Learning how to wash a pillow correctly takes no time and can save you money in the long run by helping your bed pillows last longer. This is important if you’ve invested in the best pillow for your sleep style – you want your money’s worth, right?
Here, we’ll look at how to clean a pillow properly so it lasts longer, including which types can be washed in a washing machine and which pillows should only be spot-cleaned and hand-washed.
For expert advice, we turned to Melissa Danielson, Director of Product Design and Development at casper (opens in new tab)one of America’s best mattress and sleeping accessory brands to tell us about all pillow care.
How often should you wash pillows?
Overtime pillows become a mecca for dust mites, dead skin, sweat, body oils and bacteria, not to mention unsightly stains. Yes, sweat and body oils are two of the biggest culprits of why pillows turn yellow. (opens in new tab)
So how often should you clean yours? “Most pillows should be washed every six months, but others, like memory foam, need attention every two or three months.” says Danielson. “It’s good practice to keep more than one pillow in your bed to change if you feel like you’re losing strength.”
If you have a down or down pillow, ‘dragging’ it every morning will help you regain your shape and vigor.
How to wash pillows in a washing machine
Worried about your washing machine destroying all that pretty stuffing inside your pillow? Don’t worry, you can wash most pillows this way. However, for the best results – and to avoid ruining your pillow and washing machine – there are a few things to consider first. To get started, check the labels or company website for specific cleaning instructions.
“Many pillows survive in a washing machine, but they need a little different care,” explains Danielson. You don’t want filler clogging up your washing machine.
“To avoid unevenly distributed loads, always throw two pillows at a time. You should also set the spin cycle speed to a higher setting to remove as much excess water as possible. ”
How to identify clean pillows
If you’ve seen visible marks or stains on your pillow, clean them first to get the worst out. “Spot cleaning can be done with a regular dish towel and a mild soap solution. Gently scrub the stains, taking extra care with foam pads as you don’t want them to rip.”
However, wiping blood off a pillow is a little different, as Danielson tells us: “Once blood dries it can leave a permanent mark, so it’s critical to be proactive. You don’t want the blood to stay on too long because the blood clots and can quickly stick to the pillow.”
Keep these expert tips in mind when cleaning pillows, and many are similar to those recommended for cleaning a mattress:
1. Use cold water
“Always use cold water when removing bloodstains from pillows and pillowcases. Hot water can further set the stain and make it more difficult to remove. As soon as you notice the stain, remove the pillowcase and place the spot under cold running water. This will help eliminate excess blood.”
2. Wipe the stain – don’t rub
Take a cool, damp cloth and wipe the stained area – never rub. “Rubbing the stain can spread the blood and cause it to seep further into the pillow,” explains Danielson. “Rubbing the stain can help remove any excess blood that hasn’t already soaked in.”
3. Soak in cold water
After cleaning the stain, Danielson recommends soaking the pillow and pillowcase in cold water. “You can do this in a bathtub or basin. Let the pillow and pillowcase soak for about 30 minutes.”
4. Use a stain remover
After you’ve soaked your pillow and pillowcase, it’s time to bring out the big guns and use a powerful stain fighter. “There are several household options you can use (oxygen peroxide, lemon juice, baking soda, white vinegar, aspirin, etc). We recommend using hydrogen peroxide and water. If you have a darker pillowcase, test using hydrogen peroxide on a small section first to make sure it doesn’t discolor.”
how to wash pillows
Made from the soft fibers found under the exterior of a duck, goose, or swan, down pillows are one of the easiest types to wash. “They can be cleaned in a washing machine at any temperature of the wash cycle, but be aware that warm water and hot water can shrink the fabric,” warns Danielson.
“Use a mild laundry detergent and add an extra rinse cycle to rid your pillows of the remaining soap.”
Similar to down pillows, down pillows include feathers taken from the back and wings of a duck or goose. As Danielson tells us, “Feather pillows can usually be washed in the same way as down pillows.
“Any temperature can be used in the washing machine, but a cooler temperature is recommended to prevent fabric shrinkage. Use a gentle cycle setting and an extra rinse cycle to remove remaining suds.”
How to clean memory foam pillows
As their name suggests, this type of pillow contains memory foam and, according to Danielson, they need a little extra TLC when washing.
“Avoid the washing machine and instead choose to wash your hands or vacuum and treat on site. The best way to wash your hands is to fill the tub with water and a mild, low-sudsing detergent.”
To do this, Danielson recommends the following: “Soak the pillow and allow the soap and water solution to fully penetrate. Rinsing can be done in the same way.”
This video has some extra tips on how to wash pillows without a machine…
How to dry pillows after washing
After cleaning the pillows in the washing machine or cleaning them in place, it’s time to dry them. “Feather and down pillows can be dried in a dryer without heat, air dry, or low dry,” advises Danielson.
“Use clean tennis balls or dryer balls to fluff pillows and prevent lumps. Pillows that cannot be dried in a dryer, such as memory foam, should be air dried. If possible, let them hang on a clothesline outside – but only when it’s not damp.”
Extra pillow care tips
Taking care of your pillow helps it last longer, and in addition to learning how to wash it (and how often), consider investing in a good quality pillow protector. These fabric strips work in the same way as mattress pads and essentially act as a barrier between the pillow and any accidental stains and spills, as well as sweat, facial oils, and bacteria.
You can also wash your pillow protectors much more often than pillows, and this will keep your real pillow healthier and fresher for longer. We especially recommend a pillow protector if you’re prone to night sweats or using facial moisturizers or oils at night. The same goes for hair products – any moisture that can seep into your pillow means it will need to be cleaned more often.
If you need a new pillow, we’ve included some of our options below…
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