How to Wash Pillows: Step-by-Step Guide

Hey there. Do you like washing pillows? Or maybe you don’t know how to clean pillows? I used to think that I should clean pillows only when they look dirty or not fresh. However, we don’t always see what is inside the cushion. Besides, some pillows are not machine washable, and you need to apply the dry clean. There are specifics for cleaning to keep the pillow’s shape so that it still provides the needed support. As you see, pillows washing is not that simple.

Why is it so significant to wash the cushions in the right way? Well, a lot of dust, moisture, and sweat is left on it. You don’t see this, but small creatures called dust mites may appear in the cushion. They won’t bite you, but they cause sneezing and breathing issues. You can wake up with the watery eyes and don’t see the reason for this. Pillows and pillowcases washing and dry cleaning allow you to avoid asthma and allergies and get a peaceful sleep. Different pillows type requires the various caring – that’s why I have created this guide.

How to Wash Pillows?
Pillows should be washed regularly to keep them fresh and comfortable. Most pillows can be washed in a machine, but it is best to check the care label first. When washing pillows, use warm water and a mild detergent. You can wash two pillows at a time to make the load even.

What Is the Best Way to Wash Pillows?

Taking care of pillows includes not only washing but also drying and spot cleaning. Every pillow is unique and needs special supervision.

Why should you wash pillows?

I’m sure that no one likes to sleep on a dirty pillow. But we can’t see how much of the dust is in our cushion and usually neglect the washing process or do it on rare occasions. It causes diverse health problems. You should wash your pillow regularly to reduce the amount of the body oils it absorbs and clean it from the dust mites.

When you lay on a pillow, you leave a lot of sweat and dead skin. The sweat with other body oils creates an unpleasant smell. It will be harder for you to get asleep, and also you may have sneezing, running eyes and nose. They can become compulsive and disturb you for a long time.

The dust mites eat your dead skin – that’s why they appear in your pillows. Millions of small beings wait for another food portion. What is bad – they cause various allergies. Even people with no allergic reactions may have watery eyes or runny nose sleeping on the old and dirty pillow.

To reduce the dirt that gets into the pillow foam, people use the pillowcases and allergen protectors. You also need to wash them. Actually, you should do this even more often because they collect much more dirt than the pillow filling. Besides, the cushion will wear out slower if you have a case and protector.

How often to wash pillows?


Can you machine wash pillows? Yes, but you should consider the fact that only pillows with down, synthetic and cotton filling are machine washable. And you need to check the label to know if you can wash your cushion because there can be exclusions.

Pillows don’t require washing every month. The filling may lose its shape and become clumpy. It’s not great because you may feel uncomfortable while sleeping if your pillow is not smooth. Besides, your back and shoulder may ache. The worn-out pillow doesn’t provide the needed support – so it’s better to wash it once in a half of the year.

Some people may ask why you should wash a pillow so frequently. As I noted before, you can’t see how many dust mites are inside it. If you wash the pillow once in six months, you will be calm and your well-being is protected. Of course, you may clean the cushion more rarely. But I recommend you to do this only in case you have the allergens covering.

The pillow’s washing is great, but you also need to clean the pillowcase. It collects a lot of moisture and sweat, so it gets dirty in a short time. The best way is to wash it in a machine two or three times a month. You should wash the allergen protector separately, once a month or less often. It’s better to change the allergens coverings every six-twelve months – they become less effective through the time.

How to wash pillows in washer?

The washing machine can become the last place where your pillow looked nice. That’s why I advise you to follow my guide and avoid wrong washing pillows.

The first question is: can pillows be washed? You need to remember that only down, synthetic and cotton cushions are machine washable. The feather pillow becomes too clumpy after the cleaning. Actually, every pillow can lose its shape and smoothness. It happens when you set the wrong washing settings.

Before washing pillows in washer, take off the pillowcase. Also, it’s better to wash the two or more pillows together. In this case, the pillows won’t get thrown so much in the washer. It’s the first recommendation to keep your pillows smooth and soft.

You should fill the washing machine with the hot water and add the detergent. The best way is to put a half cup of the dishwashing detergent (for two pillows) and the same amount of the bleach. You may also add the borax or household ammonia in a small amount.

When you start the machine, make sure the settings are on the two rinses. If your washer allows you to set a longer cycle, you can do this. Don’t worry – it won’t damage the pillow. After the first cycle, you may stop the washer and flip your pillows for the extensive cleaning. But it’s not required.

The last step is to put the pillows into the dryer. You can provide the whole drying process in the dryer, or remove the excess water in the machine and put your pillow out in the sun. It depends on your preferences.

How to hand wash a pillow?


Most pillows nowadays can be washed in the machine, but such models that have the memory foam you should wash with hands. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. However, there are some tips for proper hand washing.

You need to take off the zipped cover – you may wash it separately with other bed linens. The pillowcase protects the cushion from the liquid and dirt, but the pillow can still absorb some dust. That’s why I recommend you to pat your pillow several times with enough force. This will reduce the debris amount.

Then you need to find a big tub and fill it with the warm water. It should not be hot because the memory foam is a sensitive material. The water also should not be cold – I think it will be more pleasant for you to wash a pillow in warm water. Besides, it helps you to remove the allergens for sure. When I say warm water, I mean the 40-50 C for the best cleaning.

Before you put the pillow in the water, you should add the detergent. You need about the tablespoon or two of the liquid detergent. Different manufacturers provide the products with varying amounts of active ingredients – so you better check the detergent instruction before usage. You should swirl the water with your hands. The detergent will mix properly thanks to this – swish the water till the bubbles.

The next step is the most important one. You need to wash the pillow without the foam damaging. My recommendation is not to squeeze the pillow with the force. And you’d better not fold the cushion in part – keep it as it is. The best way to wash the pillow is to press down with your palms on the whole surface. It will activate the detergent and spread it through the cushion.

For better cleaning, you can flip the pillow on the other side and use the same palm movements. I prefer to rinse the pillow and change the water two or three times during the washing process. But you may do it once, or as much as you want.

You should consider that rinsing the pillow may take several minutes more than washing it. That’s because you need to remove all the detergent. It also can be the allergen. So, it’s better to rinse the cushion twice at the end of the washing process. To get rid of the detergent, you should use the same hand techniques. You need to remember that the foam is sensitive.

To check if all the detergent has got out your pillow, fill the tube with fresh water, and put the pillow inside. If you see the bubbles, that means you should rinse it once again. It can take some time – so I usually put the pillow below the tap. The water jet will remove the detergent in a few minutes. But you need to check the pillow in fresh water to make sure it is clean.
As the memory foam can’t be washed in the machine, you also can’t put it in a dryer. It will easily damage the filling.

The best way to dry the pillow is to place it out in the sun. Or you can lay it in a clean towel and leave in the dry place. After some time, you need to check whether the pillow doesn’t have water inside. If you put the moist cushion inside the pillowcase, the mold can develop. It causes allergies, so be careful while drying your pillow.

Other helpful tips

To make sure you get all the information you need, there are small tips. I hope you consider them during the pillow washing.

How to dry pillows with different fillings?


The pillows with down foam allow you to dry them in a dryer. You need to set the ‘air’ mode or the ‘no heat’ one. If you have a synthetic pillow, you can also put it in a dryer, but you need to switch the machine to low heat. I usually set the shortest time possible. Then, I put the pillows out in the sun, so they can get dry without the big damage in a dryer.

If you have the memory foam pillow, you need to apply only the air-dry. The feather pillow can’t be washed in the machine, but you can put it in a dryer. For the best effect, you should use the delicate cycle. And the most important thing – don’t put the moist pillow inside the case, check it twice. Your health depends on how you take care of the pillows.

How to spot clean a pillow?

The spot cleaning pillows usually means that you need a cleaner. You should choose the purifier due to the material your pillow is made of. However, I recommend you to choose the gentler cleaner. The pillows are made of soft and delicate fabrics, so they require a special attitude.

You may water a spot a little before you put the cleaner. For the spot cleaning, you need a white cloth or even two. When the spot is moist, you may put a small cleaner amount, rub it, and see if it doesn’t leave any other spots. If everything is okay, continue rubbing the cleaner and add as much as you need. You can wait for a few minutes to allow the chemicals to clean the spot. Then wash that place with the moist cloth and look if the spot has disappeared – if not, try to repeat the operation with the larger cleaner amount.

How to avoid yellow spots?

Yellow spots appear on the pillow because of the sweat your body excrete during the night. Not always a pillowcase can protect it. Besides, the moisture after washing is also the reason for the spots’ creation. If you go to bed with wet hair or with makeup on your face, this may also influence the pillow look.

It’s easy to avoid the yellow spots – you just need to keep your pillow dry and do the washing following my guide. Sometimes, the spots will appear unexpectedly, even if you take care of the cushion. In this case, you better apply the spot clean. The standard washing is not always the solution – it can make it worse.

How to clean a pillow and keep it fresh?

You spend hours lying on your pillow, so it will be hard to keep it clean without the washing or dry clean. But as I noted before, you should protect the pillow from moisture. It ruins the foam and may be the reason for yellow spots’ appearance. There are many allergens protectors that will help you. You also need to wash them once a month, because they absorb a huge amount of dead skin, saliva, body oils, etc.

To make your pillow look nice, you should wash it twice a year. Of course, you can do it even three times, but be careful – it may wear out quickly (especially the memory foam pillow). Actually, washing the pillowcase is more essential because it gets dirty much faster. It’s not a problem to clean it in the machine and then put it into the dryer.

Other Essential Facts You Should Know


People usually ask me these questions when we talk about taking care of pillows. I have prepared this section to give you some necessary tips.

How do you wash pillows without ruining them?

It’s easy to avoid ruining pillows if you follow my washing guide. You need to remember what cushion can be washed in a machine and what type you should handwash onlys. The down, cotton, and synthetic fabrics you can put into the washer. If you have a feather pillow, you better dry clean it on low heat.

When you wash a memory foam pillow with hands, you can ruin it by folding or applying too much force. The detergent will do its work even if you push the pillow smoothly. After washing, rinse the pillow at least twice – the detergent can cause allergies and also destroy the pillow’s foam. Don’t forget to dry the cushion before putting it into the case.

How to wash pillows in a washing machine?

A gentle detergent is a secret for the right machine washing. And a cup of bleach will provide the best effect. The machine can throw out your pillows too much and they may become clumpy, so put more than two cushions to avoid this. Pillows collect lots of allergens, so they need to be washed in hot water. The warmth kills the dust mites and cleans the foam from oils and other dirt.

Also, set the two cycles and flip the pillow after the first one.

When the washing machine stops, let the dryer do its work. I prefer air-drying, but sometimes I put the pillows into a dryer to remove the excess water. Then I put it out in the sun. If you can’t provide this, just put the pillow into the dryer for the low heat. The down pillows are better dry on the ‘air’ mode.

Is it safe to wash pillows in the washing machine?

Most of the synthetic pillows are allowed to wash in the washer. The down and cotton cushions are also machine-washable, but you should be more accurate with them. They get clumpy easily. Such pillows that have feather foam you can’t put into the washer. They will lose their look and shape and won’t provide the needed support. The memory foam pillows can only be washed with hands.

So, it’s safe to wash a pillow in the washing machine. Nowadays’ washers allow you to set the settings you need. I recommend you to read the label before washing a pillow. Different manufacturers may offer diverse cleaning advice.

How do you deep clean pillows?

For deep cleaning, you need a cleaner and white cloth. I usually spot clean a pillow in case I have washed it not long ago, but some spots have already appeared on it. First of all, you need to water the place you want to clean. You should use the cloth for this. Don’t put the pillow below the water tap – it just needs to be a little moist to activate the detergent.

You also should rub the cleaner using the cloth (it’s better to take another one). In the beginning, put a little amount of it. If you can’t remove a spot, try to add some more detergent. Or you can add some water if the cleaner doesn’t spread through the whole surface. After you clean the spot, use the moist cloth to wash the detergent away. Finally, you may also put the pillow into the dryer or out in the sun.

How to wash feather pillows?

Feather pillows are one of the most delicate. To keep their shape and look, you can’t put them into the washing machine. Handwashing is also not suitable for them. But there is a solution.

Feather pillows are not afraid of the dryer – you can put them into the machine on a low heat for the shortest time. This will reduce the dust amount. If the yellow spots appear, you can apply the spot clean. But I recommend you to buy an allergen protector and wash it every month. The pillowcase itself doesn’t provide the needed protection.

How can I remove sweat odor from a pillow?


If your pillow has got a sweat odor, check the foam for the yellow spots. Usually, the smell appears together with the stains. You can try a spot cleaning on the places that have the odor. But the best way is to put your pillow into a dryer, and then put it out in the sun. The air-dry takes away all the odors, not only sweat smell. I air my pillow outside from time to time to keep it fresh even if I don’t smell any odor.

Also read:

The Most Essential Tips

Washing the pillow is a responsible process. You can’t just put them into the washer even without taking a look at the label. Remember that various materials require special care. In this article, I have described all the ways you can wash your pillow. I’m sure that you will have a much better sleep if you keep your cushions fresh all the time. But don’t overdo – the pillow may wear out if you wash it too frequently. Did you take a clumpy pillow off the machine? Or maybe you couldn’t clean the spots? What did you do in this case? It will be nice to see your comments below.

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