How to Wash Every Type of Pillow

Follow these tips for cleaning feather, down, memory foam and more pillow types.


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Project Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

While you may love your pillows, do you give them the care they deserve? If you've never throroughly washed them, the answer is probably no. Our pillows take lots of abuse. They get tossed on the floor, squished into shape, drooled on, and subjected to a buildup of sweat and oils. So, to keep your pillows fresh and clean, it's important to know how often to wash them, how to remove stains, and whether or not they can be washed in a machine. Keep reading for instructions on how to wash every type of pillow.

Can You Wash a Pillow in a Washing Machine?

It depends. If the pillow is filled with feathers, down, or polyester fiberfill, yes, you can use a washing machine and tumble dryer. However, if the pillow is a memory foam or solid latex foam form, no. Foam pillows can only be washed by hand.

So, start by determining what type of filling is in your pillow and then follow the steps below to get it clean.

How Often to Wash a Pillow

Bed pillows that are used nightly should be washed at least three times a year. If the sleeper perspires heavily or gets sick, the pillows should be washed more often. Pillowcases and covers should be changed and washed weekly along with the rest of the bed linens.

Decorative pillows require less frequent cleaning unless they are used daily for couch naps or footrests. If you have a decorative feather or polyester fiberfill pillow without a removable cover, place it in an automatic dryer set on the no-heat, air-only cycle for 10 minutes to remove dust and hair. Add a few dryer balls to fluff the filling. (Note: You should never put solid foam pillows in the dryer.) If your throw pillows get a lot of use, you can incorporate them into your laundry routine when you wash your bed pillows.

For throw pillows without a removable insert, follow the cleaning directions on the care tag. Many decorative coverings are dry-clean-only.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Down, Feather, and Polyester Fiberfill pillows

  • Washer or bathtub
  • Dryer or drying rack
  • Soft-bristled nylon brush

Solid Latex Foam and Memory Foam Pillows

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Bathtub or large plastic tub
  • 2 Large cotton bath towels
  • Drying rack
  • Vacuum with hose and upholstery attachment


Down, Feather, and Polyester Fiberfill pillows

  • Low-sudsing laundry detergent
  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Dryer balls
  • Heavy cotton bath towels (optional)

Solid Latex Foam and Memory Foam Pillows

  • Low-sudsing laundry detergent
  • Baking soda


How to Wash Down, Feather, and Polyester Fiberfill Pillows

  1. Check for rips.

    Before washing a pillow in the washer or by hand in the bathtub, check the fabric covering for rips and make any needed repairs. You don't want a washer filled with feathers or fluff!

  2. Pretreat stains.

    If there are visible stains on the outer covering, use a dab of an enzyme-based laundry stain remover on each stained area. Work the stain remover into the fabric with your fingers or a soft-bristled nylon brush. Let the cleaner work for at least 10 minutes to begin breaking up stains before washing the pillow.

  3. Use the right detergent.

    Loads of suds are too difficult to rinse away so make sure to use a high-efficiency, low-sudsing detergent. Add only one or two teaspoons of the detergent to the washer drum. Don't add fabric softener to the washer because it can cause fillings to lose their loft.

  4. Select washer settings and load pillows.

    Set the washer to cold water and a gentle cycle. It's best to wash two pillows at a time to help keep the washer balanced, especially if you have a top-load washer with a center agitator. If you have only one pillow to wash, use two or three heavy cotton bath towels to balance the washer.

  5. Do a second rinse.

    To make sure all of the soapy residue is gone, keep the pillows in the washer for a second rinse cycle. If you're hand-washing, keep rinsing with fresh water until no more suds appear.

  6. Fluff and dry.

    When you remove the pillows from the washer, give them a good shake and smooth the filling as much as possible. Set the dryer to medium heat and add some wool dryer balls along with the pillows. Tumble and fluff the pillows by hand every 15 minutes until they are dry. If drying on a drying rack, turn and fluff the pillows frequently as they dry.

How to Wash Solid Latex Foam and Memory Foam Pillows

Never wash any type of solid foam pillow in the washing machine. The agitation during the wash and spin cycle will break the foam. Also avoid putting foam pillows in the dryer, but be prepared for a long and slow air drying process. Since the foam is so dense, it may take up to 24 hours for foam pillows to dry, even in sunny, breezy weather.

  1. Spot clean stains.

    Pretreat stains or simply spot clean stained areas of the pillow if you don't have time for a complete washing. Mix a couple drops of laundry detergent in one cup of warm water. Dip a microfiber cloth in the solution and wring well before blotting the stained areas with the cloth. Leave the solution to work on the stains for at least 10 minutes. Dip a clean cloth in fresh water and wipe away any soapy residue.

  2. Make a pillow bath.

    Fill a bathtub or large plastic tub with enough lukewarm water to submerge the pillow. Add one teaspoon of laundry detergent and stir well to mix.

  3. Wash the pillow.

    Add one pillow to the soapy water and submerge it. Squeeze the pillow gently to help the cleaning solution loosen the soil. Do not leave the pillow in the water longer than 10 minutes.

  4. Rinse and repeat.

    Drain the soapy water and fill the tub with cool water. Submerge the pillow and gently squeeze the foam to help release the suds. Change the water several times until no more suds appear. Make sure not to twist or wring the foam.

  5. Absorb excess moisture.

    After the pillow has been rinsed, remove it from the tub and sandwich it between two heavy cotton bath towels. Press down to absorb excess moisture. Keep changing the towels until no more water is easily absorbed. Place the pillow flat on a drying rack and turn it frequently. Again, never place a foam pillow in a tumble dryer.

Tips for Keeping Pillows Clean

  • Always use a pillowcase on bed pillows. Using a zippered pillow cover under the pillowcase will help control allergic reactions to dust mites.
  • Spot clean pillows between thorough washings.
  • Freshen smelly foam pillows by sprinkling the foam with baking soda. Lightly spritz the baking soda with water and rub it into the surface. Allow the pillow to dry and then vacuum away the baking soda using your vacuum's upholstery brush attachment.
  • Try to wash pillows on a low-humidity, sunny day for quicker drying.
  • Keep pillows as dry as possible to prevent mildew growth. Never go to sleep with wet hair.
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