How To Clean Pillows

Good news! You can wash most pillows in your washer. Although some experts recommend professional dry-cleaning for pillows and other fluffy bedding items, it is generally safe to wash them, either in the machine on gentle cycle or by hand. For best results, we recommend washing two pillows at a time (to help keep the washer balanced) and using a front or top-loading machine without an agitator. If an agitator-style top loader is your only option, place the pillows in the tub vertically, so it’s less likely they’ll get wrapped around and damaged by the agitator.

Most people launder their sheets once a week, setting aside the actual pillows for far less frequent washings. It’s a bit of a bigger job and one that tends to get put off, so if you haven’t done it in a while, why not take care of it this weekend for a nice fresh start in your sleep space?

No need to get gross and talk about dust mites, let’s just agree that pillows need to be washed at least twice each year (you’ll want to double/triple that amount if you live in a warmer climate) and be sure you’re using a pillow cover. Check the care label to confirm that your pillow (down or synthetic) can be machine washed — most can be. If not or you’ve clipped off the tag, use warm water and opt for the gentle cycle. It’s also a good idea to add on an extra cold-water rinse and spin. Tumble dry the pillows on low heat, fluffing and turning them often.

A few tricks that can come in handy before you get started:

  • Roll up your pillows lengthwise and secure the ends and middle with rubber bands during wash cycle to minimize clumping of synthetic fibers. For best results, lay flat to dry.
  • Use mild liquid detergent rather than a powder to avoid residue.
  • Wash a pair of pillows together to keep the machine balanced.
  • Recycle old pillows—they work great as padding for dog beds or stuffing for throw pillows!

How To Wash Your Pillows In The Washer

  1. Read the care label on your pillows first to be sure you can actually wash your pillows. Set the water temperature on your machine according to the care label.
  2. Place your pillows in the machine, two at a time to evenly distribute the load.
  3. Add a small amount of low sudsing detergent like Woolite and start the load.
  4. Run the pillows through the rinse cycle twice after the initial wash to be sure all the soap has been removed.
  5. Dry your pillows according to the care label. If you are able to put them in the dryer, place a few tennis balls in with the pillows to speed up dry time and to keep the fibers from clumping. You can also dry the pillows by laying them flat. I like to put mine outside in the sun, but you could just lay them on top of your machine and let them sit for a few hours in warm air while your dryer is working on another load.
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Don’t Wash Foam Pillows!

Unfortunately, you can’t put foam pillows in the washing machine, but if there’s a removable cover, you can wash that according to the care instructions on the tag. To remove dust from a foam pillow, vacuum both sides with your vacuum’s upholstery tool. If possible, dial down the suction level to make the job a bit easier to do. Or, tumble the pillow in the dryer on the no heat or air-only cycle for 20 minutes. Spot-clean any soiled areas with a cloth dipped in a mild sudsy solution. Rinse with a damp cloth. Allow the pillow to air dry completely before putting it back on the bed.

Some foam pillows include instructions for hand washing. If you choose to follow them, be very gentle. Wet foam is heavy and tears easily. To help pillows stay cleaner longer, use liners under your pillowcases and wash them monthly.

Another suggestion is sprinkling your foam pillows with cornstarch, letting sit for an hour or longer, then vacuuming thoroughly instead.

When to Replace Your Pillows

No matter how diligent you are about cleaning your pillows, you will need to buy new ones eventually. How do you know when it’s time to toss? If you fold the pillow in half, and it doesn’t spring back into shape, plan for a shopping trip.

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