Wondering how to clean a pillow? This article will walk you through it. Gross as it sounds, our bedding is constantly absorbing our oil, sweat, drool and bacteria. If you have pets or children who spend time on your bed, that grossness is only going to multiply. So knowing how to keep everything clean is vital.
The pillowcase is the main place where dirt and grime gathers, and you should wash your sheets and pillow cases every one to two weeks. Most pillowcases can be machine-washed, although there are some exceptions, so do check the care label first. That's the easy bit, but you also need to clean the inside of your pillow, albeit not quite as regularly. This will get rid of whatever's made its way into the pillow, as well as helping to kill dust mites.
Different pillow types need to be treated in different ways – memory foam vs down vs synthetic pillow stuffing all requires different approaches. If you've invested in one of the best pillows you don't want to ruin it by, for example, putting it in your washing machine when it's not designed for that. Read on for exactly how to clean a pillow.
For the rest of the best, check our guides to how to clean a mattress and how to clean a duvet.
How to hand-wash a pillow
Some types of pillow are not typically suitable for machine-washing. In particular, memory foam and latex pillows should never be placed in a washing machine, and it’s generally advised not to submerge them in water at all.
To clean a memory foam or latex pillow, first sprinkle the top with baking soda – that's bicarbonate of soda, if you're a brit – covering as much of the pillow as possible. Leave it to work its magic (30 minutes minimum), then vacuum it using the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner, or a handheld vacuum. Flip the pillow and repeat. This will help your pillow to stay smelling fresh.
Next, mix a small amount of gentle detergent with lukewarm water and use a cloth to remove any stains. Gently rub the material using a circular motion until the stains have been removed. Then dip a new cloth into (just) water and use it to remove any remaining soap or foam. Finally, leave the pillow to dry in an airy, clean and secure area, preferably in the sun. Do not return the pillow to its case until it has dried fully.
If these measures aren’t enough and you need to deep-clean your pillow to remove, for instance, unpleasant smells then do check the care label, as instructions vary wildly between different manufacturers.
- Keep your mattress box-fresh with one of the best mattress toppers
How to machine-wash a pillow
The simplest way to clean a pillow is by washing it in the machine. Pillows filled with down, feather and polyester are typically machine-washable, although it’s again vital to read the care label and follow the instructions carefully. Normally, such pillows are best washed at a low temperature and with a small amount of gentle detergent.
Although some manufacturers may stipulate line-drying, most down, feather and polyester pillows can be tumble-dried on a low heat. A tried and tested way of keeping your pillows fluffy is to add a tennis ball tied up inside a sock to your dryer. Alternatively, you can buy commercially produced ‘dryer balls’ that achieve the same effect.
After you remove your pillows from the dryer, it's vital to air them, as any moisture that’s left to fester in your pillow is only going to encourage bacterial growth and dust mite infestation. So leave your pillows in a safe, clean and dry place, ideally in the sun, for at least 2-3 hours. And don't put them back on the bed until you’re confident they’re dry throughout.
How often should I wash my pillow?
Pillows should be washed once every 4-6 months. The exception is memory foam pillow, which is not designed to be washed, per se, although you should still spot clean it. Pillow cases should be washed weekly, or at a push, once a fortnight.
How often should I replace my pillows?
The general rule is you should replace your pillows every year or two. However, this will vary from pillow to pillow. If your pillow is starting to develop lumps and bumps, does supports your head adequately, or stays folded when folded in two, those are all signs it's time to update it.