A night of good sleep is one of the best feelings in the world, and having clean pillows can actually have a huge impact on that. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize that a majority of the pillows we own are washable. Pillows can start looking and feeling worse for wear when dust, oil, or dirt accumulate heavily on and within them (GROSS!).
So obviously, it is about time you consider washing it if you haven’t. But with so many styles and materials available for pillows, how are you supposed to clean them? We have your solution! Keep reading to find out more about how to properly care for and clean your favorite pillows.
When to Wash Your Pillows
You might be wondering when the right time would be to wash your pillows, and we have the answers to this burning question and more information about proper care.
According to the Sleep Foundation, you should wash your bed pillows at least twice a year. If you sweat a lot when you sleep or if you sleep with pets, you should wash them at least every three months or four times a year. Mattresses generally have better durability, but pillows have a shorter lifespan. So even if your mattress and pillows are made of the same material your pillows will likely need replacing long before your mattress.
You’ll always want to keep an eye on when you need to give your pillows a good wash and when it is time to toss them out and shop for some new ones. For more information about keeping pillows and mattresses clean, check out the American Cleaning Institute for some helpful tips. Now that you know when to wash your pillows, it’s time to find out HOW to wash them, so keep reading to hear more.
What You’ll Need to Wash Your Pillows
Before you get down to business, make sure you have all the products and equipment you’ll need for the process. Here is a general list of what you’ll want to have on hand for proper care and cleaning:
Using fabric softener and bleach is optional. When using vinegar, be extra careful not to mix it with bleach.
How to Wash Pillows in Washing Machine
Washing machines are generally the easiest way to wash your pillows, so we’ll start there. If you have a front or top-load washing machine that doesn’t have an agitator (the tube in the center of the machine), then you’re in good hands. That is because washers without agitators are less abrasive and harsh when cleaning and this assures minimal damage to your pillows while washing.
However, if your machine does have an agitator, you can use the gentlest cycle possible to wash your pillows. No matter the type of machine you have, washing your pillows in your washer can easily cut the time you spend cleaning in half. But we know pillows can sometimes need a little more TLC than just washing, so let’s get down to the details.
How to Wash Pillows
Knowing the type of pillows you have on your bed can help in the cleaning process, especially because not all pillows can be cleaned the same way. We’ve broken down the proper care and cleaning for the more popular pillow styles for you to refer to below. Remember to check for and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines before you start any cleaning. We’ll provide proper drying instructions for your pillows later on, so keep reading to find out how to clean your specific pillow:
How to Wash Down or Feather Pillows
Feather and down pillows generally need some special attention to protect the quality and shape of the fill. Many feather and down pillows can only be dry cleaned so if the pillow’s care tag says it can be washed, you should do so carefully:
- Use a gentle or mild laundry detergent and only use your machine’s gentle cycle and the coldest water setting.
- For the best results when washing, wash two pillows together so that the washer drum is balanced and the pillows can agitate each other if there is no agitator.
- Once the initial wash cycle has ended, run another rinse cycle to make sure any remaining soap residue has been washed away. You should also run another spin cycle to remove the excess water after the second rinse.
You can also wash your down feather pillows even more carefully by hand and using a solution of your gentle or mild detergent and cold water.
How to Wash Memory Foam Pillows
Solid memory foam pillows should NOT be machine washed or submerged in water as this can cause the foam to degrade more quickly. These pillows should be spot cleaned to remove stains and residue. If there are lingering odors, these can often be removed by sprinkling the surface of the pillow with baking soda, allowing it to sit for 15 minutes to an hour depending on the odor, and then vacuuming it all up.
Shredded memory foam pillows can usually be washed, but it’s important to check for the manufacturer’s instructions provided on care tags. If your memory foam pillow can only be hand-washed, make sure to be careful not to damage the material and follow these guidelines for best results:
- Fill a sink or bathtub with room-temperature water and mix in a generous amount of gentle or mild detergent.
- Place your shredded memory foam pillow in the solution and squeeze water in and out of the pillow so that it is saturated.
- Allow the water to empty from the sink or tub and refill with clear lukewarm water and repeat the squeezing process until the water from the pillow runs clear.
- Take the pillow out of the sink or tub and squeeze any remaining water out of the pillow before leaving it to air dry in direct sunlight. You can speed up the drying process by also placing the pillow in front of an electric fan.
How to Wash Polyester Pillows
Luckily, pillows with a polyester fill are actually the easiest to wash if you have a machine. You can wash your polyester pillow using a warm water gentle cycle and a gentle or mild detergent. You will only need to use one tablespoon of liquid soap for the best results.
How to Wash Buckwheat
Pillows with buckwheat hull filling usually have a zippered opening for easy care and cleaning. Only the cover of this pillow needs to be washed, so here’s what to do:
- Start by removing the buckwheat hulls and emptying them into a large bowl.
- Use cold water and gentle or mild detergent to wash the cover using a gentle cycle to avoid any pillow shrinkage.
How to Wash Throw Pillows
Most average throw pillows should be washed once around every 3 to 6 months, depending on their use and soil levels. Generally, throw pillows can be cleaned following these simple guidelines:
- If the pillow has a removable cover, remove it so that it can be properly washed separately from the pillow itself.
- When washing the pillow covers, use a gentle cycle on a warm water setting when tossing them in the washing machine.
- When cleaning the inner pillows, use the most delicate cycle with the same warm water setting on the washing machine.
- If your throw pillow is older or made with more fragile materials, you’ll need to hand-wash it in a basin of warm water and then allow it to fully air dry.
How to Wash Body Pillows & Other Pillows
Body pillows, neck pillows, and other pillow types all require that you first consult the pillow tag for any specific care and cleaning instructions. You’ll also be able to find out what type of fill the pillow is using which will allow you to determine which instructions to follow. Most body and neck pillows have removable covers that can be machine washed as needed so be sure to check for this before washing.
How to Dry Pillows
When it comes to drying pillows, it’s actually essential that your pillows are completely dry after washing them, otherwise, they will be saggy and develop musty odors more quickly after washing. Air drying is the key for most pillow types, but some can have different requirements than others. Here are some general drying instructions that can help you:
Tips for Keeping Pillows Fresh Longer
- It is generally a good idea to leave your pillows in the sun for a few hours every 2 weeks or so to get rid of any dust mite build-up.
- Baking soda and vinegar are the best ways to clean a pillow that has any variety of rotten smells. You can sprinkle some baking soda on the pillow or spritz the surface with white vinegar and allow the product to sit on the pillow before washing it.
- When in doubt, you should only ever use gentle cycles and only a little detergent when washing pillows in the washing machine. Remember to also use cold or warm water when washing.
- Allow your pillows to dry completely before you use them again.
- You should do your best to clean your pillow every 4 to 6 months, but you might want to wait less time between washes if you’re prone to allergies.
- Always read the pillow care guide as written on the tags, especially because they can occasionally come with step-by-step manuals for washing your pillows.
When to Replace Pillows
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should look to replace your pillows at least once every two years. This replacement schedule will help you get the required head and neck support and also decrease the risk of allergies. There are also more reasons that could prompt you to buy a new pillow right away:
- Your pillow can collect a fair amount of drool, dust, oil, and dead skin, which could trigger the worst kind of acne on your face.
- You may not realize it, but pillows alleviate pain by supporting your upper body and counterbalancing the rest of your body. So, if you are waking up with a sore neck, it means that your pillow isn’t providing you enough support.
- Pillows are magnets for dust, pollen, bacteria, and viruses, which are some of the most significant allergens. So, if you’ve been sneezing, coughing, and waking up congested a lot these days, it might be your pillow that is to blame.
- Our heads produce more heat than any other part of the body, especially at night when pressed into a pillow. So the constant sweating during the nighttime can actually trap the heat under your head and neck, which can cause night sweats. Thankfully there are breathable and heat-regulating pillows that can help sweaty sleepers so it might be time to switch to a new kind of pillow.
- When your pillow no longer offers you support and is no longer fluffy enough to provide comfort and support, it might be time for a new one. Pillows that have become saggy or started bowing should be replaced sooner rather than later.
There are tons of pillows available for any kind of occasion and most of us aren’t even aware that they can be washed, but there’s no shame in that. Once you start to follow the washing guide above, the whole process can become the easiest to incorporate into your seasonal cleaning. Here’s additional ways on how to wash and care for your pillows:
We all love a clean bed; why not try having clean pillows too? For more bedroom cleaning tips, tricks, and guides make sure you check out our blog. It is full of helpful posts covering a wide range of topics, so let us know what you think!