How to Clean Pillows – Washing Down and Feather Bed Pillows

Since you lay your head on your pillow every night, you want to make sure it’s as clean and germ-free as possible. And no, we’re not just talking about the pillowcase itself. In addition to regularly cleaning your sheets and duvet, you should also take care of your pillows, mattresses and mattress toppers. Pillows, in particular, should be washed at least two to four times a year (for example, every four months) to help them last longer. But not all types of pillows – down, fiber filling, and strong foam – should not be treated the same.

While most styles are machine washable, some are dry clean only, have front load washing machine restrictions, or only recommend spot treatment. And the last thing you want is a hard thing to clean up. The content and care label on the pillow is the best place to start, but if you can’t find step-by-step instructions or need additional guidance, follow this guide from Carolyn Forte, Director of the Pillow. Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, How To Wash Pillows No Matter Of Size, Shape Or Fill.

How to wash fiberglass pillows in the washer

You’re in luck: Most down and fiber pillows are machine-friendly, which means you can just throw them in the washing machine for a refresh. Make sure to wash two pillows at a time to keep the washer balanced, ensuring complete cleaning. While any washing machine will do, front-loading or top-loading machines without an agitator (aka the large spit in the middle of some machines) are your best bet. If an agitator-type top loader is your only option, place the pillows in the tub vertically to reduce the risk of them being damaged by the agitator.

It goes without saying that you should always read your pillow’s care label and follow the directions accordingly. If you’ve cut off the label or can’t find the instructions, use this step-by-step as a guide:

  1. Select the gentle cycle and use lukewarm water, then add an additional cold water rinse and spin cycle.
  2. Add a small amount of detergent, for example Good Housekeeping Seal Star Tide.
  3. Dry pillows on low heat, inflating and turning often. To help keep pillows plump, add a few Nellie’s dryer balls. Stop the dryer several times throughout the cycle to inflate them and break up any lumps by hand.

    1. How to wash solid foam pillows

      Unfortunately, you can’t put your latex or memory foam pillows directly in the washing machine. Although foam pillows are dust mite resistant, it is still important to clean them regularly. As always, you should check the washing instructions on the pillow label or follow Forte’s cleaning method outlined here:

      1. Remove pillow cases or pillow cases and wash according to the care label. If you cut the care label, stick the pillow cases and covers in the washing machine, select the normal or occasional cycle and wash in warm or hot water. Add detergent, such as Good Housekeeping Seal Star Tide.
      2. To remove dust or dirt on the pillow, vacuum both sides or tumble dry on no heat or air only cycle for 20 minutes.
      3. Clean soiled areas with a cloth dampened in a mild soapy soap solution. Rinse lightly with a damp cloth. (FYI, wet foam tears easily, so be gentle with the soap and water solution.)
      4. Allow the pillow to air dry completely before placing it back on the bed or sofa.

        1. How to know when to replace your pillows

          No matter how diligently you clean your pillows, eventually you will have to buy new ones. The sure-fire way to know when to throw them away: “If you fold the pillow in half and it doesn’t spring back, plan a shopping spree,” says Forte. If your pillows smell funny even after washing them well, it’s also a good idea to replace them. To help extend the life of your pillow, use liners under your pillowcases and wash the pillows every four to six months.

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