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It’s Time to Wash Your Pillows

Cleaning pillows at home is quite easy; it’s basically like doing a standard load of laundry, just make sure to wash two at a time to keep the machine balanced. The following instructions for how to wash your pillows are for washing natural fiber (down) or synthetic pillows.

Reed House, master bedroom Paul Dyer

Does your naked pillow bear a couple stains? Perhaps even a yellowish ring or two? Yeah, it’s time for a pillow bath. With all the sweat, drool, and bacteria that can be harbored in your cushion, it’s relieving to know that you could keep it fresh with a laundry cycle. Pillow cleaning is a task that is often overlooked, and should be done at least twice a year to remove mold and odors.

Note: Do not wash a foam pillow in the washing machine; skip down to “Foam” for cleaning instructions.

Double Check the Label

Before you begin the laundering process, make sure to read the care labels on your soiled items. This will tell you what materials the cushion is made with, which informs you how to wash your pillow, along with other potentially important info. If the label has been removed, default to the “gentle” cycle on the machine with warm water, and later add on an extra cold water rinse and spin cycle.

Products to Use

Low-sudsing, high-efficiency laundry detergent (liquid or powder) can work just fine on it’s own. For tough stains, add in this potent solution with the detergent: 1/2 cup washing soda, 1 cup dishwasher solution, 1 cup bleach (feather pillows excluded – only use a small amount of detergent).

Steps for Washing Your Pillows

  1. For an extra deep cleaning, start out by soaking your pillows in hot water and detergent. This gives the cleaning products a head-start on tackling stains and germs. You can do this right in your washer if it’s a top-loading machine, otherwise, you’ll have to do the soaking in a separate container (or your bathtub). Submerge the pillows and begin soaking once all the cleaning solution has been dissolved in the water.
  2. Time to cycle. It is recommended that you wash two pillows in the machine at a time to keep it balanced. Place the pillows in vertically if your machine has an agitator in it’s center (large spindle); this will prevent the cushions from wrapping around the device and getting damaged.
  3. Once you’ve washed the pillows, run them through the rinse cycle two times to rid all soap.
  4. Set the dryer to low heat for synthetic pillows or to tumble dry (no heat) for feather pillows. Throw in a couple wool dryer balls to keep the pillows plump and prevent the filling from clumping.
  5. Take the pillows out periodically to turn and fluff by hand.
  6. Pillows take much longer to dry than a load of clothes. If you sense a musty smell after cleaning the pillows, set them in the sun.

How to Wash Foam Pillows

Pillows made out of foam cannot be thrown in the washing machine, as wet foam is heavy and tears easily. Check the care label for washing instructions before cleaning.

  • Start out by vacuuming both sides with the upholstery tool to remove as much dust as possible.
  • Spot clean any soiled areas with a mild dish soap solution and wash cloth, then rinse off with a damp cloth.
  • Let the pillow air dry on a rack or tumble it in the dryer on the no-heat setting for 20 minutes. Make sure that there is absolutely no heat in this cycle because foam pillows can melt.

When to Toss Your Pillow

Even after habitual cleanings, there will come a time when you need to replace your pillows. If, after a thorough wash, stubborn stains won’t release, or the pillow looses its shape or “spring” when folded, it’s time for a replacement.

To prolong the life of new and clean pillows, use pillowcase liners and wash them monthly.