Every night you go to sleep with a pillow under your head. You probably don’t bother to think about whether it’s germ-free or not. What’s on your mind is getting some decent zzzzz’s before the alarm goes off the next morning.

You clean your sheets and maybe a comforter every week or so, but how often do you clean your pillows, or mattress, or mattress topper? The experts say you should be washing your pillow at least two to four times each year. This not only helps keep them germ-free, but it helps them last longer as well.

Pillows can be machine-washable, but many will deform and get lumpy and never look as pristine as when they were new. And, not all types of pillows should be cleaned in the same way. Down, foam, and fiberfill pillows should always be washed differently. The last thing you want is a pillow that doesn’t come out feeling the way you like it to feel when it’s been cleaned.

Before you clean your pillows, check the content and care tag attached to the end. It should give you a good idea of the best way the manufacturer wants you to clean it. That way, it will continue to look nice and fluffy when you’re ready to put it back on your bed.

However, if you don’t find step-by-step instructions or need some further guidance, read on to learn what our experts suggest you do to clean your favorite pillow the right way, no matter the shape, size, or the filling inside.

Fiberfill & Down Pillows

Most fiberfill and down pillows are machine washable. That means all you need to do is toss some laundry detergent into the water in your machine, add the pillow, and run it through its regular cycle.

It’s a good idea to wash two pillows at a time so your washing machine stays balanced. Most learn this the hard way and wonder why their machine is making a loud thundering noise during the rinse cycle.

Although practically any washing machine should do a great job, your best bet is as a front- or top-loading model that doesn’t have an agitator. If a top loader with an agitator is your only option, follow this advice:

  • Drop both pillows into the tub vertically so there’s less chance of damage. Use warm water and select the gentle wash cycle. Use just a small amount of detergent.
  • Run the machine through the wash cycle and then, when it’s time for the rinse, use cold water for both the rinse and final spin cycles.
  • In the dryer, tumble the pillows on low heat so they will turn often and fluff up as much as possible.

When the dryer stops, if the pillows are still a little damp, set them in the sun for a few hours to make sure there’s no musty odor left when you put them back on the bed.

Foam Pillows

Latex or memory foam pillows should not go into your washing machine. Remove the pillow covers or pillowcases and wash them according to the care tag attached to the end of the pillows. If the tag is missing, place them in the washing machine, use hot water, add detergent, and run the machine through its casual or normal cycle.

If the pillows are excessively dusty or dirty, vacuum both sides and then tumble them in the dryer with the no-heat or air-only cycle for about 20-30 minutes.

Next, spot-clean any soiled areas by dipping a cloth or sponge in a mild sudsy solution and then rinse. Then, allow the pillow to air dry completely before you put it back on the bed.

Hand Washing

If you don’t have access to a washing machine or just want to hand wash your pillows, follow these instructions.

Remove the pillow cover or case and wash separately with laundry detergent and hot water. Hang until dry.

For the pillow, fill a tub or sink with warm water so that the pillow is submerged completely.

Add a small amount of clothes detergent to the water for each pillow and mix until it is completely dissolved.

  • Place the pillow carefully into the water and let the detergent seep in slowly.
  • Gently massage and squeeze the pillow so the water gets into each layer and to help dislodge any grease or dirt. Allow the pillow to soak for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pillow from the soapy water and rinse with clean, fresh water.
  • Massage the pillow throughout the rinsing process.

Take your time so you don’t distort the shape of the pillow. Try to remove as much soap as possible by checking the runoff for suds.

Don’t use your dryer for sensitive pillows. When in doubt, towel off as much water as you can and allow it to dry completely outside in the sun.

Replacing Pillows

No matter how often you wash your pillows, at some point, you will be needing to buy new ones. One of the tell-tale ways to check whether the time has come is to fold the pillow in half. If it doesn’t bounce back into shape, it’s probably time to start looking for a replacement.

Of course, a more obvious way to know you need to change your pillows is when you finish washing them and notice there’s a strange odor remaining even though you’ve just washed them. This would indicate there’s some mold or mildew that is still inside the pillow and it’s a good time to find a replacement.

Please let us know if these ideas on washing your pillows have been helpful to you. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about any other home cleaning subjects you might like us to cover, be sure to write to us. And, if you live in the Chicago metro area, and are interested in learning more about our home cleaning services and how we can help you maintain a safe and healthy living environment, please give us a call. Our number is 708-599-7000. Or, you can contact our team online for a free house or office cleaning consultation.