When and How to Wash Your Pillows

When and how to wash your pillows

Believe it or not, pillows can accumulate a variety of unpleasant substances, such as dust, sweat, saliva, dirt, dead skin, mold, dust mites, and other tiny insects. Over time, these unwanted intruders can cause the pillow to gain twice its original weight. Ignoring the issue and leaving it untended can lead to the breakdown of the pillow's fill material, ultimately rendering it ineffective in providing the support needed for a good night's rest.

It’s important to know how often to wash pillows as failing to keep them clean can adversely affect your health. It can cause illness or trigger allergic reactions, resulting in watery eyes and sneezing when you wake up. Those living in warm, damp climates should be especially vigilant about washing their pillows frequently to ensure they remain fresh, sanitary, and comfortable for sleeping.

Tips for Washing and Drying Pillows

If you’re wondering how to clean pillows, know that most synthetic and down-filled pillows are machine-safe for washing and drying – although some require dry cleaning. 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 – toss the pillow and replace it. All Sit ‘n Sleep Southern California mattress stores carry a full range of pillows at unbeatable prices! Here are a few hassle-free tips for how to clean pillows:

• Wash two pillows simultaneously to ensure better water and detergent circulation. Additionally, the agitators in top-loading machines can be rough on pillows and reduce their lifespan. Therefore, it's best to select the "gentle" cycle and set it for the shortest possible time. Alternatively, consider taking your pillows to a laundromat and using their front-loading equipment for a gentler washing experience.

• It takes a water temperature of 140°F or higher to kill the dust mites and other creepy critters, so select the "hot" setting on the water temperature selector.

• Add mild, low suds liquid detergents such as Woolite and fragrance-free soaps. Avoid powdered detergents, which can leave an excessive residue.

• Start the washing machine. Run the pillows through the machine’s rinse cycle at least twice to ensure soap and dirt removal. Improper detergent rinsing will leave a sticky residue that can cause clumping. It’s also a good idea to run the pillows through an extra spin cycle to remove excess moisture.

• Dry the pillows according to the instructions on the care label. Assuming machine drying is OK, place the pillows and a few tennis or wool balls in the dryer to help break up clumps. Dampness can result in mildew, dust mites, and bacteria, so it's vital to dry your pillow thoroughly.

How to Clean Pillows With Various Filling Types

The best cleaning method for each pillow depends on the material and style. Some pillows can withstand a deeper cleaning, while others require spot cleaning to prevent damage. Here are some instructions for how to wash pillows with different types of filling:

Down or Feather Pillows: Although it will take longer, use the dryer’s no-heat setting to avoid singeing the feathers and leaving the pillow with an unpleasant odor.

Polyester Pillows: Run the machine on its gentle cycle with warm (not hot) water. Use a mild detergent sparingly -- about one tablespoon of liquid soap is plenty. When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines.

How To Clean Pillows That Can’t Be Washed

Some pillow types (foam, for example) are hard to clean, or the manufacturers recommend keeping them out of water. In this case, the recommendation is to wash the cover more frequently to help keep it clean and fresh. Here’s how to clean a pillow that can't go in the wash:

Buckwheat Hull Fillings: Washing buckwheat hull pillows will ruin them. First, remove the hulls by opening the zippered end of the pillowcase to clean them. You can set the hulls in a shallow bowl or on a flat surface like a cookie sheet, then leave it in the sun to eliminate odors. You can wash the cover in cold water using mild detergent.

Memory Foam and Shredded Foam Pillows: Do not wash or steam clean foam pillows. Spot clean visible stains by blotting them with a damp (not wet) cloth and allowing the pillow to air dry. For a deeper clean, remove the foam filling, wash the cover on cold, and let it air dry. Also, keep foam pillows away from sunlight.

Latex Pillows: Occasionally, vacuuming a latex pillow and running it through a dryer on the “no heat” setting will remove much of the accumulated dirt and grime. A machine-washable protective pillow cover can help keep a latex pillow clean and sanitary.

How Often To Wash Your Pillows

According to experts, washing your pillow one or two times a year is recommended. Washing your pillows every time you wash your bedding is unnecessary, but you should clean them when necessary. If you are concerned about bacteria or excessive build-up, wash or replace your pillows more frequently.

Sleep experts advise using zippered pillow protectors to prolong the lifespan of pillows, regardless of the filling type. They also generally recommend replacing pillows every one to two years, although some may last longer.

Shop Pillows at Sit ’n Sleep

Is it time to replace your old pillows or pillow covers? Sit ’n Sleep carries a wide selection of pillows, pillow protectors, pillowcases, and shams from today’s most in-demand brands. Visit a Sit ’n Sleep showroom today for personalized advice from our expert sleep consultants. They can help you decide which pillow material and style fits your sleep preferences. If you’d prefer to shop from the comfort of your home, visit our online store. Our online pillow collection includes everything from memory foam to cooling gel.