Can You Re-Fluff Pillows That Become Flat Over Time?

Not every pouf can be revived with a good shake down, but some can. Here's how to do it.

We've all been there: You're ready to go to sleep for the night, but are unable to drift off because—seemingly out of nowhere—your once comfortable pillow feels all wrong. You scrunch it, bunch it, and even fold it in half to work it back into its supportive shape. Trying to re-fluff a pillow that has lost its form over time is a common way to try and fix these troubles, but according to these two experts, it might not work. Ahead, their best tips for reviving pillows that go flat and the most common signs that it's time to invest in a new set.

Wooden headboard with dry gold palm leaves in a glass vase
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Flat and Shapeless

When you go through the common motions of trying to re-fluff your pillow, what you're actually doing is allowing air flow to re-circulate throughout the piece. "During use, a pillow will be compressed, and air will be released from the pillow, causing it to remain flat," explains Jack DellAccio, the founder and CEO of Essentia. "Different fill materials and encasements materials will behave differently depending on how much air is released and how quickly air can be recovered." Depending on your essential's materials, DellAccio notes that the act of fluffing might not bring your pillow back to its original state. "Loose fibers and foams bond together, making it more difficult for air flow—which means these materials remain flat," he says. "There may also be the addition of dust mites, which add to the density of typically a fiber pillow that would further restrict air flow and also cause more tact between fibers to flatten."

Reviving Tips

The best way to re-fluff your pillow will vary depending on the type you have, according to Rachael Durkin, the general manager of Allswell. "Therefore, it's important to keep the filling material in mind as you set out to get the best fluff," she says. "For a traditional fiber fill pillow, you can fluff by hand by gently shaking it and giving it a few good strikes to help disperse the filling evenly." You can take the same approach with a down pillow, Durkin says. "On the other hand, what's great about gel and memory foam pillows is that they require no fluffing—they keep their shape and hold up well over time," she adds.

As for the best re-fluff method? You can attempt to revive a flat pillow by shaking it and pushing the sides towards each other; then press the top and bottom together. "Another great trick is to give your tired pillow some fresh air," explains Durkin. "You can fluff your pillow and then put it outside for a few hours—in dry and sunny weather—to bring some airflow into the feathers and stuffing." Just be sure to remove any additional barriers, like pillowcases, during the process; additional encasements can restrict this airflow, says DellAccio.

When to Replace Your Flat Pillows

Despite your efforts, not all pillows can be refreshed by a simple re-fluff, continues DellAccio. "For pillows, specifically fiber pillows, there is a timeline," he says, adding that keeping yours around longer than you should might lead to a build up of dust mites and other allergens. With this in mind, he advises against using your pillows for more than three years. Of course, not all iterations will make it that long; if you have noticed that you can no longer evenly fluff your loose-fill pillows, it may be time to dispose of them, especially if the interior feels bunched together. "Compressed bunching with fluffing cannot break up," he says, "is a sign that "the contents of the pillows have bonded and no longer behave as loose fill, like intended."

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