by not cleaning and replacing your pillows on a regular basis. So: How often should you wash and replace your pillows? The answer might surprise you.

pillows
It's (probably) time to upgrade your pillows. (Photo: Amazon)

In general, allergists say you should be washing your pillows at least once a month. "Pillows should be washed regularly in hot water," Dr. Shaan Waqar, an allergist and immunologist at ENT and Allergy Associates, tells Yahoo Life. "Once-a-month washing of your pillows can be very helpful to reduce dust mite allergen exposure." (Worth noting: It's important to read your pillow's label to make sure it's washing machine–safe.)

Got bad allergies? Consider washing your pillows even more often. "You should wash your pillows at least once every two weeks in hot water to kill germs, mold and dust mites that have colonized your pillows," Dr. Evan Li, an assistant professor of medicine in Immunology, Allergy & Rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life.

You're probably aware on some level that using your pillow until it falls apart isn't a "best practice," but you're also likely not aware of just how often you swap it out. Well, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends replacing pillows every two years to — you guessed it — protect yourself from dust mites and other allergens. That's true even if you're good about washing your pillow regularly. "They collect allergens, dirt and debris, even with frequent washing," Parikh explains.

Not sure how old your pillow is? There are a few hacks that can help signal when it's time to replace your pillows. One is the folding trick, which involves folding your pillow in half and putting a book on top of it. If the pillow is in good shape, it will open back up to its original shape; If it's not doing so hot, it will stay folded in half. (Memory foam pillows, by the way, should be replaced when they can't keep their original form.)

You can also help extend the life of your pillows — and keep dust mites from penetrating your pillow — with pillow protectors, Parikh says.

These zippered pillowcases are Amazon bestsellers. They come in a range of sizes and colors, just in case you want to go beyond the basic white. The covers are bed bug- and dust mite-proof, and can be tossed in the wash as needed.
$9 at Amazon

As for which type of pillow tends to last the longest, down pillows tend to have the best longevity, but they're hard to wash, more expensive and can cause allergy flares in some people.

Been a minute since you tossed your nightly headrest? Consider these machine-washable options.

Amazon's bestselling pillow set has an army of fans. It's filled with a fluffy down alternative and has a 250 thread count cover for a soft, cooling feel. The pillows are versatile — they work great for side, back and stomach sleepers — and have a bounce-back design that won't shift on you.
$55 at Amazon

"They wash and dry BEAUTIFULLY!!" shared one of the more than 152,000 five-star reviewers. "They are the only pillows in my world."

You can't beat the price of this popular pillow two-pack. They feature a gel down alternative for a cooling feel that holds its shape and won't pancake out on you. The polyester cover is also soft and cooling, so you don't have to stress about waking up looking like a sweaty beast. Choose from standard, queen and king sizes.
$21 at Amazon

Shared one satisfied slumberer: "These pillows are excellent. Been using these pillows for two weeks and I never slept better. They're perfect."

This dual-sided memory foam pillow has an gently arched side designed for back sleepers, along with a flatter side for stomach and side sleepers. It's crafted from the brand's specialized Tempur material, which doesn't lose its shape or support over time.
$79 at Amazon

"I have purchased so many pillows and I have been so unlucky," said a five-star fan. "I wasn't expecting this pillow to be any different, but shockingly I have been sleeping a lot better with this pillow. I used to wake up almost daily with head and neck aches. My neck is significantly less sore and my headaches have decreased drastically. I don't have any other explanation than to give credit to my new pillow."

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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.