How Can You Wash Pillows? Tips and Tricks for a Deeper Clean

Rose Morrison

Jan 18, 2024

White beddings and pillows on top of a wooden bed

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Knowing how to wash pillows should be basic knowledge for any homeowner, regardless of age or experience. Keeping pillows clean and fresh should be a top priority to ensure quality sleep every night. Here’s everything you need to know on how to wash pillows correctly at home.

Why Is It Important to Wash Pillows?

Pillows are essential to a good night’s sleep. They support your neck, spine and back to prevent unnecessary pain when you wake up. That’s why they should be prioritized as much — if not more — as other beddings. You wash pillowcases, bed sheets, comforters and blankets regularly. Why not give your pillows the same treatment?

Pillows also accumulate dirt and other particles when you use them every day. Dust mites, hair, sweat, body oils, saliva — and fur and dander for those who sleep with their pets — stick to pillows more than people think. Prolonged exposure to these particles can be unsanitary and exacerbate conditions like asthma and allergies.

Keeping pillows clean and fresh can help reduce asthma attacks and allergy flare-ups. More importantly, they’ll ensure you get a good night’s rest so you’re more energetic as you tackle your chores the next day. Studies show that 1 in 3 adults get interrupted sleep, affecting their sleeping habits and overall health. Clean and fresh pillows can help remedy that.

Decorative pillows lying on a couch

How Do You Know It’s Time to Wash Your Pillows?

Unpleasant smells, discoloration, stains and lumps indicate that it’s time to wash your pillows. However, you can avoid those tell-tale signs by creating a schedule. Wash your most frequently used pillows every three months and less-used ones — like pillows on your sofa or in the guest bedroom — twice a year. Mark a date on your calendar to stay on your cleaning schedule.

When Should You Replace Your Pillows?

Regular washing also helps keep your pillows fresh, fluffy and comfortable. However, there will come a time when you need to replace your pillows. Old pillows may be causing you more harm than you think. 

One way to test if you need to buy new ones is by doing the fold test. Get your pillow and fold it in half. If it springs back to its original shape, it’s still good to go. If not, it’s time to toss it in the bin. Another way to check your pillows’ condition is to give them a sniff. If they still have a funky odor after washing, it’s time to let them go.

How Can You Wash Fiberfill and Down Alternative Pillows at Home?

Pillows with cotton, fiberfill and synthetic down are popular among homeowners due to their affordability and comfort. They’re also machine washable, which makes deep cleaning easier and more convenient. Here’s how you can wash them safely at home.

What You’ll Need

  • Gentle laundry detergent
  • Clean tennis balls or wool laundry balls

1. Use a Front-Loading Washing Machine

Check your pillows’ care label to see the washing instructions. While most pillows are washer-friendly, it’s always a good idea to check the label first so you know how to wash your pillows correctly.

A front-loading washing machine is ideal for washing pillows due to its spindle-less design. Agitators or the spindles in the middle of many top-loading washing machines can damage your pillows during cycles. Place your pillows vertically in the washer if it has an agitator. This method will help prevent damage to your pillows during washing.

2. Add Mild Detergent

Many pillows have a delicate filling, so you must take extra care when washing them. Choose a mild detergent — preferably a clear one —to wash your pillows. Add the detergent to the washer and use hot water on a gentle cycle wherever possible. The hot water will help dissolve the detergent quickly and efficiently, giving your pillows a deeper clean.

White pillows with wrinkles

3. Rinse Thoroughly and Put Pillows on a Gentle Spin Dry

Rinse your pillows thoroughly to remove any leftover suds from the detergent. Remember to choose the gentle rinsing cycle throughout the process. Use your washer’s spin dryer to remove the pillows’ moisture. Run your pillows through the spinner at least twice to get most of the moisture out.

4. Dry Pillows on Low Heat

Throw your pillows in the dryer and put it on low heat. Add two clean tennis balls or wool dryer balls in the dryer to keep your pillows fresh and clump-free. The balls will help redistribute the filling during drying, reviving used pillows that need a quick refresh.

How Can You Wash Gel, Latex and Memory Foam Pillows at Home?

Manufacturers claim structured pillows like memory foam help with spinal alignment, making them a popular choice for sleep-deprived people. Like with gel and latex pillows, handwashing them is still best. Throwing them in the washer and dryer can prematurely ruin them. Here’s how you can clean them at home.

What You’ll Need

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mild detergent
  • Clean rag or piece of cloth

1. Vacuum Both Sides

Remove your structured pillow from pillowcases and covers and start vacuuming one side after the other. Vacuuming will get rid of dust and other particles in your pillows.

2. Spot Clean Any Stains

Mix some mild detergent and warm water to create a cleaning solution. Spot-clean any stained areas with the solution and a clean piece of cloth. Be gentle during the spot-cleaning process to avoid deforming or tearing the foam.

3. Rinse With Water

After spot-cleaning, rinse the pillow with a damp piece of clean cloth. Keep dabbing lightly to remove excess soap.

4. Air-Dry Your Pillow

Let your pillow air-dry before using it again. Removing the moisture will prevent harmful mold buildup and unpleasant smells.

Pillows in cases laying on a bed

More Pillow Care Tips

  • Read the care instructions on your pillows’ labels before washing them.
  • Many pillows are machine washable. For a deeper clean, you can pop cotton, feather, down and fiberfill pillows into the washer.
  • Check for rips in your pillows before popping them in the washer to avoid ruining them.
  • Err on the side of caution and use warm water and a gentle cycle if you use a washing machine to clean your pillows.
  • Always wash two pillows simultaneously to help keep your washer balanced during cycles.
  • You can throw natural down and feather pillows into the washer for a deeper clean.
  • Use dryer sheets to make your newly cleaned pillows smell fresh longer.
  • Use the fastest spin speed to remove the most moisture from your pillows.
  • Add an extra rinse cycle to remove suds thoroughly when deep cleaning your pillows.
  • Adding half a cup of white distilled vinegar will help freshen your pillows during a warm, gentle wash cycle.
  • Dissolve mild detergent in warm water and soak your foam pillows for a deeper clean. Make sure your pillows are fully submerged when you hand wash them.
  • Use a protector to help preserve your structured pillows from sweat and dust.

Why is Keeping Pillows Clean and Fresh Good for You?

Deep cleaning your pillows is a win-win for your health and finances. Regular maintenance improves your sleep quality and overall hygiene and helps keep your pillows in good condition for longer.

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