How to Wash Pillows

Updated: Dec. 05, 2023

Your pillows should be washed at least every six months! Cleaning expert Erica Young explains how to wash pillows to get rid of bacteria and dust mites.

When was the last time you washed your pillows? Even if you wash the sheets and pillowcases every week, the inner pillow can collect body oil, skin dander, saliva, fungus, bacteria and dust mites. Yuck! With your head resting on them every night, you can see why cleaning pillows is essential, especially if you have allergies.

Here’s how to wash pillows to ensure they’re clean, fluffy and free of allergens.

Can you wash pillows?

Yes! You can wash all pillows. Most pillows can get a wash in the washing machine, including those filled with cotton, feather, down and synthetic fiber. Foam pillows will need to be hand-washed, though. Always check the care label before washing.

How to wash regular pillows

Load two pillows into your washer; this helps keep the washing machine balanced. Add only about a tablespoon of mild detergent. (Too much detergent can leave a residue on your pillows.) Wash the pillows on a gentle cycle with hot water. Hot water is best for killing germs. Use an extra rinse cycle and an extended spin cycle, if possible.

Dry the pillows on low heat with dryer balls to help fluff up the pillows.

How to wash down pillows

It may surprise you, but down pillows can also get washed in the washing machine. Follow the instructions above, but remember that hot temperatures can damage the down filling. Use cold water instead of hot. When drying, set the dryer on the no-heat, air-fluff setting.

How to wash foam pillows

Foam pillows can’t go in the washing machine, but foam is less susceptible to allergens, mildew and dust mites. To wash foam pillows, sprinkle the pillow with baking soda, let it sit for about 30 minutes, then vacuum it up with a hand attachment.

You can also spot clean foam pillows using a mixture of one teaspoon of mild laundry detergent and two cups of warm water. Apply the mixture to the stain and scrub with a cloth, then blot away the soap and moisture with a clean, damp cloth.

How Often to Wash Pillows

Pillows should get washed at least every six months. If you don’t use a pillow liner or are sensitive to allergens, wash pillows every three to four months.

Tips for Washing Your Pillows

  • Get out the stains: If you notice stubborn stains, use a stain-pretreat product before washing.
  • Rid of any smells: Add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle to remove musty smells from your pillow.
  • Let them fully dry: Make sure the pillows are completely dry before removing them from the dryer.
  • Know when to replace them: Pillows used daily should be replaced every 18 months.