How to Remove Yellow Stains on Pillowcases

There’s nothing like white, crisp pillowcases.  The problem is, however, they can get yellow stains on them, and fast.  But don’t worry, you can restore those pillow cases back to their former glory with a few simple cleaning tips.

white pillow cases

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I have a bit of an embarrassing confession to make. 

I lived with yellow pillows for years.  I’d throw them in the washing machine hoping they’d come out as white pillowcases again, but it didn’t work.  I thought there was nothing I could do and that’s just the price I paid for having white bedding.  So I’d put them back on my bed in their yellowy state and try to ignore them.

But I couldn’t get past the yellow pillow stains that I would see sitting on my bed.  So one day I decided I had to get to the bottom of this.  I had to figure out if there was a way I could turn these yellow stains back to white.  

I mean, I have other friends with an affinity for white decor, and I know their pillowcases never looked yellow. There had to be a solution.

And I discovered there was, and I was successful in getting those ugly yellow stains out of my beautiful, crisp, white pillowcases.  So let me be clear, if I can do it, I have full faith that you can do it.  Homemaking and housekeeping doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ve been a VERY slow learner over the years.  

​So, first of all, why do pillowcases turn yellow anyways?

Yellow stains on white pillowcases are a common issue that many people encounter, and the reasons behind them can vary.

One primary culprit is sweat, which contains natural body oils, salts, and other substances that can discolor fabric over time. Additionally, body lotions, hair products, and even saliva can contribute to the yellowing process.

The accumulation of these substances, combined with the body heat generated during sleep, creates an environment conducive to staining. 

​But the real reason you are here – how in the world do we get rid of these stains?

So, I’m going to let you know what I did and what I found effective.  For me, my stains have been on my pillow cases for years.  Yes, literally years. (I’m not proud of this.)  So they were definitely set in there.  

I didn’t think they’d come out. And, they didn’t come out with one simple procedure.  I really had to do a two step process.  If your stains are fairly fresh you could try one of the steps.  But for hard to clean stains I’d definitely do both.

fluffing up a pillow

How to get Yellow Stains out of Pillowcases




1. Gather up your pillowcases and get them wet.  Take a scrubbie brush of some kind.  Scrub some shampoo into the stains.  Yes, I mean the shampoo you use on your hair.  Trust me on this.

2. After you’ve scrubbed in the shampoo, let the shampoo sit soaking into the pillowcases for 30 minutes.

3. After the 30 minutes scrub them for a few minutes again.  Rinse them out and toss them in the washing machine with very hot water.

​If you are lucky enough to have minor yellow stains this may be all your pillow covers need.  If you hold up your pillowcases and see they are white, you can toss them in the dryer at this point.

However, if you are like me and the stains have been there for a long time and you need a little more effort to restore your pillows back to their original color, keep reading.




​1.  Fill a bucket with water and some bleach.  I used about a cup of bleach to a 4 liter bucket of water.

2.  Take your pillowcases and put them in the bleach to soak.  Leave them for an hour.

3.  Once again, toss them in the washing machine in a hot water wash.

4.  Toss them in the dryer when done.  They should come out white!

Now, I tossed mine in the dryer because it’s winter here, but if it was summer I’d definitely hang these pillowcases out on the line.  Direct sunlight will help bleach the white fabric.  So, if it’s warmer where you are, I definitely suggest hanging the pillowcases out to dry in the sunshine.

Like I said, with this 2-step process my grimy pillowcases came out white and I was thoroughly impressed with what an effective method it was.  However, if yours did not, there are a few more things you could try to turn your yellowed pillowcases back to white pillows.

You could try scrubbing the stains with baking soda.   You could also try a cup of hydrogen peroxide in your wash to help brighten your whites, or apply the hydrogen peroxide directly to the stains for spot cleaning and then soak it.   You could also try a stain remover from the store.  Sometimes the stained area needs a few methods before it’ll disappear.

White bedding

Some people don’t want to use harsh chemicals like bleach, but sometimes it seems to be the only thing that works for certain jobs. It definitely gave me the best results.

It’s definitely frustrating when sweat stains, beauty products, skincare products, and natural oils like our hair oils leave behind yellow stains, but now that you have a solution you can make your pillows pretty again!

 Ideally you won’t wait as long as I did to start the stain removal process.  I know I’ll be doing it much more frequently now.  As soon as I see my pillows are turning yellow I’ll start this 2 step process and maybe I’ll get lucky and only need to do one step next time.

If you want to try and avoid some of the staining in the first place there are a few things to do.  Don’t go to bed with wet hair, and wash your makeup off before you go to sleep.  Doing this will reduce the amount of yellowing on your pillowcase and may just make it slightly more easier to clean when the time comes.



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