Tell the truth: when was the last time you washed your pillows? I once put a bed pillow in the washing machine only to have it come out looking like a soapy water balloon. And when I tried standing on it to force some of the water out (dumb. idea.), the seam burst and pillow fluff went everywhere. Into the trash it went.
Since then, I have simply skipped the hassle and tossed pillows directly into the trash whenever they get yellow and gross. It’s a waste, I know, so I’m ready to try the whole washing thing again. If you want to learn how to wash pillows, here’s how the pros say to do it.
How to Wash Pillows
In case you’re wondering, do I really need to wash my pillows? The short answer is, absolutely.
Even if you use pillowcases, grease, dirt, makeup and dead skin cells can sneak through the fabric fibers and wind up on the pillow itself. And just like with your sheets, bugs, dust mites and bacteria love dirty pillows and pillowcases. Gross, right? That’s why regularly washing your pillows is a must, especially if you have acne or allergies.
Step 1: Wash the pillowcase
Start by tossing that grimy pillowcase directly in the washing machine. Since you don’t want to damage the case, make sure to read the care instructions first. Then wash the pillowcase in the hottest water allowed to help kill dust mites and bacteria. And dry the pillowcase on high.
Step 2: Spot treat stains
Hopefully you didn’t cut the tags off your pillows, did you? (That’s kind of a joke – doesn’t everybody?) I learned this the hard way, but not all pillows can go in the washing machine. If yours can’t, you’ll need to spot treat the stains and disinfect the pillow as best you can by hand.
Not sure about your pillows? Cotton, down, feather and fiberfill pillows can usually (but not always) be washed in the machine. Memory foam or latex pillows should be spot treated and cleaned by hand.
To spot treat stains, start by filling a small bowl with water and a little laundry detergent or dish soap. Dip an old toothbrush in the soapy water and lightly scrub stains on the pillow’s surface. If you have blood or other stubborn stains, you can also try treating them with a gentle stain remover, like Folex or Ecos.
Step 3: Sanitize the pillow
If your pillow isn’t machine washable, go ahead and clean it with a disinfecting spray.
[Note: Even if your pillow is machine washable, you may want to do this to get rid of odors and lighten yellowing fabric]
In a small spray bottle, combine ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup water and 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol. Spray the solution over the pillow’s surface, being careful not to drench it. Then place it aside to air dry.
Step 4: Toss the pillow in the washing machine
All pillows have different washing instructions, so make sure to follow the instructions on the label.
That being said, I recommend using hot water and a capful of laundry detergent to help kill bugs that may hiding in the fabric.
It also helps to wash several pillows at once to help keep the machine balanced.
Step 5: Allow pillows to air dry
Sunshine is amazing at lightening stains and killing germs, so place your pillows outside or on a sunny windowsill to dry. Make sure to flip the pillow over halfway through to get both sides.
If you’re in a hurry, you can throw pillows in the dryer on low for 30-45 minutes (just don’t do this with foam pillows, as they can catch on fire). Stop the dryer periodically and fluff pillows to keep the padding from clumping.
Pillow Washing FAQ
How often should I wash my pillows?
The pros recommend washing pillows between 2 and 4 times a year.
How often should I buy new pillows?
Google says you should replace pillows every 1-2 years, but does anyone actually do that? Personally, I say replacing your pillows every 2-3 years, or whenever the padding starts to flatten out, should be just fine. But that’s just me.
How do I clean throw pillows that don’t have removable cases?
A lot of inexpensive pillows (ahem, Target pillows…) have non-removable covers. In that case, spot treat stains using diluted laundry detergent and an old toothbrush. Make sure to sanitize the pillow every few months with a mixture of white vinegar, water and rubbing alcohol. If the pillow is heavily soiled or discolored, it may be time toss it out and a get a new one.