Look I get it: People have strong opinions on bed-making. Between the decorative pillows vs. none, light blanket vs. duvet, hospital corners vs. fanfolds vs. untucked, it seems that when it comes to how they sleep, people have all kinds of preferences.
And so do I. So here I am, adding to the bedding confusion: I think you should use two pillowcases per pillow. Yes, you heard me. Two cases. One pillow.
Full disclosure: I didn’t always subscribe to this. Like every “regular” person I know, I used a single pillowcase. But I was deeply confounded by a problem I had. Each time I bought myself a new set of pillows, I'd be shocked at how quickly they’d get flat and dirty—and forced to replace them at an alarming rate. The more I bought, the flatter and more annoying they got. To the point where I started having dreams of running after white, pert, fluffy pillows, except they were always faster (and meaner).
Then my mother visited. And as she changed my bedding for me one morning, she sent me a text at work: “You don’t use two pillowcases like I taught you to?”
Once I stopped rolling my eyes at the pillow policing, I started to think back, and realized that through my childhood, when I’d watch her make our beds, I’d always see her slip on a pillow cover—or undercover as she called it—first. This was typically an old pillowcase, softened with time, patterns rubbed off from repeated washing, upcycled with a zipper or some other closure sewn on. On top of that, she’d slip on a more aesthetically pleasing, newer one. Think of them as a pillow cover and a pillowcase, she’d say.
Sound like a pain? I thought so, too. But then, her pillows, even when naked, always looked clean and felt fluffy. Mine—not so much.
Naturally I had to do some digging on the subject before I switched loyalties, and found she’s not the only one. According to the comments on this thread an 'under pillowcase' is typically a quite thick, coarser cotton while an upper matches the bed linen or is a finer thread count. Turns out doubling up makes complete sense. And makes people happy.
The reality of life—no point denying it—is that we shed a little every day. Gross, but true. Over time, our bedding and pillows get filled with sweats, stains, and dribbles. "It’s not just daily use that breaks down your pillow, but a buildup of dirt and oil that can actually flatten the fibers in it over time," confirms Sarah Natow, supply chain director at bedding company Buffy.
As someone who perpetually swings from very cold to very sweaty at night, I especially know this. So, using a second pillowcase isn’t just to maintain aesthetics, it helps prevent damage to the pillow and the down inside. Think of it as the final layer of defense, as a hygienic buffer between your human grossness and the trusting pillow. It extends the time between pillow washings—and in my case, fresh purchases, which Natow says should be no more often than once every couple of years. (She also recommends leaving them in the sun for a couple hours, or throwing them in the dryer with dryer balls every so often for longevity. And regular hugging.)
And before you tell me to use a pillow protector instead…don’t. A pillow protector, if anything, makes a pillow super crinkly and the very opposite of comfortable (not to mention the rustling wakes me up!). A second cover on the other hand makes it extra soft—especially if you reuse an old one like my mom does—like resting your head on a loaf of fluffy Hokkaido milk bread.
So...clean and cozy sleep. Plus, money saved. Convinced yet?
Where do you stand on this crucial bedding issue? Tell us in the comments below!
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Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.