Washing Pillows? How to and When to Buy New

How to Wash Pillows

Wash your pillow?  We spend roughly 8 hours every night, breathing, sweating, drooling (yep, drooling – c’mon now, you all know it’s happening) and we don’t ever wash them?  Ever?

Gross, right?

Honestly I used to never give it a second thought.  Why would I wash my pillow?  Can I even do that?  I have a zipper cover on mine that protects it so no worries.  Wrong!

Pillows are a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and dustmites, and you’re spending roughtly 1/3 of your life laying on one, breathing in and around this respiratory nightmare.  Now don’t go get all freaked out and boycott your pillow just yet, because you CAN clean them and in doing so, keep yourself and your family a little healthier.

If you are at all like me, you probably have a pillow or two lying around in the linen closet, reserved for when company comes around.  These pillows are usually the tossed aside extras when we replace an old pillow.  Sound familiar?  They’re often flat, stained, and probably full of years worth of some one else’s yuck.  (Slumber party anyone?)  I have these two – one is actually pretty decent and maybe even new and the other… a recent reject.

Washing Pillows 3

I must say the reject isn’t actually all that bad… I’ve seen some pretty funky pillows in my day.

You’ll need to evaluate if the pillow is even worth washing.  Simply take your pillow and fold it in half.  Try really hard to fold it so that it won’t bounce back open when you let go.  If it does, you keep the pillow.  Simple as that!  Although, if the pillow is older than 4 or 5 years, I’d consider tossing it anyway.

Those that made the cut and have polyester or feather fill can be washed in the washing machine.  Simply press out all the air that you can and toss them in.

For front loaders:  You can wash 1-2 pillows per load if you wish

For top loaders:  You’ll need to do 2 at a time.  Balance them on either side of the agitator (I don’t have an agitator, but this is essentially what it should look like).  Doing this will hopefully keep your washer happy during the spin cycle.  🙂

Washing Pillows

Use a mild detergent with no scent.  Remember, you’re going to be sticking your face up against this for long periods of time afterwards so scents may not be the best.  You can use a free and clear detergent or woolite or whatever.  Warm water on a normal cycle is fine, but use the extra rinse feature if you have one and a high spin if you have that option too.  If you don’t have a high spin option, consider running the spin cycle a second time to get as much water out as you can.

Washing Pillows 2

Once washed, you can place them into the dryer on a LOW heat setting.  You’ll also want to place a couple of tennis balls into some long socks (or whatever you think would work as an equivalent) into the dryer to help rebuild the fluffiness in your pillows.  DON’T put the tennis balls in by themselves or you may end up with lime green fuzz everywhere (and they’re kinda stinky too so putting them in the socks helps with that as well.)

Washing Pillows 1

One drying cycle is probably not enough for these.  Pull out your pillows and feel them.  If they feel really dry, stick your face into them and inhale deeply (weird I know) to see if you detect any hint of moisture.  You want these things popcorn dry.  Moisture in your pillow will become a breeding mechanism for mold and we’re trying to eliminate that.

Run them through 2 or 3 times if necessary to make sure they are SUPER dry.  And that’s it!

They should look and smell better, and all the mites and bacteria and moldies should be gone!  Hooray!


Note:  Something I discovered in washing some of our pillows is that one of them had a sheet of fill material folded lengthwise in half and then placed in the pillow.  The balls may not work well to fluff this type but with a little patience you should be able to pull it back into it’s rectangle place in the pillow.


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