How to Wash a Pillow? [Steps to Washing Different Pillow Types]


Washing your bed pillow properly is one of the things that can greatly contribute to your health. Studies have shown our pillows accumulate a large number of bacteria from dead skin cells, body oils, sweat, and dust mites, which can cause health problems with allergies and the respiratory system.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to wash a pillow of different types as well as how often to wash it, and when’s the right time to replace it.

How to Wash a Pillow?

There are different types of pillows, which means they need to be cleaned in the right way based on their material. When cleaning your pillow, it’s important to read the label with cleaning instructions first and try to closely follow it. However, if there aren’t any instructions or you’ve thrown them away, here are the different ways for washing a pillow:

  • In the washing machine

Pillows filled with cotton, feather, down, or fiberfill can be washed in the machine using warm water on the gentle cycle.

  • By hand

Pillows made from materials that aren’t machine washable should be dry-cleaned to avoid damaging them. A common pillow of this type is the foam pillow, which you can clean by washing its removable cover and using a vacuum attachment to remove the dirt and dust from the actual pillow.

DID YOU KNOW: If your pillow smells a little dank, it means there are bacteria on it. The same goes for your mattress, which you can learn how to wash in our guide.

How to Wash Pillows According to Their Stuffing?

When cleaning your pillow, it’s important to wash it in the right way to avoid damaging its material and stitching. As we discussed, whether you’ll wash your pillow in the machine or by hand depends on the material it’s made of.
Different types of pillow materials include:

  • Memory foam
  • Cotton
  • Feather
  • Down
  • Polyester

How to Wash a Memory Foam Pillow?

Memory foam pillows are the dry-cleaning kind and require special care—they can’t be washed in the washing machine, and should never be overflowing with water. The material can be easily damaged if you wash your pillow this way, and the clothes dryer can melt the foam as well. So, the safest method for washing this kind of pillow is hand washing. There are a few steps you should follow when it comes to how to wash a memory foam pillow:

Step 1: Remove and Wash Your Pillowcase

First, remove your pillowcase and wash it. Some of them can be washed in the machine, but pillowcases made of materials like silk require special care, so it’s best to first check the label for instructions.
If your pillow has an inner cover or a protective layer, it should be removed and hand washed using a mild detergent.

Step 2: Spot Clean

When washing a pillow of this type, determine exactly which places require cleaning. Then, dampen a clean cloth with water and add a small amount of mild detergent, rub it lightly over the spots, and softly press in to penetrate the stain.

Soak a second clean cloth and wring the water out almost completely before placing it over the cleansed area and firmly pushing it into the pillow. This will pull out the detergent and staining, but you may need to repeat the process a few times.

Step 3: Dry

For memory foam to dry properly, it must be exposed to air, as the pillow can be damaged by the dryer.

Instead, press a clean, dry cloth firmly against the treated area, and repeat the process while spinning the towel as needed until the area is completely dry. Allow the cushion to dry entirely by leaving it uncovered in a well-ventilated place, as this is critical for mold prevention.

How to Wash a Cotton Pillow?

The best way to wash pillows made of cotton is in the washing machine, as cotton pillows are one of the easiest types to wash and dry, Here’s a detailed explanation of how to clean your cotton pillow:

Step 1: Remove Your Pillowcase and Put the Pillow in the Washing Machine

Remove your pillowcase, cover, and protector and wash them separately with your sheets before putting them back on the clean pillows. To wash your pillow, add a gentle liquid detergent and run the washing machine on a gentle cycle with warm water. Before starting the cycle, place up to two pillows in the drum, and make sure your washer isn’t overloaded.

Step 2: Complete an Extra Rinse Cycle

When cleaning pillows, make sure all the detergent has been washed out before placing them in the dryer. To be sure, it’s recommended to run the pillows through an extra rinse cycle, and run two spin cycles after the rinse cycle is over to remove any remaining water.

Step 3: Dry

Drying cotton pillows in a dryer is fine, and a good idea for making your pillows extra fluffy is to add two tennis balls into the dryer. Set the dryer timer to 30 minutes on low to medium heat. Check your pillows for wetness every 30 minutes, especially deep in the center, and repeat the process until the pillow is completely dry.

How to Wash a Feather Pillow?

Although soft and luxurious, feather pillows need to be washed at least once a year to maintain their quality and remove any dust mites and bacteria, eliminating any remaining dust, dirt, sweat, and oils. This kind of pillow can also be washed in the washing machine by following these steps:

Step 1: Remove the Pillowcase and Check for Rips

Before you wash a feather pillow, be sure to first remove the pillowcase or any coverings. Another important thing is to check your pillow for any rips or tears and repair them with a needle so the feathers don’t escape during the washing cycle.

Step 2: Load the Washer Correctly

When washing down pillows, it’s necessary to wash two pillows at the same time, as this will help balance the washer tub and allow for greater performance. The best washers are front-loaders with no agitators, but any washer will do as long as the pillows fit properly.

Step 3: Choose the Right Detergent and Water Temperature

Use the gentle cycle and set the water temperature to cold or cool, and use less detergent for washing pillows in the washing machine. Only use 1–2 teaspoons of a low-suds, high-efficiency detergent to avoid soap residue and feathers clumping together. If suds aren’t thoroughly washed away, they can damage the feathers, so it’s recommended to rinse and repeat.

Step 4: Rinse and Repeat

When you wash a feather pillow, it’s not a bad idea to use an extra rinse and spin cycle to remove any excess moisture and soap residue from the feather filling. So, just rinse and repeat to make sure it’s completely dry.

Step 5: Dry

Fluff the pillows while they’re still wet as soon as you remove them from the washer, and put them in the dryer on medium heat. To prevent feathers from clumping during the drying cycle, add wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or even a pair of clean canvas tennis shoes. Every 15 minutes, turn off the dryer and fluff the pillows by hand. The time it takes for the pillows to dry will vary depending on their size.

How to Wash a Down Pillow?

The highest-quality down pillows are made of soft feathers from the underside of a goose. Unfortunately, down pillows are exposed to dirt, dust, and grime over time, which might make you wonder—can you put down pillows in the washing machine? Well, don’t worry—pillows of this kind can be put in the washing machine, and here are the exact steps for washing them:

Step 1: Remove and Wash Your Pillowcase

First, remove the pillowcase from your down pillow and wash it separately with clothes if it’s made of cotton. However, if the pillowcase is made from a delicate material like silk, run it through a separate delicate wash and make sure to air dry it instead of putting it in the dryer because it may shrink or get damaged.

Step 2: Set the Washing Machine to a Delicate Cycle

Select the wool or delicate cycle on your washing machine, and use cold or warm water to avoid pillow shrinkage. Use the highest spin speed to extract as much moisture as possible from the pillow. If possible, adjust the parameters so that there are two rinse cycles to completely remove all the detergent. If you soak your down pillow in hot water, it will shrink, so you should avoid this.

Step 3: Choose the Right Amount of Mild Detergent

If you have a top-loading machine, fill it with a cup of laundry detergent and run the cycle for 30 seconds. Before you wash a down pillow in the washing machine, allow the detergent and water to mix. If you have a front-loading machine, pour a cup of laundry detergent into the detergent dispenser on the top. To make your pillows even whiter, add a 1/2 cup of oxygenated bleach to your washing machine.

Step 4: Place and Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine

If you have a front-loading machine, you’ll need to insert the pillows before starting the cycle. To keep top-load washing machines balanced, add two pillows.
Down pillows are buoyant and will float in the water, but this can be avoided by fully saturating them before starting the cycle.

Step 5: Run the Cycle

Allow the washer to complete the cycle by closing the door. If your washing machine has a single rinse cycle, do two full washes to ensure all the detergent is rinsed out of the pillow.

Step 6: Dry

Once the cycle is finished, your pillows will be drenched, so press down on them with a terry towel to absorb the extra water. When thinking about how to wash a down pillow, remember that if you wring or twist the pillow, the feathers will be destroyed.

Set your dryer to tumble mode with no additional heat, and add tennis balls to fluff them up. If your pillows aren’t completely dry after the cycle, repeat the process until they are.

How to Wash a Polyester Pillow?

Pillows made of polyester are the most common. They come in a variety of thicknesses and stiffness levels and sizes and are made of breathable fabrics ranging from cotton to linen and bamboo.

Polyester pillows are among the nicest cushions on the market today. They’re often affordable, hypoallergenic, readily available practically anywhere, and simple to clean. The best way to wash pillows of this kind is in the washing machine:

Step 1: Treat Stains

Check for any stains that require special treatment and treat them with a stain remover, or pretreat them using a bit of high-efficiency, low-suds detergent, which has enough enzymes to remove practically all stains. With a delicate brush, work in the stain remover and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before washing the entire pillow.

Step 2: Set the Washing Machine Temperature and Cycle

Select the gentle cycle with cold or warm water and a modest amount of detergent (a couple of tablespoons). Wash pillows in the washing machine with an extra rinse cycle once the cycle is finished to ensure all of the detergent is removed.

Step 3: Load the Washing Machine Correctly

If you have a top-load washer with a center agitator, load two pillows into the machine to keep it balanced, and add extra towels if necessary. Adding a couple of towels to front-load and high-efficiency top-load washers will help balance the weight, but one pillow can be washed successfully on its own.

Step 4: Dry

Before putting the pillows in the dryer on low to medium heat, fluff the filling. To break up any clumps in the filling, add wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or clean canvas shoes. Every 15 minutes, turn off the dryer and fluff the pillows by hand. It will take longer than usual to completely dry the pillows.

DID YOU KNOW: Although the best down pillow for you depends on your sleeping position, the goose-down pillow is the fluffiest pillow on the market.

How Often Should You Wash Your Pillows?

While the rest of your bedding should be washed regularly, pillows have a longer grace period and should be washed once every six months at the absolute least. Consider cleaning pillows at least every three months or four times a year to keep them looking their best. As you sleep on your pillow every night, your sweat, dead skin cells, oil, and dust cause bacteria to build up on your pillow, so washing it more often is good for your health. Pillowcases should be washed in the same manner as your bedding every week.

Key Takeaways

Pillows accumulate a large number of bacteria from dead skin cells, body oils, sweat, and dust mites, which can cause health problems with allergies and respiratory systems.
Pillows filled with cotton, feather, down, or fiberfill can be washed in a machine using warm water on a gentle cycle.
Pillows made of materials that require dry-cleaning shouldn’t be washed in the machine to avoid damaging them.
Consider washing your pillow at least every three months or four times a year to keep them looking its best.
Bacteria will build up eventually regardless of how often you clean your pillow, which is why it’s important to replace it every three years.

When Is the Time to Replace Your Pillow?

Washing pillows in the washing machine or by hand will keep away bacteria, but there comes a time when they need to be replaced. Regardless of how often you clean it, bacteria will build up on your pillow, which is why it’s important to replace your pillow every three years. Experts advise replacing pillows more often, even every one to two years for peak support.

Tips to Keep Your Pillow Nice and Clean

Apart from regularly cleaning and replacing it, here are a few extra tips for taking proper care of your pillow:

  • Always Check the Care Instructions Tag

Before washing your pillow, always check the care instruction tag first to see can you put pillows in the washing machine or if you should wash them by hand. If the pillows should be washed in the washing machine, also check on what temperature to put them and what kind of detergent to use.

  • Fluff Your Pillow Regularly

Aside from regularly cleaning it, you should fluff your pillow frequently to keep it fresh and comfortable. You can do that by hand or in the drying machine, but read the instructions on the label first to see if it’s suitable for the dryer. Put the pillow into the dryer and add tennis balls inside a tube sock, or use tied-up clothes, stuffed animals, or anything else that’s safe to put in the dryer to get fluffier pillows!

  • Use Baking Soda/Vinegar to Clean Them

As we all know, soda is a natural deodorizer with the power to remove the fabric smell from your pillows. However, it can also whiten pillows when mixed with vinegar, dishwasher detergent, and laundry detergent.

To whiten pillows and make them less smelly, mix soda with vinegar and your standard detergent. When washing in the machine, wash the pillows twice to rinse out all the detergent. When washing pillows with vinegar by hand, apply vinegar to yellow spots with a toothbrush, and place your pillow in the sun to lighten any discolored patches on it.

  • Your Pillow Has to Be Completely Dry

Before putting your clean pillow in the pillowcase, make sure it’s completely dry to avoid mildew, mold, and mites, which can cause bacteria to accumulate.

DID YOU KNOW:  One of the best cooling pillows is memory foam.


You can benefit from better health and sleep by washing pillows more often and avoiding bacteria building up on them. First, always read the instructions tag to know how to wash pillows, by hand or in the machine. Use soda or vinegar mixed with detergent to whiten your pillows and make them less smelly. Always make sure your pillows are completely dry before use, and remember to clean your pillow at least 4 times a year! Have a nice sleep!


How often should I wash my pillow?

Pillows gain a lot of bacteria from sweat, oils, dust mites, and dead skin cells, which can cause allergies and respiratory problems, so you should wash your pillows at least once every six months. However, it’s recommended to clean them every 3 months or at least 4 times a year to keep them clean and comfortable to use.

Can pillows be dried in a dryer?

Yes, pillows can be dried in the dryer, but read the instructions label first to see if the pillow type is suitable to be dried in the dryer and on what heat. Always add two tennis balls in a tube sock to dry together with the pillows to make them fluffier. Dry your pillows for an hour, and always make sure they’re completely dry before use.

Should you wash new pillows before use?

Always wash your new pillow before use. Although new pillows from the store can rarely be dirty and are even clean to the eye, they can retain a lot of chemicals and dust mites bad for your skin and health. To ensure your new pillows are clean, make sure you know how to wash a pillow the right way.


Being a literature graduate, researching became second nature to me and I used this skill to write in-depth reviews of products and services! When not writing, you will find me curled up on a comfy mattress with lots of pillows and a book!

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