Do you really have to wash your pillows on the regular, even if yours are hypoallergenic? The short answer is yes. However, this doesn’t mean you have to wash them very often. The average pillow needs a wash one every four to six months, or three to four times per year. So, even if your pillow requires a more rigorous cleaning regimen, you don’t have to worry about it all that often.
Figuring out when to clean your pillows, and not just your pillow cases, is half the battle. Knowing how to wash pillows is just as important, because certain washing methods can ruin the materials inside of the casing. Memory foam or latex, for instance, can break down in a washing machine and create a lumpy, bumpy pillow that can cause quite the neck ache. Plus, the buckwheat inside buckwheat pillows can never get wet.
Along with reducing your allergies and skin irritation, washing a pillow with special attention to its particular cleaning requirements will preserve its shape and increase its longevity. Before washing any pillow, first remove the cover and wash it separately. Then, be sure to check the exterior of the pillow for any rips or tears that could cause a disaster while cleaning!
Clean down or feather in the washing machine.
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 need to be washed on the regular. Most of these pillows can be tossed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, using warm to cool water and a mild detergent with low suds. Hot water is best for killing dust mites and germs, but it may damage the feathers inside the pillow.
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 (yes, they can go 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 heat or no heat. Take them out every so often during the cycle to fluff them up, which will help break up any clumps of feathers on the interior.
Clean memory foam or latex by hand.
Unfortunately, memory foam and latex can break down in a washing machine or a dryer. To wash these pillows, some manufacturers recommend simply vacuuming them every so often, and spot cleaning the exterior with a damp cloth and a smidge of mild detergent.
If you really want to try and give these pillows a deeper clean, you can submerge them in a sink or bath full of lukewarm water and a little detergent. Press down on them while they’re in the tub to help the water flow through the interior, but remember not to twist or wring the pillows, which can damage the filling. Then, empty the tub or sink and press down on the pillows again to push out more water. Make sure the water runs clear before you finish rinsing them.
From there, you can use the same towel trick used for down and feather pillows to push out more water. Let the memory foam or latex dry on a flat, ventilated surface, and use a fan to help the material dry more quickly. 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.
Clean polyester on the gentle cycle.
If you have polyester pillows, you can easily pop them in the washing machine. Many manufacturers recommend using a high-efficiency, low-suds detergent, cold to warm water, and a gentle cycle to get these pillows clean.
As with down and feather pillows, be sure to balance out the machine by washing two pillows at a time. If the machine needs further balance, you can also add some towels. For the drying cycle, adding wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or clean canvas shoes to the dryer is a great trick 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.
Empty your buckwheat pillows before cleaning.
Buckwheat pillows require a special kind of cleaning process, though it 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.
Bonus Cleaning Tips
Looking for other ways to increase your pillow’s longevity? Fluff it daily after you get up in the morning to return the pillow to its original shape and remove dust. Also, let it air out outside as often as you can, especially if the weather is sunny with a bit of a breeze. This will help dry out any moisture from the pillow and reduce dust. If you have a foam or latex pillow, toss it in your dryer every so often, using a no-heat cycle.
Spot cleaning is another excellent way to keep your pillows fresh. Simply use a damp cloth and a mild detergent to eliminate any spots or stains, and let the pillow dry out naturally in a well-ventilated area. By cleaning your pillow regularly, you’ll be on your way to healthier breathing and a better night’s sleep.