How to Wash and Dry All of Your Pillows

By Mitchell Tollsen
Last Updated On June 18th, 2020

Washing our sheets and pillow covers are often part of our weekly chores, but sometimes we overlook pillows. Though pillowcases offer some protection from sweat, body oil, and dead skin…

How to Wash and Dry All of Your Pillows

Washing our sheets and pillow covers are often part of our weekly chores, but sometimes we overlook pillows. Though pillowcases offer some protection from sweat, body oil, and dead skin cells, these can still build-up within our pillows. To prevent accumulating germs, it's best to wash pillows once every four to six months.

Dead skin cells and body fluids attract dust mites and other indoor allergens. You wouldn’t want to rest your head on a pillow infested with allergens. Washing your pillows regularly maintains hygiene, preventing allergies.

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Different Pillow Types and How to Clean Them

Different pillow types have various kinds of stuffing, such as feather, down, polyester, or memory foam. Pillows may feel different depending on the stuffing inside them. You can choose any type depending on your personal preference or budget.

The stuffings inside your pillows determine how your pillows can be laundered. Not all pillows can be machine washed or hand washed. Some require dry-cleaning or spot cleaning. We recommend reading the instructions on the care label before washing your pillows. 

Here we discuss the washing and drying methods of some common pillow types.

Feathers or Down

Feathers or down from ducks or geese are popular pillow stuffings. The soft feathers on the birds’ bellies are called down. Down pillows feel warm. They are expensive compared to down alternatives or polyester pillows.

Down pillows can trigger an itchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes, or breathing difficulties in people prone to allergies. Despite washing, some traces of dust may remain in the feathers or down, causing allergic reactions.

Washing: Down pillows can be machine washed with a mild powder detergent on a warm setting, and a gentle cycle. Liquid detergents sometimes don’t rinse well leaving a sticky residue on the fabric surface, causing clumping.

It’s better to wash your pillows in a washing machine without an agitator (the tall spindle in the middle of some washing machines) because it can damage your pillows. But if your washing machine has an agitator, placing your pillows vertically in the washing machine reduces the chances of damage. Putting two pillows inside the washing machine at a time maintains a balance inside the machine, preventing overload.

Drying: Down or feather pillows can be dried on the no-heat air-dry setting in your dryer, or air-dried naturally. Keep two fresh tennis balls (or tennis balls tucked in socks) inside the dryer with the pillows to reduce clumping. The tennis balls bounce around inside the dryer, breaking up the clumps inside the pillow. It’s crucial to dry pillows thoroughly because any trace of moisture promotes mold and mildew growth.

Down Alternative or Polyester

Down alternative or polyester pillows are the least expensive pillows on the market. They are a good option for those who like to change their pillows regularly. Polyester pillows have a bounce to them and are very easy to care for.

Washing: Down alternative or polyester pillows can be machine washed with warm water and a mild detergent on the gentle cycle.

Drying: Air-dry your polyester pillows on the clothesline or throw them in your dryer on a low heat setting. Polyester pillows dry fast compared to all other pillow types.

Memory Foam

Memory foam pillows conform to the curvature of your neck, providing pressure-point relief and reducing pains. These pillows contain a solid chunk of memory foam or shredded memory foam as stuffing. Memory foam pillows are soft, supportive, and durable.

Washing: Memory foam pillows can’t be washed, because washing can damage the stuffing inside the pillow. That said, you can still clean your memory foam pillows. Vacuum both sides of your pillow using the upholstery brush attachment. If there are any stains, you can spot-clean them with a cloth dipped in mild detergent.

Drying: Leave your memory foam pillow on the clothesline to air-dry. Even if you can’t wash your memory foam pillows, you can air them out under direct sunlight for a few hours every three to six months. The high temperature of the sun’s rays kills microorganisms, making your pillows germ-free.

How to Clean our Amerisleep Pillows

Our Comfort Classic Pillows have a soft and breathable cover with a zipper. This removable cover can be washed in cold water on a gentle cycle. We recommend turning the cover inside out before washing for better maintaining the fabric.

The Bio-Pur® core can be cleaned by sprinkling some baking soda over it. Let the baking soda sit for an hour before you vacuum it away. The baking soda absorbs all odors, if any, keeping the pillow fresh.

Latex

Latex foam is made from the sap of rubber trees. If you are looking for organic pillows, latex pillows are a good option because they contain all-natural materials. Latex pillows feel bouncy and can be found in various firmness levels to suit your preference.

Washing: Latex pillows can’t be washed because washing can damage the texture of the latex foam. Spot clean any stains on latex pillows.

Drying: Air-dry your latex pillows away from direct sunlight. Sun’s UV rays can damage latex foam, causing degradation.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat hull pillows feel springy under pressure, but provide firm contouring support to your head and neck. The hulls promote air circulation within the pillow, keeping you cool as you sleep.

Washing: Empty the buckwheat hulls in a large bowl and wash the cover with cold water and mild detergent on a gentle cycle.

Drying: Keep the buckwheat hulls out in the sun to eliminate odor caused due to moisture.

How to Fluff your Pillows

A thoroughly dried pillow feels fluffy and soft. Sometimes, even if you don’t wash your pillows, moisture from sweat or body oil accumulates, making your pillows feel flat. Air drying your pillows naturally or in your dryer in the low-heat, or the no-heat setting fluffs up your pillow. Gently shake feather, down, or polyester pillows to evenly distribute the filling.

When to Replace Your Pillows

Washing, drying, fluffing, and airing out your pillows regularly are best practices to ensure they last a long time. Pillow covers and waterproof pillow protectors can provide an extra layer of protection to your pillows.

But there is a limit to how long you can prolong the life of your pillows. Your head is heavy and  your pillow bears the heavy weight every night, causing your pillows to eventually flatten and lack support.

Your pillows may last between 1 to 4 years, depending on the stuffing and how well you maintain them. Here are a few signs it's time to replace your pillows:

  • You can fold your pillow and it doesn’t flop back
  • Strange odor  despite washing
  • You wake up with neck or shoulder pain
  • You suffer from frequent headaches every morning
  • Allergy symptoms such as itchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes, skin rashes, or breathing difficulties disrupt sleep
  •  Yellow stains and spots remain even after washing your pillows

FAQs

Can we wash pillows in a top-loading washing machine?

Yes, you can wash your pillows in both front and top-loading washing machines. Place pillows vertically in a top-loading machine to prevent damage from the agitator. Front-loading machines are preferred because they don’t have an agitator.

Can we dry our pillows on the auto-dry setting in the dryer?

No, we can’t rely on the auto-dry settings in our dryer while drying pillows. The auto-dry setting senses the dryness of the outer fabric, while the fill remains wet. We recommend checking pillows thoroughly after washing, ensuring no trace of moisture. Pillows take an hour or more to dry in a low heat setting.  

Can we put memory foam and latex pillows in the dryer to fluff them up?

No, we can’t put memory foam and latex pillows in the dryer because the heat damages the foam. Air drying your pillows on a clothesline once every three months can fluff them up. But avoid exposing latex pillows to direct sunlight because the UV rays may damage latex foam.

Conclusion

Washing and drying pillows are key to maintaining good hygiene, reducing allergens in your pillows, and ensuring proper support. But not all pillow types can be washed and dried the same way. Be careful about different methods of washing and drying various pillow types, otherwise, you can damage your pillow quality and durability.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.


About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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