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How To Wash Pillows In The Washing Machine Or By Hand

by | Oct 20, 2023 | Cleaning Tips

Nothing compares to sinking into a fresh, clean pillow after a long day.

But here’s a wake-up call: When did you last wash your pillows?

It’s not just about washing the pillow cases; the pillows themselves can harbour unpleasant guests, from sweat to dead skin cells and even dust mites.


How Often Should You Wash Pillows?

According to cleaning experts, you should wash your pillows every three to six months.

Regular washing helps them maintain their shape and cleanliness. 

It’s also a good idea to wash them immediately if your child (or partner) drools heavily or if you spill wine on your pillows!

This way, you’re not resting on a hotbed of allergens and bacteria.


cozy children's room in bright soft colors, pillows and a blanket are lying on the bed


How to Wash Pillows in a Washing Machine

The process is the same for how to wash pillows in a front loader or a top loader washing machine.

It’s important to maintain balance inside your appliance. Wash at least two pillows at a time to keep the washer stable.

If you only need to wash one pillow, you can balance out the weight with 2–3 heavy cotton towels.


Step 1: Check the care label

Always check the pillow’s care label first.

Most synthetic, down, and feather pillows can be machine-washed on a gentle cycle with a mild liquid detergent. 

Bamboo pillows with fiberfoam or shredded foam fillings can be machine-washed, too.

Memory foam and latex should be spot-cleaned only to prevent degradation.


Step 2: Remove the cover and pillow protector

female hands removing cover from a white pillow

Take off any pillowcases or protective covers. If you’re up for it, wash your bed sheets, too!

These can all be washed separately according to the care instructions for the specific items.


Step 3: Pre-treat stains

If your pillows have noticeable stains, use a stain remover or a mild detergent solution to pre-treat them.

Apply the solution and gently rub it in with a soft brush or cloth, then let it sit for a few minutes before washing.


Step 4: Add laundry detergent

Use a mild liquid detergent to prevent any residue on your pillow.

Consider a detergent formulated for delicate fabrics if you’re washing down or feather pillows.


Step 5: Use a gentle wash cycle

Modern washing machine with laundry near light wall

Choose a gentle cycle with warm water for most pillows.

Hot water can cause shrinking or clumping, especially in down or feather pillows.

If your washing machine has an extra rinse option, use it to help remove any lingering detergent.


Step 6: Double-check for residue

Once the cycle is finished, check for any soap residue.

Run another rinse cycle if you find suds or the pillow feels slick (or even sticky).


Step 7: Dry your pillows

Synthetic, down or feather pillows can typically be machine-dried on a low setting with a few dryer balls to maintain fluffiness.

On the other hand, memory foam and latex pillows should be air-dried away from direct sunlight to preserve their structure.


How To Wash Pillows By Hand

Sometimes you might be dealing with pillows that aren’t washing machine-friendly. 

Here’s how you can wash them:


How to wash silk pillows

Two silk pillows on white background

Silk pillows are delicate beauties.

Always hand wash them using cold water and a detergent meant for delicates. 

Gently move the pillow around in the water, but don’t scrub or twist it. 

Rinse it thoroughly in cold water.


How to wash memory foam, latex, and bamboo pillows

You’ll need to be extra gentle when washing memory foam, latex, and bamboo pillows.

Never submerge latex or memory foam pillows in water. The same goes for bamboo pillows with memory foam filling.

Rather than soaking them in water, remove the pillow cover and use a cloth dampened with mild detergent and water to spot clean any stains. 

Then, wipe them down with a fresh, damp cloth to remove detergent residue.

Let the pillows air dry completely before putting the pillow covers back on.

Never wring out these types of pillows; they’re too delicate.


 How to wash pillows in the bathtub

Washing pillows in the bathtub offers you ample space and control.

  1. Fill your bathtub with warm water and a small amount of gentle detergent.
  2. Submerge your pillows and squeeze them to help absorb the soapy solution. You can do this several times until you feel they’re clean.
  3. Drain the soapy water, refill the tub with clean water, and rinse by squeezing the pillows again. Repeat this until the water runs soap-free.
  4. Press out as much water as possible without wringing the pillows, as this can damage their fibres.


How to Whiten Yellow Pillows

Dirty, unclean pillow and bed with bed-sheet, pillow case after using for a long time

Over time, sweat and oils can turn your once-pristine pillows into a disturbing shade of yellow.

This discolouration is typically caused by body oils, sweat, saliva, or skincare products that seep through pillow cases and accumulate on the pillow.


Step 1: Check the pillow’s care label

Before you begin, check the care label to confirm your pillow’s material.

Most whitening methods work well for cotton, down, or synthetic materials.

However, these methods may not be suitable if you have memory foam or pillows made from special materials.


Step 2: Pre-treat pillow stains

If your pillow has localised spots or stains, pre-treat it with a stain remover suitable for its fabric.

Allow the treatment to sit for the recommended time before washing.


Step 3: Put your yellow pillows in the washer

Put at least two pillows in the washer.

Then mix a potent whitening solution using 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup baking soda.


Step 4: Run a gentle wash cycle

woman's hand adjusting the knob of a front load washing machine

Run a gentle wash cycle for your pillows.

If you’re using a top-loader, pause the cycle after the washer drum is done filling up with water.

Add the whitening solution to the water, and soak your pillows for 5–10 minutes.

Then resume the wash cycle.

If you have a front-loader, add the whitening solution to the detergent tray (or directly onto your pillows) before running the wash cycle.

Do a second rinse to ensure all cleaning agents are removed.


Step 5: Dry your pillows

Make sure your pillows are thoroughly dried to prevent mould growth.

If they’re dryer-safe, use a low heat setting with wool dryer balls or clean tennis balls to fluff them.

If not, air dry them (preferably in the sun, which has natural bleaching properties).


Step 6: Assess and repeat if necessary

Once dry, check your pillows. If they’re still yellow, you might need to repeat the washing process.

You might have to replace your pillows if the stains persist even after two consecutive washes.


How to Maintain Clean Pillows

Keeping your pillows clean goes beyond the occasional wash.


Fluff pillows daily

Woman fluffing soft pillows on bed

Each morning, take a minute to give your pillows a good fluffing by grabbing them on both sides and pushing the sides in and out, almost like an accordion.

This reintroduces air into the fibres, keeping them fluffy and comfortable.

Daily fluffing helps your pillows retain their shape and prevents the buildup of dust mites and other potential allergens.


Use pillow protectors

Pillow protectors are a frontline defence in maintaining clean pillows.

These zippered coverings go on before your pillowcase and provide an extra layer of protection against sweat, saliva, oils and dead skin that naturally rub off during sleep.

They’re typically made of tightly woven fabric that’s impenetrable to allergens and easy to wash.

Using protectors can significantly extend the cleanliness and overall life of your pillows, reducing the need for frequent washing.


Freshen pillows in the dryer

You can freshen up your pillows in between washes by tossing them in the dryer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add wool dryer balls or clean tennis balls to help fluff them up.

Consider adding a dryer sheet or lavender sachets if you want a fresh scent.

This method helps remove dust and dander and revives your pillow’s loft and fluffiness.


Replace pillows after two years

Over time, pillows lose their shape and ability to support your head and neck properly, and they accumulate dust mites, skin cells and body oils.

Most pillows, particularly those filled with synthetic materials, should be replaced every two years.

If your pillow has noticeable lumps and permanent stains, or you’re waking up with neck or back discomfort, it might be time for a replacement.


Wash Away Your Nightmares

Going from dingy to fresh-smelling pillows is easy — you just have to make time.

As any cleaning professional would tell you, the state of your pillow directly influences the quality of your sleep.

So, maintain your pillows well and rest easy knowing you’re keeping your bed a safe space.

About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.


About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.