How to wash your pillows

You no doubt wash your bed sheets regularly, but have you given any thought to your pillows? Over time, your pillow can collect lots of dirt, oils, bacteria, dead skin cells, and dust mites, which can all start to break down the filling and make your pillow less supportive.

All that dirt isn't doing any good for your health either, as it can start to clog your pores and lead to acne breakouts. In some cases, a dirty pillow can even lead to respiratory infections or trigger dust mite allergies.

Luckily, most pillows — including feather, down, and memory foam — can be washed easily at home, so you can keep dirt at bay, helping them to last longer and keeping your skin and body healthy.

Below, we'll answer all your questions about washing your pillows, including:

  • Can you wash pillows?
  • How often should you wash your pillows?
  • How to wash pillows
  • How to dry pillows
  • Do dry cleaners clean pillows?
  • How to freshen and disinfect pillows without washing
  • How to keep pillows clean
  • How often should you change your pillow?

Can you wash pillows?

Most pillows can be washed in some way, whether that’s in a washing machine or by spot cleaning, but you should always check the label to find out the best method for your type of pillow. Manufacturers should give detailed advice on washing and drying techniques and temperatures, and you should follow this advice to the letter to keep your pillow in the best condition.

Can you wash pillows in the washing machine?

For most pillows — such as those with feather, down, or cotton — you can wash them in the washing machine as long as the label says it's fine to do so.

However, memory foam pillows should never be washed in the washing machine. This is because the foam filling can start to lose its shape once it gets wet, and often the movement of the machine drum can cause the foam to tear and become damaged. Memory foam fillings are also quite dense and contain many air pockets that can trap water and make it difficult to dry, leading to more bacteria and possibly even mould.

Some memory foam pillows, such as our Memosan anatomic pillows, come with a removable cover that can be put in the washing machine along with the rest of your laundry. But, to keep your pillows in the best condition, you'll need to spot clean them by hand.

How often should you wash your pillows?

You should be washing your bed sheets at least once a week, but you'll be pleased to know that you don't need to wash your pillows as often as you wash your pillowcases. Once every six months would be enough to keep them fresh and clean.

Your pillows might also benefit from a daily fluffing. Simply give them a little shake as you make your bed each morning to remove any dust particles and help them keep their shape.

How to wash pillows

Washing pillows is easy enough to do yourself at home. But it's worth bearing in mind that some pillows need different cleaning methods to keep their fillings in the best condition. For example, some pillows can go in the washing machine, while others should only be handwashed to protect their fillings.

The advice below will take you through each cleaning method.

How to spot clean pillows

It's common for your pillow to pick up small stains here and there in between washes, and there's no need to worry and throw it in the washing machine each time one occurs. You can simply spot clean it by hand. This is the best option for memory foam pillows that can't be submerged in water.

Once you've removed the pillowcase, fill a bowl with warm water and laundry detergent. Take a clean sponge or cloth and dip it in the water, then gently rub the stain until it lifts. Leave the pillow to dry completely before placing it back on your bed.

Our clean and fresh mattress and bedding care kit contains everything you need to mop up spills and keep your pillows, mattress, duvet, and bedding as good as new.

For stubborn stains, you might want to rub a paste of baking soda and water onto the stain, letting it sit for around half an hour. Then, make sure you wipe away any remaining paste. Leaving it to dry and vacuuming with the upholstery attachment might help get rid of any remaining baking soda, but you might also want to give it a deep clean using one of the methods below to make sure you've gotten rid of all residue.

How to wash memory foam pillows

Submerging a memory foam pillow in water can make it heavier and more vulnerable to ripping, so you'll need to take extreme care to protect your pillow from damage. As a precaution, we'd only recommend vacuuming your memory foam pillow with an upholstery attachment and spot cleaning wherever possible to remove dust and dirt.

Some memory foam pillows, such as our Octasense pillow, come with a removable filling so you can take out the memory foam neck and wash the cover.

How to wash feather, down, cotton, or polyester pillows in the washing machine

The best way to wash feather, down, cotton, and polyester pillows is by putting them in the washing machine. Before doing so, make sure you check the label to find out if your pillow is safe to be cleaned this way. The label should also give you specific washing instructions that will help you clean your pillow safely.

We'd usually recommend washing feather, cotton, or polyester pillows on a cold, gentle cycle, adding two pillows at a time to keep the drum balanced and avoid damaging your machine. It's important that you only use a small amount of detergent, as the suds can be difficult to rinse out of the filling. About half a cap will be enough. It's also a good idea to forgo the fabric softener, which can coat the filling and make it less fluffy and soft.

To make sure there's no detergent left in the filling after washing your pillows, you might want to give them a second rinse before drying.

How to handwash microfibre or latex pillows

For microfibre or latex pillows that can't go in the washing machine, you can follow the steps below to hand wash them.

  1. Fill a sink, bath, or large container with water and half a cap of mild laundry detergent.
  2. Gently submerge your microfibre or latex pillow into the water, pressing it down to allow the water to get deeper into the filling.
  3. Repeat this twice more.
  4. Drain the container and refill it with fresh, warm water without detergent.
  5. Keep squeezing your pillow in a similar way until the water runs clear and no soap is left inside the filling.
  6. Drain the water again and gently squeeze the pillow once more to get rid of any excess water.
  7. Leave your pillow to air dry

Washing yellow stained pillows

If you're wondering why your pillow is going yellow, there's no need to worry. During the night, sweat can coat the fabric of your pillow and, when it dries, it can cause those unsightly yellow stains. But there are a few ways to remove these stains right at home.

Whether you're washing your pillows by hand or adding them to the washing machine, replace your ordinary detergent with:

  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • ¾ cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup of washing up liquid
  • 3 tablespoons of your ordinary laundry detergent

Then, follow your usual cleaning routine. Do not wash your pillows in bleach, as this can damage the filling and could cause more staining.

If your pillows are still yellow after following the steps above, then it's probably best to invest in a new one. Here at Dormeo, we have a wide range of pillows that are designed to be supportive for a range of different sleeping positions.

How to dry pillows

Once you've finished cleaning your pillows, it's important to dry them fully before placing them back on your bed. Feather, down, cotton, and polyester pillows can usually be dried in the tumble dryer, but make sure you check the label first. If it suggests that your pillow isn't safe in the tumble dryer, then you'll need to leave it to air dry.

How to dry pillows in the dryer

If your pillows are safe to go in the tumble dryer, we'd recommend putting them on a low heat cycle for 45–60 minutes at a time, checking for any damp spots at the end of each run.

You'll probably need to fluff the filling back up as the pillow dries, so it can be a good idea to add a couple of dryer balls to the machine along with your pillows to break up any clumps. If you don't have any drier balls, you can use a new tennis ball instead.

It might also be a good idea to periodically take your pillows out of the dryer and plump them up by hand.

To keep your pillows smelling fresh when they come out of the tumble dryer, you can add a dryer sheet to the machine along with the dryer balls.

Always make sure your pillows are completely dry before placing them back on your bed.

How to air dry pillows

If your pillow doesn't go in the tumble dryer, you can easily air dry it outside. Just pick a cool, dry day and hang your pillow on the washing line. Alternatively, you can lay it flat out of direct sunlight. When air drying your pillow, keep fluffing it up every couple of hours to break up any lumps.

To dry your memory foam pillows, gently squeeze out any excess water and lay them flat in a dry, well ventilated room. You may also want to place a fan near the pillows to help speed up the process.

Water may pool underneath your pillows as they dry. If this happens, make sure you mop it up to stop them from reabsorbing the water.

Again, always make sure your pillows are thoroughly dry before putting them back on your bed.

How long does it take to dry a pillow?

How long a pillow takes to dry depends on its size and the drying method you use. Most pillows can take around six hours to dry completely, but those with denser fillings could take longer.

Do dry cleaners clean pillows?

Although your pillow label might say 'dry clean' this is not usually recommended for any pillow type. This is because the methods dry cleaners use may not necessarily tackle deep down into the filling and remove dead skin cells, bacteria, and other contaminants. There's also a chance that some of the solvent your dry cleaner uses will remain in your pillow's filling, which could be toxic.

For these reasons, it's suggested that you clean your pillows at home using the methods above.

How to freshen and disinfect pillows without washing

To keep your pillows as fresh as possible, you might want to also disinfect them between washes. A freshener spray, such as our clean and fresh lavender mattress freshener spray or mattress and bedding care kit will inhibit dust mites and bacteria while leaving a fresh and soothing scent to help you drift off.

You could also try hanging your pillow up outside on a cool, dry day. As the air circulates, it will help freshen up your pillow. 

How to keep pillows clean

To keep your pillows clean in between washes, you should be cleaning your pillowcases at least once a week. This can help to keep dirt and oils at bay and prevent dust mites.

Showering or washing your face before bed can help to reduce the amount of oil and bacteria that gets on your pillows. You should avoid having pets near your bedding too, as they can bring in a range of dirt and germs from outside.

You might also want to invest in a pillow protector which will sit underneath your pillowcase and act as another barrier for dirt and oils. This should be washed once a month along with your mattress protector.

How to revive a flat pillow

When you're sleeping on your pillow each night, the filling can compress and become a little bit flat and less supportive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs washing. You can easily revive them to help bring their filling back to life.

There are two ways you can revive your pillows: by hand or in a dryer. To fluff a pillow by hand, take hold of both sides and quickly compress them in and out for around 30 seconds. Then, flip the pillow over lengthwise and repeat the process. You might also want to lay your pillow down and hit it slightly to break up the filling and even it out.

If your pillow goes in the dryer, you can put it on a short cycle with a low heat for around ten minutes. Add some dryer balls to help fluff the pillow up more. However, always check the label to make sure your pillow can be used in the dryer. If not, it's best to stick to fluffing it by hand.

How often should you change your pillows?

Although washing pillows can help them last longer, even with the very best care your pillow will eventually start to lose its support. Pillows usually last between one to three years depending on the quality, with higher quality pillows lasting the longest. We'd usually recommend changing yours for a new one every three years to make sure you're getting the best night's sleep possible.

To check if your pillow needs replacing, try folding it in half. If it doesn’t spring back up to its original shape, then it might be time to change it. Any lumps and bumps that are hard to get rid of might also indicate that it's time for a new pillow.

If you think you need to replace your pillow, our guide on choosing the perfect pillow will help you find the right filling, firmness, and weight for you.

Memory foam or microfibre pillows are often a more hygienic option to feather or down, as the filling doesn't tend attract dust mites and bacteria as much as feather versions. Some pillows, such as our Evercomfy silver pillows, also contain a silver antimicrobial treatment to help repel bacteria and reduce odours for ultimate bed hygiene, so these might be a good option if you're looking to upgrade your current pillow.

Washing pillows regularly can help keep dust and bacteria at bay. No matter what kind of pillow you have, you can keep it clean and fresh by following the advice above. You might also want to take a look at some of our other guides and advice, like our mattress care guide for information on cleaning and maintaining your mattress.

If you think it's time for a new pillow, the why not try one of our Dormeo pillows? We have a wide variety of styles and specifications suitable for different sleeping positions. Just take a look at our advice on the best mattress and pillows for side, back, and front sleepers to find the perfect pillow for you.

Once you've chosen your pillow, take a look at our range of accessories which features luxurious pillowcases and soothing freshening sprays to help you get the perfect night's sleep.

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