In this article I’m gonna do a step by step guide on how to wash your bed pillows.
The first step is to assess whether or not your current pillow is so far gone that it cannot be saved in a washing machine or spot-clean.
If it’s moist without really intending to be moist, it needs to be thrown away.
In this guide I will use a pillow that’s been a pet bed. It’s got some drool and some nasty stuff on it, but it’s salvageable. So we’re gonna wash it.
I’m going to explain to you how step-by-step and as a little bonus at the end I’ve got a really nasty travel pillow and we’re gonna wash this one too.
Before we start cleaning this bad boy, I want you to think about how often you think you should be washing your pillow. Towards the end of this article I’m gonna give you my answer.
But now let’s talk about the three ways to clean your pillows.
Depending on the care instructions and the outer cover and inner cover, you can machine wash and dry your pillow, hand clean or spot clean it, or you can remove the cover and make sure the filling is maintained.
The pillow I’m using for this guide is a hundred percent polyester fiber on the inside, so it’s that down alternative, and 100 percent cotton on the outer cover.
So in this case, we’re gonna do two different cleaning.
We’re gonna do a hand clean, spot clean and then we’re gonna throw it in the washing machine and the dryer to see just how clean we can get it.
So let’s start with the spot cleaning.
If your pillow is hand clean or spot clean only, you’re gonna need a few things to get started with cleaning it.
You’re gonna need a clean cloth or rag, a mild detergent and if you’ve got some really bad stains, your probably gonna need a stain remover.
The first thing you’re gonna do is get the cloth wet and then dampen the area of the pillow that needs to be cleaned.
Once it’s damp, put a little bit of detergent on the cloth and then rub it into the pillow.
You’re gonna use that detergent and that water and your hand movement to get the stains out.
Last but not least, if you can’t get it out with just that, you’re gonna need that stain remover. Follow the instructions on that. Most likely to leave it on there for a few minutes and then try to rub it out.
Of course you’re gonna need to rinse the cloth, get it wet again, and just dab out all that detergent as much as you can. If you need to, wring it out and then leave it in an area where it’s ventilated, where air can get to it, and let it finish air drying.
If you want to throw your pillow in the washing machine and dryer, make sure the care instructions say that you can do that. Check the brands website if you don’t have a tag left on it.
Make sure you to do that because you don’t want to accidentally ruin your pillow or the performance of your pillow by soaking it in water when it’s not meant to.
In this case, I’ve got a 100% polyester fiberfill and a cover that is a hundred percent cotton, so it’s good to go in the washing machine and the dryer.
The next thing you want to do is find a mild detergent. Make sure you do not use too much, just a little bit, especially if you’re washing the pillow by itself.
If you have a top-loading washer, you don’t want your washing machine to be out of balance. You will probably have to add a few pieces of clothing or something to make sure that it’s balanced when you put it in.
You need to do it on a delicate cycle. The idea isn’t to beat the crap out of your pillow to get it clean. A gentle cycle should work just fine and you can use warm or cold water, depending on what your care instructions say.
The bed pillow is in the washing machine, we’re gonna do a little extra bonus and talk about how to clean a travel pillow.
You should clean your travel pillow after you’ve traveled because even though it may not look dirty from being on a plane, it’s certainly teeming with bacteria, a lot of shared germs and stuff going on in that space.
And if you’ve just strapped it to your luggage and thrown it around wherever you’re traveling, it’s definitely gonna be dirty. So whether or not it looks gross, you definitely want to clean your travel pillow.
The same thing with the bed pillows, you’re gonna want to look in the care instructions and make sure that you can machine wash and dry or if you need a hand or spot clean it.
In my case, this is a pillow with polyester fibers and the care instructions do say that you can machine wash it with light colors in a low tumble dry.
So just like cleaning a bed pillow, you’re gonna want to use a mild detergent. Just use the tiny bit of detergent, it’s not a huge travel pillow and make sure that you are washing it based on the care instructions.
When it’s time to move it to the dryer, one thing I like to do, if you have this setting for your washer, is to do an extra spin cycle. That tends to wring out even more moisture on your pillow and it allows it to dry faster in the dryer.
Once you put it in the dryer, my secret tip is to always put a tennis ball in a sock and throw it in with your pillow. This basically bumps against your pillow in the dryer, breaks up any clumps and allows it to dry faster and more thoroughly.
Alright so we washed and dried the pillow and a few things came up.
First of all, for this pillow it took forever to get the filling dried and sometimes that’s going to happen. This is polyester fibers and it can happen with other fillings as well. So don’t get discouraged. You just may need several rounds in the dryer.
There are a couple things you can do.
One thing is you can do is just switch your cycle to a spin and drain and pull out as much moisture as you can before it goes in the dryer. You can also just wring it out by hand. That really will cut down on drying time.
The other thing is just to remind you to keep your heat setting on low – a low gentle cycle. Even though you’re probably inclined to switch up that heat to help it dry faster, it could potentially damage both the pillow filling and the outer cover.
So keep it low and just do as many cycles as you need to keep it dry.
What happened with this pillow is that it had some little drool stains on that did not come out. They’re notorious for being tough to get out. Sometimes regular detergent just won’t work and that’s when you bring in the big guns.
By big guns I mean Clorox. Sometimes you just need some good old-fashioned bleach and water and soaking it to really get those tough stains out.
After spot cleaning it, throwing in the washing machine, in the dryer and then using a little bleach soap to get that nasty extra drool stain out, I have successfully cleaned this pillow, both the inside filling and the outside.
Of course this pillow is just an example. It’s not going to be straight across the board for everyone else. Make sure you look at the care instruction on your pillow tag, look on the website if you don’t see the tag.
If you have a hundred percent cotton cover on the outside, more likely than not, you will be able to use that bleach soap. Just be careful because some performance fabrics won’t allow bleach.
Let’s go back to the question that I posed to you earlier: how often should you be cleaning your pillow?
Let’s break it down to two different things.
If you got a pillow case either the one that comes with your pillow or one you buy separately, wash that frequently, maybe once a week or so, depending on how much drool and sweat and stuffs happening to you overnight.
For the inside filling, I’d recommend at least twice a year. If you rotate your mattress once a quarter that’s a good reminder to do it as well.
Alex P. Davis has a BA in Interior Design from The New York School of Interior Design and 10 years of experience expertly designing sophisticated interiors.