Pillow Maintenance: How to Wash Pillows?

Many people change their sheets regularly. Blankets, pillowcases and bed sheets are normally changed once weekly by many households.

However, not many people pay the same attention to their mattresses and pillows. Most do not know that pillows and mattresses need cleaning twice a year. They accumulate sweat, dirt, dust, oil particles and saliva over time. Mould, bacteria and fungi can also be present in your pillows and mattresses. This could result in health problems and cause the filling materials to break down and lose support over time. To prevent this from happening, you should wash your pillows and clean your mattresses regularly.

Step 1: Air Them Out

The first step is to air out your pillows. Start by giving them a fluffing to move around the filling inside and force air inside the covering. Once they are fluffed, hang them on your clothesline for an hour or two.

Airing them is best done when the weather is hot and breezy. Cold and chilly weather works too. If it’s not sunny out, run them through your dryer using the non-heat cycle.

Even if you don’t intend to wash your pillows, it’s best to air them out at least once a month to keep them smelling fresh and clean. Bright sunlight will also kill germs and bacteria that reside in your pillows.

Step 2: Wash Them

Check the label or tag on your pillow. You shouldn’t wash pillows by hand or washing machine if they state, “for dry clean only”. Always follow the care instructions for your pillow to make them last longer.

Depending on the size of your washing machine, wash 2 pillows at a time. This will help the machine balance the load better and allow the soapy water to circulate around the tub more efficiently. Top-loading washing machines can be tougher on pillows so it’s better to wash them using a gentle cycle. Alternatively, you can go to a launderette to use their front-loading machine to wash your pillows.

There are many different types of pillow-filling materials. How you wash them depends on the material used.

Down or Feather

For this type of pillow, it’s best to use warm water with a mild powder detergent. Liquid detergent can leave sticky residue on the down or feather filling and cause clumping. If you want to use liquid detergent, rub a diluted amount on the whole pillow to ensure that everything is wet before starting a cycle.

Singed feathers smell bad, so it’s better to use the no-heat air-dry setting on the dryer for down and feather pillows. Drying this type of pillow takes a while, so be prepared. Use tennis balls and dryer balls to get rid of clumps.


Polyester or fibre-filled pillows can be used by people who are allergic to down or feather. To wash this type of pillow, use cold water with a small amount of detergent on a gentle setting. Run the pillows on an extra rinse cycle to ensure that all the suds have been washed off.

Fortunately, this type of pillow dries faster than down and feather. Fluff the pillows out before drying them. You could also add wool dryer balls or tennis balls to break clumps. Stop the cycle every 15 minutes to refluff the pillows.

Drying polyester and fibre pillows can be a long process. It’s best to pick a hot sunny day to wash this type of pillow so you can hang them outside to ensure that they’re really dry.

Memory Foam or Latex

Memory foam and latex pillows can’t be machine-washed. Fortunately, you can still wash them.

Start by removing the protective covering of your memory foam or latex pillow. Next, sprinkle baking soda on the pillow generously. Leave it sitting there for at least an hour. Lastly, remove the baking soda using the upholstery brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Flip and repeat for the other side.

Alternatively, mix some gentle liquid detergent and water. Use a clean cloth to dip into the mixture and wipe off a small portion of your pillow at a time. Repeat this process until the whole pillow is clean and all the stains (if there are any) are gone.

For the drying process, you can dry the pillow outside but only do this if it’s not too hot. Choose a warm but cloudy day to do this. Another way to speed up the drying process is to use a hair dryer. However, set it to a cool setting and dry one area at a time. Do not wring the pillow.


Buckwheat pillows are popular because they provide very good neck support and pain relief. Buckwheat pillows are also very durable and can last up to 10 years. Just like memory foam pillows, they cannot be washed in the washing machine. However, they can also be cleaned very easily.

All you have to do is to empty the casing by pouring out the buckwheat into a wide bowl or bag. Set the buckwheat out in the sun to eliminate odours and kill germs. It’s that easy.

Step 3: Dry Pillows Thoroughly

Make sure that your pillows are thoroughly dry lest they attract mildew and mould. Instead of using the automatic drying function of your machine, set it to dry on moderate heat for around an hour. Automatic dryers only detect surface moisture, so your pillow could still come out damp on the inside if you use an auto-dry setting.

Add some dry towels and a couple of fresh tennis balls inside the dryer to speed up the drying process. The tennis balls will also prevent pillows from clumping as they bounce around inside the tub.

Weather permitting, most pillows can be hung outside to dry. Whatever drying method you use, make sure that the pillow is thoroughly dry inside and out before using them.

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