The care label on your pillows might say ‘dry clean’ only, but don’t believe everything you read, friends (unless you’re reading it here, of course). Good news: You can absolutely take a hard pass on the huge dry cleaning bill, because washing your pillows at home is a piece of cake—once you know what’s in them, that is. According to Richardson, the vast majority of pillows—whether they’re down, down alternative or foam—can be washed in the same fashion. (Spoiler: It’s the drying part that requires a different approach, depending on the fill material.)
Here's what you need to do:
- Make sure your washing machine’s capacity can handle the size of your pillow—and keep in mind that you might need to add additional laundry (or a second pillow) if you have a top-loading machine, so that when your bulky pillow starts throwing its weight around, your machine doesn’t get thrown out of balance.
- “Toss them into the washing machine with a tiny bit of soap (not detergent) and [select a] warm water express wash,” Richardson says.
How to Dry Pillows
So, how do you get those soggy suckers bone-dry and fluffy before you rest your head?
- For down and down alternative pillows, Richardson says you can send them straight into the dryer on either the air fluff setting, or the ‘no heat’ setting if your dryer doesn’t have an air fluff option. Just be sure to add some tennis balls to the mix so that your pillows are nice and lofty when they emerge.
- When it comes to foam pillows, though, the laundry pro says it’s a two-step process: Start by hanging your foam pillows to dry. Once that’s done, send them into the dryer along with a few tennis balls for a quick, ten-minute tumble on the air fluff or no heat setting.
How to Hand Wash Pillows
When we asked Richardon if he has a tried-and-true method for hand washing pillows, his answer was blunt: “Don’t fool with hand washing.” Submerging the pillow in soapy water and trying to clean—and wring it dry—yourself can be an exercise in frustration, and it’s not worth the effort.
How to Spot-Treat Pillows
Maybe your glass of red wine sloshed a little, or perhaps breakfast in bed got a bit messy. Good news: You can skip the washing machine entirely, provided you follow the expert’s advice on spot treating pillows. “The trick is [to] put the soap on your towel and then spot onto the pillow,” the pro says. “Then, take a wet towel of warm water and ‘rinse’ the pillow” to remove soapy residue. As for drying the spot-treated area, you should “always start at the middle and rub out to the sides.”
How often you should wash pillows
Washing pillows doesn’t need to be a super regular part of your laundry regimen. Still, pillows should be washed two to four times per year (think: every time the season changes)—any less and you’ll have fungus for a bedfellow (ew).
When to replace your pillows
No matter how good you are about cleaning ‘em, pillows still need to be replaced eventually. There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how often you should purchase new pillows, but some indications to look out for include lumpiness, as well as loss of loft and body (i.e., your pillow needs frequent fluffing just to hold the weight of your head, and when you fold it, it stays that way).
How to Keep Pillows Clean
The number one thing you can do to keep pillows fresh and full of life for as long as possible is to invest in some high-quality pillow protectors that can be removed and regularly laundered, along with pillow cases. Pillow protectors provide an extra layer of defense against sweat (i.e., the main reason that your pillow is paradise to fungi and bacteria) and they also do a bang-up job of sealing in allergens, like dust mites and their droppings.
Wait—what about the rest of your bedding?