As someone who appreciates a clean bed, I've put in the time to learn exactly how and when to wash all kinds of bedding.
Washing Pillows: How to Wash Pillows and When to Discard Them
We're all generally good about washing sheets and at least so-so when it comes to washing comforters, duvet covers, duvets, and even mattress pads, but did you know that you should also be washing your pillows? Newsflash: You should be!
Pillows are decidedly different creatures in the world of bedding. Though pillows require much less frequent washing, any washing that is done must be done with special consideration. That said, as pillows can last for as long as 15 years, much longer than other bedding features, the extra effort you may take to maintain them is worth it!
What follows is a helpful guide to washing, drying, maintaining, protecting, and discarding pillows. I hope you find it to be useful!
How Often to Wash Pillows
Pillows should be washed at least twice a year. To keep pillows cleaner in the long run, use pillow protectors: thick, allergy-proof pillowcases with zippers at one end. They help protect against things like:
- Body odor
- Skin cells
- Drool (don't pretend you've never woken up with drool on your pillow!)
And these pillow protectors should themselves be washed once a month. If you do not use pillow protectors, you will probably want to wash your pillows quarterly instead of twice a year.
If you're curious about ideal laundry timetables, check out my guide on how often different pieces of bedding should be washed.
How to Wash Pillows
For the two annual occasions when you wash pillows, here are some helpful tips:
- Remove all covers (pillow protectors included).
- Load them into a washer two at a time. (This keeps the washing machine balanced.)
- Dry them on the fluff setting or a low-heat setting (polyester pillows may form clumps if exposed to high temperatures) with two new tennis balls (wrapped in socks to prevent stains).
- Be sure they're completely dry before replacing pillow protectors and pillowcases.
It's that simple!
Over the many weeks out of the year when you do not wash pillows, consider fluffing them daily to keep them from getting flat or molded into awkward, lumpy rocks containing an impression of your head. Also, don't throw extra pillows on the floor when going to sleep. That's just disrespectful toward the pillows. Plus, you'll be bringing floor grit back onto your bed.
Can You Wash Feather Pillows?
Yes! Most down pillows are machine washable.
The following pillows, however, are not:
- Very old down pillows
These can be spot cleaned with a gentle detergent and left in the sun twice to four times a year to air out (the sun is a fabulous natural disinfectant).
When to Discard Pillows
A well-cared-for, high-quality down pillow can last for as long as 15 years! That said, not all of us purchase high-quality down pillows, and not all of us take particularly good care of the nice (or not-so-nice) pillows that we do have.
If you have a synthetic pillow, you'll need to replace it around every 3–4 years. If you have a high-quality pillow but intense allergies, you'll probably want to replace your pillow every two years. And if you wake up feeling neck pain or can't get the pillow to work even despite giving it a good thrashing-er-fluff, you'll need to replace said pillow no matter how recently you purchased it!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Simone Haruko Smith
Brian" silky pillow", although I think it's nylon covering with polyester filling? on April 16, 2015:
I was just wondering, I have a pillow that I have cherished for 15 years. I think it has a nylon covering, that feels like silk when rubbed between the fingertips, very soothing and therapeutic relaxation when I sleep.I was just wondering how to wash this unique pillow,better yet how to purchase the same type of pillow, because it's kind of beat up but I still love it. I think I bought it at WalmarI've looked everywhere to find the same pillow to find the same pillow.please help anybody!
cozytown from Mechanicville, NY on August 23, 2013:
Excellent hub, thanks for spreading the word about washing pillows!
Mariana Creixell from Mexico on December 04, 2012:
Great tip!!! thanks
ignugent17 on December 02, 2012:
Thanks for the tips. :-)
Leah Lefler from Western New York on February 15, 2012:
It's a great way to vent frustration! Apparently, he's rather attached to flat pillows. I figured it out in the end - I just let the dog sleep on it the next day - nice and flat again (fleas come at no extra charge)! :)
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 15, 2012:
Hahaa leahlefler, that's pretty funny!! Though I imagine pummeling the pillow back into a crushed state was probably pretty fun :D
Leah Lefler from Western New York on February 13, 2012:
We have clean pillows on our bed now, though I had to pummel my husband's into its pre-washed state. Apparently, he doesn't like fluffy pillows. Who doesn't like fluffy? Sigh...
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 13, 2012:
Seems like a good approach to me!!
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on February 10, 2012:
Washing pillows makes them fluffier and of course clean. I tend to that task twice a year or I just buy new ones, depends on my mood:)
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 10, 2012:
Oh, how lovely!! Glad to hear you're happy with the freshened up pillows, leahlefler! I found that clean pillows and sheets made a big difference in my allergy and asthma heavy childhood- I hope they make a difference for your son!
Leah Lefler from Western New York on February 10, 2012:
Just writing in to say that I have sparkling clean pillows today (if pillows can "sparkle," that is)! I'm rather excited about having nice, fresh, CLEAN pillows - really important for us since my older son struggles with allergies!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 23, 2011:
OK. I will start washing my pillows. Next spring, promise.
homehubber on December 22, 2011:
Very informative! I was nervous about washing my pillow before, but I will follow your instructions. Thanks. :)
Dani Katarina from California on December 12, 2011:
Great Post! I always wondered!! Now I'm going to go home and give my pillows a good wash.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on November 29, 2011:
Thanks for the kind comments, everyone! I'm glad you find this Hub to be helpful!
That's a great question, ThePracticalMommy! I would think that some are and some aren't- I'd check the washing information on the pillow's tags or check with the company that makes them.
And that's a great recommendation, SweetiePie. Sometimes it's worth it to make a trip to the laundromat, since they have adequately large machines.
princesswithapen on November 27, 2011:
Whoever thought that good quality pillows could last more than a decade? Pillows surely get a back seat when it comes to washing. If they become too dirty, first thought is to replace them. With this hub floating around, surely people will give washing a thought before buying a new one. Very useful!
Sam Walker on November 22, 2011:
Okay why couldn't I have read this last month? I needed to throw away an excellent pillow, an expensive one too, one that was plump and probably contained a million ducks worth of down, all 'cos I put it in the washing machine.
A. It kept making that really loud banging noise even though I tried to balance the tub with something else heavy, God knows what my neighbours thought I was up to.
B. Because it was sodden, I couldn't put it in the dryer, and left it to drain somewhat in the sink, for days. Still sodden, washed it again, because I was sure that some little duckies might be hatching inside by now.
C. Same thing, 'cept this time put it in a mop bucket on the deck for what sun there wasn't to dry it.
D. Didn't need that prescription filled for penicillin anymore.
E. Chucked its sorry ass in the garbage.
F. Got one they use in the space stations, from Costco that conforms to my head shape, but I still think of that pillow... wonder what it's doing now...
Garrett Mickley from Jupiter, Florida on November 22, 2011:
I was actually going to search this...but then I saw you posted a hub about it and now I don't have to. Thanks!
Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on November 22, 2011:
Great directions. I love the advice to wrap the new tennis balls in clean socks. I would never have thought of it but it makes sense! Voted up and useful
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on November 21, 2011:
I always recommend making sure you have a big washer for when you do wash your pillows. My washing machine does not quite accommodate the two pillows needed to keep it balanced. If you have a smaller washing machine, you might want to go to the laundry mat, or a friend's house to wash your pillows. Something about drying pillows on fluff sounds nice, like treating yourself to hotel room service.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 21, 2011:
I have been washing my pillows for years also. Can totally relate to the drool! :)) I did throw out some very old decorative feather pillows recently that had an old musty odor. They were really old and probably should have been discarded years ago. That pillow fight (er, fluffing) looks like fun.
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on November 21, 2011:
Great hub and I love the photos! Rated it UP
psychicdog.net on November 20, 2011:
This will definitely improve the pillow fights! Thanks Simone.
Naomi's Banner from United States on November 20, 2011:
Excellent! I have secretly washed my pillows for years as I didn't think you were supposed to but can't stand the stank if you don't. Thanks for giving me the freedom to come out of the closet...
India Arnold from Northern, California on November 20, 2011:
Plenty of tennis balls in my house! Now I have more uses for them than just tennis, dog toys, and booby-traps! Pillow fluffing! Who Knew? Bookmarking this hub for sure!
drbj and sherry from south Florida on November 20, 2011:
Thanck yu, thanck yu, Seemone.
Note: Forgive my pillows,Simone, they do not spell very well.
Mae Williams from USA on November 20, 2011:
tennis balls? I always wondered how to get the lumps out! Polyester does melt with high heat. It changes the composition completely. I have to try this now.
Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on November 19, 2011:
Wow, I've been totally neglectful of my pillows! Thanks for sharing this, I'll wash a few of them tomorrow.
Voted up, interesting and useful.
Poetic Fool on November 19, 2011:
I can't wait to try it this way. We've washed them before but ended up with matted pillows. I'm curious what purpose the tennis balls serve (no pun intended)?
Leah Lefler from Western New York on November 19, 2011:
Well, THAT explains why my washed pillows get lumpy. The high heat must have melted the polyester filling and made it clumpy! I'll use the fluff setting from now on!
Mary Craig from New York on November 19, 2011:
Knew about the washing but was afraid cheap pillows wouldn't make it through the whole cycle. Will give it a try. Love the pictures! There's nothing like a good old pillow fight!
Sam Kear from Kansas City on November 19, 2011:
I had no idea you could wash pillows! I'm going to wash them all now..
Marissa from United States on November 19, 2011:
Excellent information! I wonder though: can you wash Tempurpedic pillows? It'd be good to find out.
Thanks for sharing! :)
Mishael Austin Witty from Kentucky, USA on November 19, 2011:
I am SO going to have to try this! :-)
Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 19, 2011:
This is great news! Bookmarked!