When you think about everything that ends up on your pillows and mattresses— hair, skin, oils, drool, and dust mites — we really do need to wash those pillows at least three times a year (more if you don’t use pillow covers). While your pillows may be mildly soiled after a month or two, fast-forward to a couple of months later and you will have a highly unsanitary pillow under your head! Therefore, washing your pillows every 3-5 months, at least, is strongly advised. Now, the real question is how to wash pillows without damaging the material and/or stitching.
How to Wash Pillows
First, check the label and determine whether your pillows are synthetic or down, as this will change the way you wash them a bit. Most brands provide very detailed care instructions for their product. This is especially true for memory foam and latex. Washing and steaming are not advised. What you can do is spot clean. Baking soda is an effective way of removing stains. Follow care or washing instructions to the letter.
Some pillows are dry clean only. Others are not made to be tumble dried. If you can’t find any care labels, check the composition of the pillow to get an idea of what kind of washing is best suited for it.
How to Wash Pillows in Washing Machine
- Fortunately, most pillows are machine washable. While any washing machine will do, front- or top-loading machines without an agitator (a.k.a. the large spindle in the middle of some machines) is your best bet.
– The agitator on conventional top-loaders can be tough on pillows, so place the pillows in the tub vertically to lessen the chance of them getting damaged by the agitator and agitate on the gentle cycle only for a few minutes (or the shortest possible setting.
– A top loading machine might be trickier because your pillow will tend to float. It can still do the job.
– Nevertheless, a front loader is best.
- If your washing machine is large enough, wash two pillows at a time. That will help balance the load, allowing the water and detergent to circulate more effectively.
- Unless your pillow is marked “dry clean only” you should wash most pillows about twice a year following care label instructions.
- Remember to remove the cover or sham of the pillow before loading it into the washing machine.
- Add your preferred detergent as per usual, preferably a mild detergent with antibacterial properties.
- Add warm water and start the wash cycle on a gentle setting.
- Run the pillows through the rinse cycle twice after the initial wash to be sure all the soap has been rinsed away.
- After rinsing, you may tumble dry the pillows. Make sure the dryer is on the lowest possible setting.
How to Wash Down and Fiberfill Pillows
- Wash with a small amount of mild powder detergent or a product designed to launder down, on warm and delicate. A liquid detergent that is not completely rinsed out will leave sticky residue, and this causes clumping.
- So massage the pillow in the detergent solution if you can, to ensure that the down is thoroughly wet.
- Select the gentle cycle and use warm water, then add on an extra cold water rinse and spin cycle.
How to Wash Latex or Memory Foam Pillows
Unfortunately, you can’t put your latex or memory foam pillows straight in the washing machine. These can’t be washed, nor should they really be steamed, which is generally a good alternative for items that can’t be laundered. The best bet is to spot treat any stains, preferably as they happen, and to use a pillow cover to extend its life.
While foam pillows are resistant to dust mites, it’s still important to clean them on a regular basis. As always, you should check the washing instructions on the pillow’s tag, or follow cleaning method outlined here:
- Remove pillow covers or pillowcases and wash according to the care tag.
- To get rid of dust or dirt on the pillow, vacuum both sides, or tumble 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 soap solution. Lightly rinse with a damp cloth. (FYI, wet foam tears easily, so be gentle with the water and soap solution.)
- Allow the pillow to air dry completely before putting it back on the bed or couch.
How to Wash Buckwheat Hulls Pillows
- Empty the buckwheat filling onto a large cookie sheet or wide, shallow bowl.
- Set the buckwheat out in the sun, which will eliminate odors, and wash the shell casing using cold water and a mild detergent.
Dry the pillow
It’s crucial to get the pillow completely dry—otherwise you risk mildew. Skip the auto-dry setting on your clothes dryer because the sensors will detect only surface moisture, leaving you with a pillow that’s still damp on the inside.
Instead, many pillows can be dried for a good hour on moderate heat. Adding a couple of dry towels will speed things up. Toss in two fresh tennis balls or dryer balls, as well, and they’ll keep the filling from clumping as they bounce around the drum.
When drying down or feather pillows, however, use the no-heat air-dry setting (it will take a while) and dryer balls or tennis balls to break up clumps.
If the weather is mild, you can also hang most pillows on the clothesline until they’re dried all the way through. Whichever drying technique you use, you still need to check for moisture inside the pillow.
High heat levels can ruin the memory foam and cause it to crumble, so do not put your memory foam pillow in the dryer. Instead, lay it out on a clean white towel in a dry area. If possible, allow it to dry in the sun
Memory foam is especially susceptible to holding water for a long time, as it is made out of a sponge-like material. Make sure that there is absolutely no water left in the material before bringing it back for use on your bed, otherwise it will begin to grow mold and mildew.
A damp pillow is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Smell the pillow and check for dampness and moisture before slipping a fresh pillowcase on it and returning it to your bed.
Fun tip: add a couple of drops of lavender essential oils to your wool dryer balls to create a calming scent to your pillows as they dry. It will help relax you and give you a better night’s sleep!