Purple Stains on Pillow after Sleeping. Is it Dangerous?

DEC 26, 2022 AT 09:02 AM


We always wonder what goes on in our bedrooms while we are asleep and unable to react to any threat. Purple stains on your pillow after a night’s sleep is one such phenomenon. Should you be concerned? Is it a sign of ill health?

Did your cat walk over your head after stepping in purple paint, or did a pixie decide to redecorate your bedding while you were asleep? The explanation for these seemingly improbable events is a whole lot less imaginative.


Chris C, a verified nurse, answered this question on Justanswer.com. Iodine, when coming in contact with starch, becomes purple in color. This may have been introduced onto a cotton pillowcase, by iodine in one’s saliva.

It is perfectly natural to drool a little while sleeping when the mouth is relaxed and slightly open. The following may be a reason why your saliva is leaving purple stains on your pillow.


Elevated levels of iodine may be found in supplements. Iodine is a vital element for healthy thyroids. Human beings cannot produce iodine so it needs to be consumed through food or supplements.

It is an additive in some foods and in salt. Iodine can also kill some fungi, bacteria, and other pathogenic single-cell organisms. One of the world’s most common, preventable health problems is caused by iodine deficiency. Consequences of low levels of iodine in the body include an enlarged thyroid, known as goiter, and other thyroid disorders.

Hygiene Products

Some toothpaste, acne scrubs, or facial cleansers contain iodine. In dentistry, it is a well-known fact that iodine deficiency can lead to dry mouth, which in turn causes tooth cavities, delayed tooth eruption, gum disease, and a host of other oral problems (smilesdentistry.com) No wonder then it has become an important additive in toothpaste.

Owing to its uses in bacterial and fungal infections, many hygiene products such as face and acne washes, liquid soaps, and other products prevent the multiplication of harmful microorganisms on the skin.


Iodine has been used in the prevention and management of bacterial wound infections since the 1800s. A special medication rich in potassium iodide, which prevents thyroid damage, is given to people who have been exposed to high levels of radiation.

Other uses of medication include remedies for conjunctivitis (pink eye), gum infections, wound applications, and many others. Graves’ disease is one of the most common thyroid disorders. It is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland causing hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid.

Recreational Drugs

A recent source of elevated levels of iodine has been seen in drug manufacture exposure says Chris C. Meth manufacture uses iodine which may stick to surfaces such as walls, floors, and other places where it is being manufactured.

This residue can overload the biological system by being in a location such as this, even for a brief period of time, or exposure to someone else who was in such a place. This exposure can cause illnesses such as abdominal cramping and delirium if not removed to normal levels by using IV Lugol’s solution or other iodide preparations.


Seafood contains well-known, important levels of iodine, especially shellfish, salmon, and seaweed. It is recommended to eat seafood at least a couple of times a week for your weekly intake of iodine and other important nutritional elements.

If one has had seafood for dinner, some of the iodine may remain in your mouth causing some to leak out in your saliva onto your pillow. Other foodstuffs such as eggs and iodine-fortified milk, cheese, and chicken can also cause the same reaction. 

Hospital Imaging Procedures

The other option could be an elevated level of iodine after hospital imaging, such as CT, angiograms, myelograms, and arthrograms. An article found at insideradiology.com states that “Iodine-containing contrast media (ICCM) are widely used in medical imaging to make hollow structures such as blood vessels, the GI tract, the subarachnoid space around the brain and spinal cord, and the interior of joints visible on imaging studies.”

The iodine may remain in your tissues and bodily fluids, for a day or two until the body naturally rids you of it through urination or defecation.

Other Causes

Less common causes of hyperthyroidism may be caused by a non-cancerous tumor or growth on the thyroid, or excessive levels of iodine during pregnancy, lactation, and infancy. These prominent levels can affect the salivary glands. Simple remedies include using non-iodized salt, limiting consumption of iodine-fortified foodstuff and seafood, and avoiding taking iodine supplements.

Only in rare cases will excess iodine become dangerous. Common symptoms include temporary GI upsets such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If, however, they progress to delirium, stupor, and shock it is essential to obtain medical assistance immediately, as these can be signs of iodine toxicity.

Low Iodine Diet

If one’s iodine levels are too high, there are ways to decrease them naturally other than avoiding iodine-fortified products. Consuming grains such as cooked barley, oats, millet, buckwheat and quinoa, pasta and rice helps your body rid itself of excess iodine. Beware of commercially made bakery products, however, as many are made with iodate bread conditioners.

Avoiding any other foods containing iodates, iodides, algin, alginates, carrageenan, and agar-agar is also suggested. Other iodine-rich foodstuffs include milk and dairy products, egg yolks, and processed foods such as fast food, frozen meals, and tv dinners. Sweetened drinks and soy products may also contain elevated levels of iodine.

It is important to only follow a low iodine diet under the supervision of your doctor and for a short time, as it does not meet the suggested daily allowance for all nutrients.

Starched Bedding

Now that we have had a long hard look at iodine and its many facets, let's examine starch and its use in bedding. Starch has been used for centuries to keep linen looking and feeling new. According to faultless.com, starch is used to set fabric to give it a crisp, cool feeling for longer. Starch comes in a spray bottle for an easy-to-use approach when ironing.

Because it reacts with iodine in producing a purple color, one can assume that it has been used either in the manufacture or maintenance of your bedding if you have those annoying stains on your pillow.

Silk Pillow Cases

This is a simple, effective, if not cheap way to check if the problem of purple stains is due to an iodine-starch chemical reaction. Change to silk pillow slips for a few nights. Silk fibers are extracted straight from the cocoons of silkworms and weaved into extremely strong fabric.

Although expensive to buy in most countries, it is known to be hypoallergenic as mounds and dust mites cannot live in silk. No chemicals or additives are used in the manufacture of silk products which makes them ideal to test the theory of a purple iodine starch stain.


In itself purple stains due to iodine, the starch reaction is not something to instantly worry about. There can be many reasons why your saliva may contain higher than normal iodine levels such as supplements or iodine-rich foods consumed before sleeping, or medication you may be taking.

Hospital imaging procedures may cause your body to have higher than normal iodine content temporarily. If the staining of your pillow slips concerns you, try a low-iodine diet, limiting iodine-fortified foods, and changing the brands of hygiene and cosmetic products you use for a few days and see if that helps.

If, however, other symptoms such as stomach problems and delirium occur, see a healthcare professional to rule out the possibility of iodine poisoning or another health disorder connected to elevated levels of iodine in your body. Silk bedding instead of starched cotton may also prevent purple staining.

If all else fails, your health is fine and you do not want to change your favorite brand of toothpaste or face cream, consider a bedroom makeover that includes purple pillowcases!