How to wash pillows

how to wash pillows

Most people wash their sheets once a week (I think that’s my goal but it’s more like every two weeks in our house unless one of the kids has had an accident), but we remove and wash the pillowcases leaving the pillows behind for way less frequent washings. Maybe it’s because washing pillows is a bigger job and takes more time, or maybe it is because we don’t really know how to wash pillows. But when you think about everything that ends up on your pillows and mattresses— hair, skin, oils, drool, and don’t even get me started on the dust mites — we really do need to wash those pillows at least three times a year (more if you don’t use pillow covers). So how should you wash your pillows? First, check the label and determine whether your pillows are synthetic or down, as this will change the way you wash them a bit.

If you can’t remember the last time you tossed your pillows into the washing machine, don’t worry! It’s not difficult to get them spic-and-span quickly. Here’s how to properly wash your pillows:

How to Wash Pillows

How to Wash Pillows and How Often You Should

Dirty Pillows Make Allergies Worse

It doesn’t seem at first like pillows should collect pollen. After all, they’re covered by pillowcases which you’re changing as part of your bedroom cleaning routine. But pollen hitchhikes on hair at bedtime then through the pillowcase fabric while we sleep. The same goes for pet and human dander.

As for those dust mites? Those things are tiny — as in 0.2–0.3 millimeters (0.008–0.012 inch) — and they love humid places like warm pillows where they feast on dead skin cells. After that feast, they excrete a substance that causes severe allergies in certain individuals.

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Guess What Else Is in Your Pillows?

Over one-third of the weight of a 2-year-old pillow is composed of skin flakes, dust mites and their droppings, and other microorganisms. It can even contain the microbes that cause flu, chicken pox, MRSA, Clostridium difficile (c. diff) and also e. Coli.

And we sleep on that stuff!

So, here’s how to wash pillows to cleanse them of such things. Regular laundering also means they’ll smell fresh and last longer, too. Here’s how.


• If your pillows are grimy from body oils, follow these tips.

• Foam-core pillows can’t be washed. To kill dust mites and reduce allergens, spray them lightly with hydrogen peroxide (do not saturate the core) and run them through the dryer for 10 minutes on the high heat setting.

• Using a hypoallergenic pillow cover will protect your pillows but you’ll still want to run them through the dryer with tennis balls to fluff them occasionally.

Laundering Pillows

You will need:

1 cup laundry detergent 2 tablespoons oxygenated bleach (like Oxiclean)* 2 tablespoons Borax 2 clean tennis balls

* You can replace this with 1/4 cup household bleach, but the scent of bleach irritates many peoples’ allergies and asthma.

1. Fill the machine. For top-loading machines, add the detergent, oxygenated bleach, and Borax to the machine then let it fill using HOT water. For front-loading machines, put the pillows in the washer with the Borax and follow your machine’s instructions for adding the detergent and bleach.

2. Add the pillow(s). For top-loading machines, carefully submerge the pillows in the water, arranging them so they’re on either side of the washer’s tub. Regular-sized pillows should be washed two at a time to keep the machine in balance. King-sized pillows should be washed individually unless you have an extra-large washer.

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3. Run the cycle. Run the load on the longest, hottest cycle your machine has. Be sure to use the hot rinse cycle, too.

4. Rinse again. Once the cycle has finished, rearrange the pillows in the machine and run a second HOT rinse cycle, without additives, to get rid of any remaining suds.

5. Dry them on hot. Transfer the pillows to the dryer. Add the tennis balls to the load to fluff the pillow fibers as they tumble dry. Run the dryer for 60 minutes, pausing every 20 minutes to shake and rearrange the pillows, so they dry fully without clumping. If you prefer to line-dry, hang pillows from the long sides and rotate them every 20-30 minutes. Fluff them by hand once they’re dry, or tumble them in the dryer on the no-heat setting.

How Often

Wash pillows after the person using them has the flu, strep throat, or other viral illness.

Wash pillows seasonally to keep dust mites under control and reduce allergens.

Even with seasonal washing, pillows should be replaced every 2-3 years.

More How-Tos:

How to Wash Electric Blankets How to Clean a Mattress Bedroom Spring Cleaning Checklist

How to Wash Pillows and How Often You Should

How to Wash Pillows and How Often You Should - I hate flat smelly pillows, and they make my allergies go insane. This gets our pillows looking, feeling, and smelling brand new! #pillows #bedpillows #laundry #allergies #allergens #pethair #petdander #pollen #dust #cleaning #deepcleaning #housewifehowtos #homemaking


1. Most down and synthetic pillows are machine washable, but check the label to confirm and then set the water temperature on your machine according to the care label.

2. If you are washing synthetic fiber pillows, roll them in half lengthwise and secure each end with a rubber band. This prevents clumping of the fibers during the wash.

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3. Place your pillows in the machine, two at a time to evenly distribute the load.

4. Add a small amount of mild liquid detergent and start the load.

5. Run the pillows through the rinse cycle twice after the initial wash to be sure all the soap has been rinsed away.

6. Dry your pillows according to the care label. If you are able to put them in the dryer, place a couple of wool dryer balls (or a tennis ball in a sock) in with the pillows to speed up dry time and to keep the fibers from clumping. You can also dry the pillows by laying them flat, especially if they are synthetic fibers. For down and feather pillows: Use the air cycle or low-heat setting, and make sure pillows are completely dry at the end of the cycle since dampness left in the pillow can cause mold.

Fun tip: add a couple of drops of lavender essential oils to your wool dryer balls to create a calming scent to your pillows as they dry. It will help relax you and give you a better night’s sleep!

Add this to your list of clean-home hacks and remember to wash those pillows!

(photo courtesy of Oh Lovely Day)

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How to Wash Your Pillows

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