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How to Wash a Pillow in the Washing Machine and by Hand

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Forums on Yahoo and the like often have people wondering and community members offering helpful answers to inquiries about “my pillow washing instructions.” We’ve combed through these forums as well as expert recommendations to give you the best tips for success, as well as how to prevent damage when washing and drying your pillows.

Why Wash a Pillow?

Why Wash a Pillow

With time, pillows accumulate a combination of dead skin particles, skin mite debris, dust, sweat, and oil particles that tend to turn cushions yellow and make them less appealing and less sanitary. 

Easy Tips to Wash your Pillow

You can prevent your pillow from becoming unsightly (and possibly unsafe!) in several ways. Notably, you should plan on washing your pillows regularly, either in the washing machine or by hand.  

In the Washing Machine 

Place the pillow in your washing machine, preferably with a second pillow to balance the load. Add gentle liquid detergent to the dispenser and wash with hot water on the gentle cycle. Follow tips for drying pillows below.

How to Wash Throw Pillows

You can spot clean any particular stains with Shout spot remover wipes. Remove unzippable covers to hand wash and line dry them, or follow the directions below to wash the whole pillow. 

How to Wash a Pillow by Hand

It’s not as easy to wash a pillow by hand, as you need to ensure you have a large enough tub to accommodate the pillow and ample water to rinse it. However, if you have throw pillows with non-removable covers, this can be an alternative to machine-washing them. 

The easiest thing to do is to wash the pillow in a clean bathtub, standing inside the tub. Fill the tub with warm water and add a mild liquid soap like Woolite and a few drops of bleach. Immerse your pillow entirely into the water and leave it soaking for about half an hour. 

Come back and squeeze the pillow to get dander and any dirt or dust out and rinse it thoroughly, squeezing out any suds and soap. You may sprinkle a few drops of lavender into the final rinse.

How to Wash Feather Pillows

Do you prefer feather and down bed pillows to foam or synthetic fillings? Are you wondering if washing down pillows is possible? Can you wash feather pillows? Rest easy; you can wash both feather and down pillows (as well as down/feather blends) at home to keep them clean and make them last. 

If you’ve invested in expensive pillows like the hotels use (like Charisma pillows), you should probably plan to wash them at least once a year. (You can also find high-quality synthetic down pillows, such as Wamsutta pillows if you have allergies.)

Make sure before washing them to examine all the pillows and repair any open seams carefully to ensure the feathers don’t all come out in the wash or drying process. It’s recommended to use a gentle detergent like Woolite for down. 

When learning how to wash down pillows, it’s important not to use fabric softener, which tends to coat the down, reducing the ability to fully dry the down and the fluffiness of the pillow.

How to Clean Memory Foam Pillow Types

According to BedPillows.com, memory foam pillows should be vacuumed every time you change your sheets. Can you wash memory foam pillows?  Yes, according to the same source, they should be washed by hand every two months. You can fill up a bathtub as above, and follow the same steps, with the exception of putting it in the dryer to dry. See the link above for more tips about the care of memory foam pillows.

Tips for Drying Your Pillows 

To shorten the amount of time it takes for your pillow to get dry, be sure to run the washed pillow through an extra spin cycle to get out excess water. You can use the spin cycle one or two times for most hand-washed pillows, and it will help them get dry even if you are not putting them in the dryer.

After getting as much water out of the pillows by squeezing and using the washer’s spin cycle, place them in the dryer. It may take several cycles. Some people recommend using the fluff or cool setting. You also can put dryer balls or several clean, new tennis balls into the dryer along with the pillows, to help speed the drying time and fluff the pillows while they are drying. 

Options for Pillows that Should Not Be Washed

When you purchase a pillow, take note of the care instructions. Most decorative pillows can benefit from a good spray of Scotchgard when new to repel dirt and liquids. Some better dry cleaners will accept pillows, but you may need to sign a waiver, and you should know that dry cleaning will often remove the color from sequins. 

You can sanitize the pillows a bit by spraying them with a bit of Lysol or an equivalent disinfectant spray and then leaving them in indirect sun to air out and completely dry. 

Note, if you sleep with buckwheat pillows, you only want to wash the cover, not the filling. Here’s how to care for buckwheat pillows. If you have pillows with some other type of filling, the packaging probably comes with answers to questions like “how to wash my pillow?” or check the tag. 

How to Fluff a Pillow

If you want to know how to fluff a pillow and freshen it without washing it, you can restore a fresh scent, fluff it up a bit, and even kill dust mites without washing it. Just spritz it with a fabric freshener spray, and then put it in a dryer on a hot cycle for a few minutes along with a clean washcloth and some tennis balls tied in a pillowcase. 


Hopefully, you now know everything you need about how to clean pillows, even how to wash a down pillow and how to wash a memory foam pillow with these tips. If your pillows are past their prime, treat yourself to a new one, and consider using pillow protectors as well as pillowcases.

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