Can You Wash Pillows? Yep! Here's How.

Updated on April 22, 2019
Simone Smith profile image

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.

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!

Don't worry little guy! Washing pillows doesn't have to be scary!
Don't worry little guy! Washing pillows doesn't have to be scary! | Source

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
  • Sweat
  • Skin cells
  • Bacteria
  • Mold
  • 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:

  1. Remove all covers (pillow protectors included).
  2. Load them into a washer two at a time. (This keeps the washing machine balanced.)
  3. 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).
  4. 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 on to your bed.

Tip: Fluff pillows by hitting others with them.
Tip: Fluff pillows by hitting others with them. | Source
One may wish to attend "pillow fluffing parties."
One may wish to attend "pillow fluffing parties." | Source

Can You Wash Feather Pillows?

Yes! Most down pillows are machine washable.

The following pillows, however, are not:

  • Wool
  • Silk
  • 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).

How often do YOU wash your pillows?

See results

When to Discard Pillows

A well-cared, 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


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    • profile image

      Brian" silky pillow", although I think it's nylon covering with polyester filling? 

      5 years ago

      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 profile image


      6 years ago from Mechanicville, NY

      Excellent hub, thanks for spreading the word about washing pillows!

    • cooklunches profile image

      Mariana Creixell 

      7 years ago from Mexico

      Great tip!!! thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. :-)

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      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 Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Hahaa leahlefler, that's pretty funny!! Though I imagine pummeling the pillow back into a crushed state was probably pretty fun :D

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      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 Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Seems like a good approach to me!!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      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 Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      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!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      OK. I will start washing my pillows. Next spring, promise.

    • homehubber profile image


      8 years ago

      Very informative! I was nervous about washing my pillow before, but I will follow your instructions. Thanks. :)

    • Dani Katarina profile image

      Dani Katarina 

      8 years ago from California

      Great Post! I always wondered!! Now I'm going to go home and give my pillows a good wash.

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      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 profile image


      8 years ago


      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!


    • Ercolano profile image

      Sam Walker 

      8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Garrett Mickley 

      8 years ago from Jupiter, Florida

      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 profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      8 years ago from Northeastern United States

      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 profile image


      8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      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 W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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 profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub and I love the photos! Rated it UP

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      This will definitely improve the pillow fights! Thanks Simone.

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 

      8 years ago from United States

      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...

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      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 profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thanck yu, thanck yu, Seemone.

      Note: Forgive my pillows,Simone, they do not spell very well.

    • alphagirl profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      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 profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      8 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      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.

    • profile image

      Poetic Fool 

      8 years ago

      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)?

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      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!

    • skear profile image

      Sam Kear 

      8 years ago from Kansas City

      I had no idea you could wash pillows! I'm going to wash them all now..

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Excellent information! I wonder though: can you wash Tempurpedic pillows? It'd be good to find out.

      Thanks for sharing! :)

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 

      8 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I am SO going to have to try this! :-)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      This is great news! Bookmarked!


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