Plush, fresh pillows are a dream! Keeping them clean? May feel more like a nightmare. Though guidelines say the average pillow only needs a wash one every four to six months (or three to four times per year), it can still be a nuisance when you aren’t sure where to start. Plus, since certain washing methods can ruin the materials inside of the casing, you’ll want to ensure you’re following proper pillow protocol. That’s why we asked cleaning pros to share the scoop on how to wash pillows based on their filling type, plus two simple tricks to freshen them when you’re in a hurry.
How to wash down or feather pillows
While you may have heard that down or feather pillows are notorious for dust and dust mites and can exacerbate asthma and breathing problems, evidence shows that they do not actually harbor more dust and contaminants than other pillows. In fact, one study found that synthetic pillows are just as high of a risk factor for severe asthma, if not more so, than down or feather. That being said, down and feather pillows can still harbor dust and dust mites, and should be washed on the regular.
To clean down or feather pillows, it’s best to use a gentle cycle with a mild detergent,” says Sharon Garcia, Fabuloso cleaning expert and self-titled “CEO of Cleaning” on Instagram and Tiktok. In addition, it’s a good idea to wash two pillows in the machine at the same time to balance out the weight. Add on an extra rinse and spin cycle if you can to remove all soap from the pillow and as much moisture from the interior as possible.
Before tossing the pillows in the dryer, some manufacturers recommend pressing each one between two towels to soak up excess water and reduce the drying time. To make sure they hold up in the dryer, use low or no heat.
The easy way to guarantee they come out looking good as new? Add a couple of tennis balls in with the pillows. “They can help fluff them up while drying,” says Garcia.
To see just how well the tennis balls work, watch the video below:
How to wash polyester pillows
Polyester pillows can easily be cleaned in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, Garcia says. “Use a mild detergent and avoid using fabric softener, as it can leave a residue.” (For best results stick to cold to warm water).
As with down and feather pillows, be sure to balance out the machine by washing two pillows at a time or throw some towels in with it. For the drying cycle, dryer balls or tennis balls can come in handy once again to help break up the polyester clumps. Keep the dryer on low to medium heat, and take the pillows out every 15 minutes or so to give them a good fluff.
Notice yellow stains? Pillows can trap skin cells and body oils — even when covered by a pillowcase — which can cause the unsightly stains. If you notice your feather or polyester pillows have discolored areas, try this trick: “Mix a solution of hydrogen peroxide and dish soap,” says Garcia. “Gently dab the mixture onto the stained areas and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Finally, rinse the pillow thoroughly and let it air dry or toss in the dryer on a low cycle.” The peroxide and dish soap combo dissolve oils and skin cells so your pillows look like new.
How to clean memory foam or latex pillows
Unfortunately these materials can break down in a washing machine or a dryer. “For memory foam or latex pillows, spot cleaning is recommended,” advises Garcia. “Use a mild detergent mixed with water and gently dab the stained areas. Avoid soaking or submerging the pillows to prevent damage.” (Click thorough here to learn how to clean a memory foam mattress.)
Some memory foam and latex pillows can take 24 hours to dry, so it’s important to help them dry as efficiently as possible to prevent mildew. So after spot cleaning, let the memory foam or latex dry on a flat, ventilated surface, and use a fan or a hair-dryer to help the material dry more quickly.
How to clean buckwheat pillows
Buckwheat pillows require a special kind of cleaning process, which, fortunately isn’t too difficult. The most important tip to remember is that buckwheat hulls cannot get wet, as the water will ruin them completely.
First, empty out the pillow by pouring the buckwheat onto a large cookie sheet or into a wide, shallow bowl. Depending on the size of your container and the amount of buckwheat, you may need a second cookie sheet or bowl. When your pillows are empty, place the containers of buckwheat outside in bright sunlight. The sun’s rays will help remove any moisture and odor.
In the meantime, wash the pillow casing in cold water with a mild detergent. Some buckwheat-pillow manufacturers create durable casings that can be tossed in the washing machine and the dryer.
What *not* to do when washing pillows
The one thing to keep in mind when cleaning any type of pillow: “Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the fabric and filling,” says Garcia. “Additionally, avoid excessive heat or drying on high settings, as it can cause shrinkage or damage.”
How to freshen any pillow fast
If you don’t have a lot of time or just want to get your pillows looking cleaner when company is on the way, there are ways to do it without putting them through a full wash cycle. “When you’re in a hurry, a quick way to freshen any kind of pillow is to sprinkle baking soda on them, let it sit for about 15 minutes, then vacuum it off,” says Garcia. “It helps absorb odors and leaves them smelling fresh.”
A quick easy way to remove grime from pillows?. “Lint rollers!” says Jeff Pierce, Airbnb Superhost and author of Master of Vacation Rentals. T”hey are an absolute necessity in the rental cleaning process. We use them to quickly pick up stray hairs from guests and pets on throw pillows, furniture and bedding.” This works especially on decorative pillows that can’t be tossed in the wash.
For more laundry tips, keep reading!