Learn how to wash pillows without damaging them. Pillows are among the most neglected items when it comes to washing and cleaning since we tend to focus on beddings, blankets, and pillowcases. However, your pillow can harbor mites, bugs, saliva, oil, dust, and droppings when left unwashed. You don’t have to wash them as often as your clothes and sheets, but doing it properly will ensure you’ll have a restful sleep.
How to Wash Pillows
Ideally, you should wash your pillows once a year, but you can also do so twice a year or every four months, depending on your preference and lifestyle. If there are days when you go to bed without washing your hair, then you must wash them more often.
With that said, the right method for washing your pillows will depend on the product’s material. Most pillows are machine-washable, while others are handwash-only. You can also find pillows that can only be dry cleaned or spot cleaned. Similar to fabrics, the care or laundry symbol and instruction tag is your best guide.
Cleaning Agents Needed
To wash your pillows, either by hand or machine, you must have the following at hand:
- Mild, low-sud, antibacterial detergent
- Baking soda, stain cleaner, or enzyme-containing detergents
- Optional: Bleach, borax, and dishwasher detergent
How to Wash Pillows - Cotton, Polyester, Down
Once you have your cleaning agents ready, the steps you need to follow for how to wash pillows efficiently are:
- Spot Treat
- Wash - by washing machine or hand
Preparation for How to Wash Pillows
Although it’s tempting to wash your pillow with the pillowcase or pillow cover on since it saves you time, you must not do so. As such, before starting the actual washing process, make sure you remove everything. This way, the pillows get cleaned inside out.
If you have buckwheat hull pillows, remove the filling and place it in a wide bowl or large cookie sheet. Then, place it in an area with good light to help remove odor and kill any bugs or mites lurking around. You would only need to wash the cover.
Check the pillow for any stains. You can also do this before removing the pillowcase because if the case has a stain, it probably seeped through and stained the pillow. If it’s stained, here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare a solution by mixing two parts of water with one part of mild soap, detergent or baking soda.
- Dip a clean cloth in the solution and dab it on the stain.
- Rub it gently until the stain lightens or is completely removed.
- For stubborn stains, you may want to purchase a commercial fabric spot cleaner. These are typically sprayed on then washed. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
How to Wash Pillows
Depending on your pillow’s material or laundry symbols, you can machine or hand wash it.
How to Wash Pillows Using a Washing Machine
Ideally, you should use a front-loading washing machine for your pillows since top-loading models can be tough on them. However, if it’s the only thing that you have, setting it to the gentlest cycle is advisable.
Either way, the general steps involved in machine washing your pillows include:
- WATER - Fill your washing machine with water. For down, feather, and polyester pillows, use warm water, while for buckwheat hull shell casing, use cold water. You can wash your cotton pillows with either cold or warm water.
- LOADING - Load one or two pillows, depending on your washing machine's size, to maintain balance and allow the water and detergent to circulate better. If you have a top-loading washer, make sure you place the pillows in a vertical position to prevent any damage that can be caused by the machine’s agitator.
- DETERGENT - Add a scoop or cup of detergent to the loaded washer. For down, feather, and polyester, a tablespoon of the detergent would be enough. If you’re using cold water or if you want to make your pillows whiter, add a teaspoon or a few drops of bleach, half a cup of borax, and a cup of mild dishwasher detergent powder.
- CYCLE - Set the cycle to gentle and heavy or large, two rinse cycles, and the timer for about three to five minutes. If using warm water, ensure that the machine is also set to warm. Let the machine do its job but check on it a couple of times to make sure the pillows have not got caught up and are still balanced evenly.
- FINISHING - Once done, take the pillows out of the machine and tumble-dry, if the care instructions indicate this is ok to do so. If not, transfer your rinsed pillow to an empty basin or clean surface and press on it gently to remove excess water. To dry, place it on top of a clean towel or terry cloth.
How to Wash Pillows By Hand
The handwashing method is the gentlest way to wash your pillows. You can use this method for both handwash-only and machine-washable pillows. All you have to do are the following:
- WATER - Fill your tub, sink, or a large basin with warm or cold water, depending on the pillow’s material, making sure you can completely submerge your pillow.
- DETERGENT - Add a tablespoon of detergent, slowly swirl with your hands until it becomes bubbly. Place your pillow and press on it gently to ensure it absorbs the water with soap.
- WASHING - Let your pillow soak for 30 or 60 seconds. Gently squeeze or massage the pillow a few times until you’re satisfied or you think it’s already clean enough.
- RINSING - Drain the soapy dirty water or transfer the pillow to another basin with clean, warm water or cold water. You can also place your pillow in an empty basin and run it with tap water from your faucet. Massage or squeeze your pillow until you remove all or most of the soap and suds.
- FINISHING - Drain the water or transfer your rinsed pillow to an empty basin or clean surface and press on it gently to remove excess water. To dry, place it on top of a clean towel or terry cloth.
You can dry your washed pillows in several different ways including air drying and tumble drying.
You can allow it to air dry by laying it flat on a surface or hanging it on your clothesline. Always make sure there’s only minimal sunlight.
You should also fluff your pillows manually a few times before they are completely dry to maintain their shape and keep the filling from clumping.
If your pillow’s care instruction says you can dry it via a tumble dryer, then follow these steps:
- Preferably, get two tennis balls, place each in a clean, white sock, and throw them in the dryer. They will help maintain your pillow’s fluffiness, decrease drying time, and prevent clumping of the pillow filling.
- Place your pillows carefully for drying. Similar to washing, place one or two at a time, depending on your dryer’s size.
- Set the dryer to fluff, with no heat or air, especially if the pillow's feather-filled. For most pillows, set the timer for about 20 minutes.
- Turn the dryer on and let it do its job.
- If you don't have any tennis balls, set your timer for lots of 5 minutes and fluff your pillow manually in between each reset.
How to Wash Pillows Bonus Tip: Apart from washing or spot cleaning your pillows, make sure you fluff them daily to remove dust and keep their shape. Once a month, you should also allow your pillows to air dry by hanging them outdoors, away from direct sunlight.
How to Wash Pillows - Memory Foam and Latex
If you’ve noticed, memory foam pillows haven’t been mentioned above since; usually, you can only spot clean them. That said, if the label says otherwise, washing it by hand is the best way to go.
To keep your memory foam and latex pillows clean, you would need the following:
- Handheld vacuum cleaner
- Baking soda or mild detergent
Cleaning these types of pillows involves three steps, namely:
- Spot Cleaning
Assuming you’ve already removed the pillowcase or cover, get your handheld vacuum cleaner and set it to the lowest setting. Vacuum each side of the pillow.
If care instructions say you can place the pillow in the tumble dryer, you can skip vacuuming. Set the dryer to the air-only or no-heat cycle and the timer to 20 minutes. Turn the dryer on and let it do its job.
- Inspect the pillow if there are any stains present.
- If there is, dilute one part of mild detergent or baking soda in two parts of water.
- Get a clean cloth and rinse it in the solution until damp.
- Gently rub the damp cloth on the stain. Be very gentle since memory foam and latex can tear easily.
Let the pillows air dry by placing them on top of a clean surface, away from direct sunlight.
How to Wash Pillows - In Conclusion
A regularly washed and cleaned pillow will ensure you won’t have allergies and skin irritations. You can always refer to the care instruction on your pillow to know which method to use and ensure they don’t get damaged because of the wrong technique. Always make sure your pillows dry completely, even if you just spot cleaned them since moisture allows mildew and mold growth.