How to Wash and Care a Pillow to Keep It Smelling Fresh?

Why spend your hard-earned money on launders? Save your money by following the steps described in the comprehensive guide on how to wash pillows.

We can agree that if you’ve been wearing anything for over an hour then it is likely to have collected all kinds of dirt and germs, not only from the environment but also from yourself as you shed old skin cells and release oils like sweat. All of this comes together to make for a very unhygienic combination.

The same is true for your pillow. Even more so because you spend about eight hours every night on your pillow. That’s eight hours that you breathe against your pillow, shed dead skin cells on it, sweat on it and maybe even drool on it.

Now in the case of clothing, of course, you're going to wash it before you wear it again. It's necessary for health and hygiene, and for your continued health and hygiene, it is also necessary to wash your pillow. In this how-to, we will be discussing the different kinds of pillows you have and how to wash them.

Do I need to change my pillow?

Now different experts have confirmed that you should wash your pillow at least three times a year. If you think about the various harmful materials that accumulate on your pillow, you’ll realize this makes sense. But what they have also said is that you should also change your pillow about every eighteen months or so. But that depends on the kind of pillow you have.

Let’s do a quick pillow check:

A pillow test is fairly simple. You take your pillow and fold it in half. If it bounces back then you have a perfectly good pillow. But if the pillow stays in the bent position that means that it has worn out and it’s time to get a new one.

Comfortable Pillow

Things to remember

  • Always remember to read the manufacturer’s tag. These tags come with helpful information on how to wash and dry the
  • Always use warm water. Whether you wash the pillow in a washing machine or by hand remember to use warm water.
  • Look for a mild or gentle detergent preferably with a light or no fragrance. Because of the prolonged contact, your skin makes with a pillow you will want to use a detergent that is gentle on the skin. Also, you should be careful about detergents that have a strong fragrance as you will be breathing that in the whole night.
  • Bleach may be hard on the fabric and shorten the life of the pillow by a few months but it is very effective for killing off dust and germs.
  • You can wash down, feather and throw pillows in a washing machine but you cannot and should not try to wash memory foam in a washing machine.
Find out more about Pillow Filling Types in our complete review.

1. How to Wash a Feather Pillow?

  • Step 1

It is advised that you remove the pillowcase and wash it separately as this makes washing the pillow easier.

  • Step 2

If you’re washing the pillow by hand then mix some detergent with warm water in a tub. You should only use a little detergent as that is all you need, and it is better for your skin.

  • Step 3

Next rinse the soapy pillow with clean, warm water. Continue to rinse until you're sure you've removed all the detergent.

  • Step 4

Hang your pillow out to dry on your clothesline or a clean towel on the floor. The sun and air will do a good job of drying the pillow out.


  • Before you bring your pillow back in do a dry test. Bring the pillow very close to your face and take a deep breath. This will let you know whether the pillow has dried or still retains a little moisture. You shouldn’t use a pillow that is a little wet as it makes for a very convenient growing spot for mold and bacteria.
  • After the wash, the feathers in the pillow will join together to form a wet clump on one end of the pillow. Don't worry. As soon as your pillow is completely dry it will be back to normal.

2. How to Wash a Down Pillow?

  • Step 1

Remove the pillowcase and any other protective coverings that might be on the pillow. Remember to wash these as well but separately.

  • Step 2

Mix some detergent and warm water in a tub. Give your pillow a nice soak and rinse in this combination.

  • Step 3

Use warm water for rinsing as well. And make sure that you have gotten all of the detergents out. The residual chemicals from the detergent are not good to breathe in and out.

  • Step 4

When you’re drying your pillow trying to shift the down around a few times. This way you will speed up the process of drying and will make sure to dry all of the down evenly because the parts in the center might still have some moisture while the down on the outer surface has dried. Make sure to leave the pillow out in the sun until it is completely dry.

3. How to Wash a Memory Foam Pillow?

As we mentioned earlier you cannot wash a memory foam pillow in a washing machine, you will need to wash them by hand. Because a washing machine would be too rough on the memory foam. Likewise, the heat in the machine dryer would be too much and cause it to crack.

  • Step 1

The pillow comes with at least two protective casings. The pillowcase and another covering which zips over the pillow to minimize any dirt or moisture from reaching the foam. Some people make the mistake of thinking that they do not need to wash their pillow because of this. Although this protective casing does minimize the contact of moisture and dirt it does not prevent it completely. You should wash your pillow as well as it is made from a very absorbent material and is likely to absorb dirt and germs. Remove both casings and wash them both.

  • Step 2

It is preferable to use a liquid detergent for washing memory foam as it will absorb into the material for a thorough cleaning. Take warm water in a tub and mix some liquid detergent. Dip the pillow into the tub and massage it with your hands to spread the soap evenly. Be careful not to squeeze or pull too hard as to damage the memory foam.

  • Step 3

Use warm water to rinse the foam. Be sure to also run the water over the surface of the pillow to get all of it clean and detergent free. Rinse until the water around the memory foam runs clear.

  • Step 4

Use towels to gently dry the surface of the pillow and then place it on a clean towel or on a piece of cloth to dry in the sun.


  • Do not bring your pillow out of the sun until you’re sure it is completely You do not want to know about the kind of bacteria that can grow unchecked on a wet pillow.
  • A pillow stuffed with memory foam has a longer life than a feather or a down pillow. And if you maintain it then it will last even longer.

4. How to Wash a Throw Pillow?

Throw pillows can lift the mood of a room with little splashes of color. And they can make new furniture seem immediately comfortable. But over time and use, your throw pillows can lose their color and their softness. Giving them a good wash, however, can help bring them back.

  • Step 1

Remove the outer casing on your throw pillow and wash it separately. If your throw pillows have accumulated some stains then be sure to treat them with a light soap and water combination before a wash for better results.

  • Step 2

Fill a tub with warm water and detergent. Whether you use ordinary soap or liquid detergent is your choice. As long as you give the soap some time to properly mix into the warm water. You can wash your throw pillows one at a time or throw them all in together. Just as long as the soap is evenly distributed over each one.

  • Step 3

Rinse them all carefully with warm water until you have removed all of the detergents.

  • Step 4

Hang them on a clothesline or lay them out on a clean towel to dry in the sun. Your throw pillows will dry depending on the kind of material they have inside. If they have down in them then remember to move the wet parts around to dry evenly. Remember to turn them on their side to get the pillow dry on all sides and all the way through.

5.How to Machine Wash Pillows?

You can wash down, feather and throw pillows in a washing machine. And they can even withstand the heat of the dryer, giving you a nice, quick wash and a thorough drying. Here’s how to do it:

  • Step 1

Remove the outer casing. You can wash the pillowcases with the pillows in the machine but you should not wash the pillows with the pillowcases still on. The point is to get the detergent all the way through.

  • Step 2

Use hot water and then add a little detergent before placing the machine on a gentle cycle. Give the detergent a couple of seconds to mix before you place the pillows in the machine.  As we mentioned before, you can add a little bleach. Not only will it remove any stains but it will also kill all the dust and germs.

If you have a top loader washing machine we suggest that you place at least two pillows in at a time. This will balance the machine and it will prevent the horrible noise your machine can make when a single pillow is being thrown around and around inside. As a precaution, some people like to turn the pillow on its side and give it another rinse to make sure they get both sides. In a front loader washing machine, it doesn't make a difference. Be sure to run the pillows through the rinse twice.

  • Step 3

For down or feather pillows you should use an air cycle to dry them. And if you’re using a dryer for synthetic pillows then you should put your machine on low heat. Run your pillows through as many cycles as it takes to dry them.


  • Not only will this trick help your pillows dry quicker and more thoroughly but it will also restore the bounce in your feather pillows making them good as new. You will need a couple of tennis balls and some clean white socks.

Place the tennis balls in the socks and tie them up. And throw these socks into the dryer with your pillows. The tennis balls will bounce around in the dryer and punch your pillows dry, knocking the feathers and down loose.

And finally place your nice, clean pillows in their cases and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Learn more about materials and comfort levels of Best Pillow for Side Sleepers in our in-depth review.


On a nightly basis, your pillow gives your head a resting place but it also takes a lot of damage in the process. We shed dead skin cells and our body sweats to lower its temperature and almost every night for about eight hours all of these things collect in your pillow.

Such a layer of dirt and germs are harmful to people but especially for those with allergies. Your body deserves nutritional foods to help it function and grow and in the same way, it deserves a clean pillow and sheets to sleep in. This is not only good for your health but also necessary for a good night's sleep. The next time you have trouble sleeping, you should check to see if it is your pillow's fault.

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