Most of us wash our sheets regularly, but what about our pillows? It can be hard to know what to do with your pillow, especially if it’s dirty but you don’t want to risk ruining it. After all, some materials can’t get wet and others may not dry very well. If you have a pillow you love, you can end up feeling caught between wanting to take care of it but not wanting to destroy it in the process.
Air it Out
If your pillow hasn’t suffered from a spill and you can’t see sweat stains on it, start by airing it out. This can go far towards refreshing the pillow. It removes dust and helps the pillow get back to its original shape.
It doesn’t matter what kind of pillow you have, it will benefit from a good airing. You can hang it from a clothesline outside as long as its dry, or run it through a dryer cycle without heat. Either way, your pillow should be fresher and more comfortable when you get done.
Wash the Pillow
If your pillow is stained or you know something has been spilled on it, it’s time to wash it. Many pillows come with washing instructions, so the first thing to do is to examine the tags and any packing material. These will tell you all of the specifics you need to wash your pillow. If you don’t have these anymore or yours doesn’t have the instructions, follow the general guidelines below.
The method you should use for washing your pillow is based on what it’s made of. If you’re not sure, try to dig up anything you can on the pillow. You can feel the pillow and see if you feel the structure of feathers inside of it. If you’re still not sure, your best bet is to follow the instructions below for down pillows, as they are some of the most sensitive and fragile when it comes to water.
- Foam and synthetic pillows. If your pillow is made from solid memory foam, shredded memory foam, or is filled with another synthetic material, it’s most likely washing machine safe. Wash the pillows on a gentle cycle with cool (not cold) water and laundry detergent. If possible, wash two pillows at a time. This helps balance your washing machine so it can effectively spin the water out of the pillows. Front-loading machines are best for pillow-washing. If you use a top loader, stop the gentle cycle after a few minutes and change it to a rinse/spin cycle. Otherwise, the agitator can be too hard on your pillows.
- Latex. Most latex pillows should not be submerged in water. If you need to wash your pillow, fill a tub with warm water and detergent. Put a washcloth in the water, squeeze it out, then used it to blot your pillow. This should remove any stains on the surface of the pillow. Unfortunately, it is hard to get all of the water out of latex and keeping the pillow wet can destroy it. If your latex pillow suffers a major spill or smells bad, it may be time to get a new pillow.
- Down and feather pillows. If your pillow is filled with down or any other type of feathers, there’s a chance it can be washed in a machine. However, different manufacturers treat down differently, so some will withstand machine washing and others won’t. If you don’t have the specific instructions, your best bet is to wash the pillow by hand. Fill a sink or tub with warm water and add detergent. Push your pillow all the way under the water and agitate it gently. You may want to squish it to get the water all the way in. Press as much water out of the pillow as you can, then roll it in a dry towel. Finally, run it on a slow spin cycle in your washing machine to get as much water out of it as possible.
Get it Dry
When you’re drying your pillow, it’s key to get all of the water out. Even a tiny bit of water left inside your pillow can encourage mildew and mold to grow. Most pillows that are safe in the washer are safe in the dryer. You will want to dry your pillow for at least an hour using low to moderate heat. Add a couple of dry towels to the load to make things go faster, and put some dryer balls or tennis balls in the load to help keep pillows from clumping.
If you aren’t sure that your pillow is dryer safe or you aren’t comfortable drying it that way, hang it outside from a clothesline. Choose a dry day, so the pillow doesn’t get wet all over again. Make sure you move the pillow’s stuffing around regularly so that it dries all the way through. You’ll also want to squeeze it before you take it inside, just to make absolutely sure that all of the water is gone. Depending on the humidity levels where you live, it can take an entire day for your pillow to truly be dry.
To avoid having to wash your pillow as often, put it in a protective cover or case. These will keep much of the sweat and dust out of the pillow and will protect it from spills, too. That way, you can air your pillow out now and then but you won’t have to wash it very often, if at all.