How to Wash Pillows

While it’s not on most people’s monthly cleaning checklist, learning how to wash pillows will rid one of your most used items of dirt and germs.

How to Wash Pillows

Pillows are a powerhouse. They give you a soft spot to lay your head each night but accumulate dead skin cells, dust, saliva, and sweat over time. To keep your pillows fresh and long-lasting, wash them twice per year. (More often, if you’re a heavy drooler, sweat a lot, or have pets in your bed.)

Here’s how to wash your pillows, so they remain soft and clean.

How to Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine

Types of pillows to clean in the washing machine:

  • Down
  • Feather
  • Polyester

Before tossing your pillow in the washing machine, check the care label for specific instructions and warnings. 

Step 1: Pretreat Stains

Since most pillow stains come from organic matter, pretreat them with an enzymatic laundry stain remover.

Step 2: Wash on the Gentle Cycle

Wash two pillows at a time. Front-load washing machines are better for keeping pillows in their proper shape since they don’t have a spindle in the middle. You can still wash pillows in a top load machine but place them vertically so the filling doesn’t get misshapen.

Use the gentle cycle, cold or warm water, and a small amount of mild laundry detergent.

Step 3: Dry the Pillows

Check the fabric care label on your pillow. Most (except foam) can be placed in the dryer on low to moderate heat for about an hour. Don’t use high heat. 

Use the lowest heat or the “air-dry” setting for feather pillows.

Check on your pillows every 5-10 minutes and fluff them, so they keep their shape. You can also add two tennis balls to the dryer to keep the pillows’ fillings from clumping together.

If you don’t have a dryer, speed up the drying process by placing your pillows in a room with a fan, dehumidifier, or heater. If it’s warm and sunny, place the pillow in the sunlight.

Avoid keeping the pillow wet for a prolonged period, or the filling can develop mildew. 

How to Wash Pillows by Hand

Types of pillows to wash by hand:

  • Memory foam
  • Latex

Resort to your pillow’s cleaning label before you begin. 

The best way to keep large foam pillows clean is to add a removable cover and a pillowcase. Then you can wash the removable cover as needed.

Step 1: Remove and Wash the Cover

If your latex or memory foam pillow has a removable cover, take it off and wash it according to the care instructions.

Step 2: Vacuum the Foam

To remove dust and dander from the foam, use a vacuum attachment.

Step 3: Spot Treat Stains

If there are spots of built-up dirt, sweat, or saliva, spot-clean them. Check the care tags for specific instructions. You can spot-clean most memory foam pillows using dish soap and water.

After wiping away dirty spots, allow the pillow to dry. Replace the pillow cover once it’s clean.

Tips for Washing Pillows

  • Don’t bleach your pillows. Bleach will weaken the fibers and can ruin the filling.
  • Yellow stains on your pillow are the result of sweat or drool. To eliminate sweat stains, use an enzymatic laundry detergent or stain pre-treater. Enzymes are the most effective way to break down organic matter.
  • Remove fresh blood stains from a pillow using cold water. You can dab dried stains with a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Remove the stain before washing or drying the pillow. Heat causes blood to set into fabrics.
  • Wash your pillowcases every one to two weeks.