When and How to Wash Your Pillows


Most people wash sheets and pillowcases once a week, but often put off laundering their pillows. Although somewhat inconvenient, failing to regularly wash your bed pillows can be a huge mistake.


Pillows can harbor all sorts of nasty things, including dust, perspiration, saliva, dirt, dead skin, mold, dust mites and other tiny insects. Amazingly, these unwanted intruders can cause the pillow to double in weight over time. If ignored and left untended, they will cause the pillow’s fill material to break down, and the pillow will no longer provide the support needed for a good night’s rest.

Continuing to sleep on a pillow without it being washed at least every few months can also have a negative impact on your health by causing illness or triggering allergic reactions. If you wake up with watery eyes and sneezing, failure to regularly launder your pillows may be the cause. People who live in warm, damp climates should wash their pillows frequently to keep them fresh, sanitary and comfortable for sleeping.

Tips for Washing and Drying Pillows

Most synthetic and down-filled pillows can be machine-washed and dried, although there are some that should be dry cleaned only. Regardless of the fill material, read the manufacturer’s instructions on the care label to confirm that machine washing is OK.

Before washing a pillow with a synthetic filling, fold it in half. If it doesn’t immediately bounce back into shape, the filling inside has been broken down and will no longer adequately support the sleeper’s head and neck.. Don’t bother washing it – just toss the pillow and replace it. All Sit ‘n Sleep Southern California mattress stores carry a full range of pillows at prices that can’t be beat!

Here are a few tips for hassle-free ways to keep your pillows clean and comfortable:

  • After confirming the pillow can be machine washed and dried, place the pillow or pillows into the washer. Washing two pillows at the same time will balance the load and allow better circulation of the water and detergent. The agitators in top-loading machines can be rough on pillows and shorten their useful lives, so set the machine on its “gentle” cycle for the shortest possible time. As an alternative, consider taking the pillows to a laundromat and use their front-loading equipment when they need laundering.
  • Set the water temperature selector on hot. It takes a water temperature of 140°F or higher to kill the dust mites and other creepy critters that might be inside.
  • Add a small amount a mild, low suds liquid detergent such as Woolite. Avoid powdered detergents, which can leave excessive residue. Fragrance free soaps are recommended.
  • Start the washing machine. Run the pillows through the machine’s rinse cycle at least twice. This will make sure all soap and dirt have been removed. Detergent that hasn’t been completely rinsed from the pillow will leave a sticky residue that can cause the filling to clump. It’s also a good idea to run the pillows through an extra spin cycle to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Dry the pillows according to the instructions on the care label. Assuming machine drying is OK, place the pillows in the dryer along with a few tennis balls or wool dryer balls. This will give them some extra fluff and also help to break up clumps. It’s important that the pillow or pillows are thoroughly dried. A pillow that’s put back into use while it’s still even slightly damp can result in mildew, dust mites and bacteria returning.

Special Washing Instructions for Pillows With Various Filling Types

  • Down or Feather Pillows. Although it will take longer, use the dryer’s no-heat setting to avoid the feathers being singed and leaving the pillow with an unpleasant odor.
  • Polyester Pillows. Wash with warm (not hot) water, with the machine set on its gentle cycle. Use a mild detergent very sparingly – about one tablespoon of liquid soap is plenty.
  • Buckwheat Hull Fillings. Washing buckwheat hull pillows will ruin them. Open the zippered end of the pillowcase and empty the hulls onto a cookie sheet or into a large, shallow bowl. Setting the cookie sheet or bowl with the hulls in the sun will eliminate odors. Wash the cover in cold water using a mild detergent.
  • Memory Foam and Latex Pillows. Unfortunately, neither of these pillow types can be washed, nor should they be steam cleaned. Remove visible stains by blotting them with a damp (not wet) cloth and allow the pillow to air dry, but keep them away from direct sunlight. Occasionally vacuuming a latex pillow followed by running it through a dryer on the “no heat” setting will remove much of the accumulated dirt and grime. The best way to keep a latex pillow clean and sanitary is to use a machine washable protective pillow cover.

Regardless of a pillow’s filling type, most sleep experts recommend using zippered pillow protectors to extend their useful lives. Experts also agree that the rule of thumb for replacing pillows is every one to two years, although some will last longer. The expert sleep consultants at Sit ‘n Sleep will help you decide which pillow type is best for your particular situation.