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How to Wash Pillows: a Full Guide on Washing Pillows

You must know the feeling of cleanliness after washing your bedsheets. Yes, the feeling is heavenly, the clean bed feels great. I hate to burst your bubble, but if you’re forgetting about the most important bed accessory, the pillow, your bed isn’t as clean as you think it is. Because of that, it’s essential to understand how to wash pillows and why you should do it.

Even though you have a pillowcase, it doesn’t mean that the pillow is completely protected from dust mites, oils, and dirt. Despite all your efforts to maintain bed hygiene, you’re not safe from the dirt and the bacteria that you’ll find inside your pillow, so you have to understand that washing your pillow is important.

You may not need to wash it as often as the sheets but do it at least twice a year. So let’s analyze the topics of "can you wash pillows?", "how to clean pillows?", and "how often you should do that?" more in-depth.

Brittany Ferri

Occupational Therapist, CPRP

Why it's important to keep your pillows clean?

Keeping pillows clean is very important for the health of our skin. Pillows (and all bedding, for that matter) hold accumulated skin cells, dust, dirt, and other allergens. This includes anything that comes off our skin throughout the night and debris that is in the air of your home. It is important to wash pillowcases regularly, but you should also launder the pillows themselves during your spring and fall cleaning (twice a year). If you are continually using dirty pillows, you may experience breakouts, rashes, infections, and other unpleasant skin changes.

Can You Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine?

How to wash pillows? Well, there are two options: washing machine or washing by hand. Washing pillows by hand might seem like a tedious job, so I’m here to tell you the good news, most of the pillows are safe to be machine-washed. Whether they’re safe to be machine-washed depends on the material they’re made out of

how to wash pillows: washing machine

You should always check the label to see if the pillow can or can’t be washed. Two types of pillows that definitely shouldn’t be washed in washing machines are memory foam and latex pillows. So, if one of them is your preferred type of a pillow, you may have to make sure you have a deep sink to wash your pillow manually

Now that you know which ones you can wash in the washing machine and which ones you can’t, let’s discuss how to clean pillows both ways.

How to Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine?

If the answer to the question of “can you wash pillows in a washing machine?” is yes, when it comes to your pillow, then good for you! But you still can’t just throw them in there and expect good results. There are a few steps to take if you want to make sure you get the best out of your pillow washing.

So, here’s a guide on how to wash pillows in the washing machine.

Make Sure the Pillow Is Sewn Well

You might not have thought about it, but the spinning in the washing machine is rather intense. Now, especially if your pillow is feather-filled, you need to make sure the contents won’t just spill in the washing machine halfway through the washing.

So, before you get to the actual part of how to wash a pillow, you must first examine it. You have to do it so the process goes smoothly

If you notice any loose threads or any places where you see that the pillow is barely holding on, it might not be too wise to throw them in the washing machine and hope for the best. Adjust these parts if possible, and if not, consider getting a new one instead of not washing it and continuing to sleep unhygienically. 

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Remove the Pillow Protector

The next step you need to take if you want to know how to wash pillows is removing the pillow protector. To get it as clean as possible, you need to remove the outer layer of the pillow if it has one. Most of the better-quality pillows come with pillow protectors to maintain your pillow in the best shape possible, as well as to preserve its cleanliness.

how to wash pillows: pillows on the bed

Unzip it if it has a zipper or simply take it off before washing pillows, and then make sure to wash it separately, as you don’t want the bacteria in it to contaminate your freshly-washed pillow. 

Having done it, you’re ready to get to the actual washing part of how to wash a pillow. 

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Put It in the Washing Machine

You did it; you put the pillow in the washing machine, it’s done, right? Well, not really. There are quite a few things to consider here if you want to know how to wash your pillow well. 

First of all, if possible, use a front-loader instead of the top-loader washing machine. That is better mainly because it prevents pillows from floating to the top and not getting thoroughly washed.

Furthermore, you may need to see if it’s possible to fit two of them in there. If it is, that would be for the best. Fitting in two pillows in the washing machine provides more even distribution and balance while washing pillows. But don’t try your best to squeeze them in if it’s not too easy.

You’re better off washing one properly than overloading your washing machine.

Use Detergent

The one you use for your other laundry will probably work just fine, but the antibacterial detergent would be for the best. 

You’d better be mindful when it comes to the amount of detergent you use when washing pillows if you want to understand how to wash pillows well. Just because you wash them comparatively rarely doesn’t mean you should go crazy with detergent to remove the dirt and bacteria.

how to  wash pillows: laundry detergent

Detergent residue isn’t the most pleasant thing to sleep on. Also, choose a milder detergent to protect your pillows.

Set it to Wash

The most important step in the “How to Wash Pillows” guide is actually washing them. So, having done it all, what you need to do is start washing it. Now it’s time to make sure you’ve read the label instruction attentively. Pay close attention to the temperature at which it should be washed. 

But don’t get your temperature too low, set it to hot water, so it removes the stains, dirt and kills the dust mites. Also, make sure you get a second rinse, so there’s no detergent left in your pillow. Lastly, if there is a possibility, set your washing type to large/bulky, as pillows are washed the best in this setting. 


Not only is it essential to know how to wash pillows, but also how to dry them. So let’s consider a few basic things you need to do to dry them properly. 

When they’re finished being washed, it’s time to dry them. If you’re going to tumble dry your pillows, you have to be careful with that. Set your dryer on the lowest setting if you want to preserve the fluffiness of your pillow. Also, you may take them out from time to time to see if they’re drying evenly or to fluff them out. 

how to wash pillows: washing machine and a dryer

One simple tip for drying pillows is to add two tennis balls into the dryer. Doing that reduces the drying time, and also, when it comes to pillows, the tennis balls are beneficial as they prevent clumping of the pillows stuffing. 

How to Wash Pillows by Hand?

If your pillow isn’t meant to be washed in the washing machine, you have no other choice but to wash it by yourself. For that, you may need a guide on how to clean pillows even more.

Despite it sounding like a difficult job, it’s not that hard to do. It might be a little bit more time-consuming, but it has its own benefits. Washing it by yourself, you’re able to make sure your pillows aren’t torn and that they’re washed gently

So, let’s cover how to wash pillows manually step-by-step.

Fill the Tub or Sink with Hot Water 

In order to understand how to wash a pillow by hand, you first need to find where to do it. If your sink isn’t deep enough to fit a pillow, you may want to wash them in the bathtub or even any other big tub. Fill whatever you’re using with hot water, and you’re ready.

Although don’t go too crazy with hotness, it shouldn’t be so hot that you can’t put your hands in it.

how to wash pillows: washing pillows by hand

Keep in mind that the warmer temperature is important here because you have to remove all the dirt, as well as dust mites[1] that contaminate your pillow, so consider the need to do that when choosing the temperature.

Add the Detergent

Washing pillows by hand, you need to use cleanser as well. Add a spoonful of detergent for each pillow you’re going to wash. Having done that, stir the water, so it starts bubbling a bit as you need to distribute the detergent evenly. 

Wash the Pillow

The next step in learning how to wash pillows by hand is actually washing the pillow. Simply throwing it in the water isn’t going to work. You have to let it soak, and then swirl and move it around a bit. Also, try squeezing gently, as any kind of movement is good for the pillow to be washed. 

Doing that will help to get past the outer layer, and it will deep-clean the pillow

Rinse the Pillow

A crucial step in how to wash pillows is rinsing the dirt out. So, now that it has had a good massage and has absorbed the detergent, it’s time to rinse it out. This step is extremely important, as you don’t want to come across any sticky detergent in your pillow when you’re going to go to sleep on your freshly washed pillow. 

Rinse it under hot water. It might take a while, as pillows absorb liquids well, and, hopefully, you managed to get them into the deeper layers of the pillow. Take your time rinsing it and check for when you don’t see any soap coming out of the pillow.  Then you may get ready to dry the pillow.

Dry It

Since you're dealing with more fragile and sensitive materials, if you can’t machine wash the pillow, you’re better off not putting it into the dryer. So, your best bet is letting the pillow air dry. Having squeezed out all the water, you should place it on a towel and wait for it to dry. It might take a while.

Another option is hanging the pillow to dry. If you can do it in an airy and sunny area, that would be for the best. That way, your pillow will dry quicker and will also be aired out. 

how to wash pillows: hanging pillows to dry

This step is crucial because leaving the pillow damp might have bad consequences. Left damp, it creates a great environment for bacteria, and also mould[2]. Trust me, you don’t want that.

How to Keep Pillows Clean?

Not only do you need to know how to wash pillows, but also how to keep them clean. Let’s say you’ve done it, your pillows are squeaky clean, and you’re ready to get your good quality sleep on your freshly washed pillows free of dust mites, oils, grease, dirt, and bacteria. That’s great, but it’s important to keep it that way in order to maintain your sleep hygiene.

Here’s a list of what you should consider before putting your head down on your pillow:

  • Take a shower, or at least wash your face before going to sleep
  • Let your cosmetic products absorb completely before lying down to prevent oil residue
  • Use pillowcases for extra protection from bacteria
  • Don't let your pets sleep on your pillow
  • Keep the environment around clean to minimize dust mites and bacteria

All these simple steps help your bed hygiene a lot. Going to bed clean, not letting your pillow absorb what it shouldn’t, protecting it with extra layers, and keeping your pets away will minimize the effort you have to put it when it comes to maintaining your pillows clean.

When to Replace a Pillow?

I know I said you can wash your pillows (and you definitely should), but sometimes it can’t save the pillow anymore. So it’s not only important to know how to wash pillows, but also to know when to replace them.  

As a rule of thumb, pillows need to be replaced every two or three years. This is extremely important, as there’s only so much that washing them can help.

You’re in contact with your pillow every night, and it’s the face that touches it. The fact that your face is the part that is in contact with the pillow means a lot. The skin of your face is really sensitive, and rubbing it in cushion with oil residue, bacteria, or dirt won’t do it any good.

how to wash pillows: sleeping on a pillow

Furthermore, you may breathe in the dust mites or other allergens that may not be completely washed from your pillows as it’s close to your nose. That makes the chances of allergies more prevalent. And this “How to Wash Pillows” guide won’t always be the thing you need at the moment if the pillow needs to be replaced.  

Let’s say the years haven’t passed yet, but you want to test if your pillow is still good to be used. There’s a simple test to perform.

Simply fold your pillow in half, and if you see that it doesn’t spring right back to its previous shape, you might have to say goodbye to this one. Also, if it has become uncomfortable or has a lingering smell after washing it, you’re better off tossing it out.

If you’re looking for a new pillow, you can’t just buy the first one you see. You should make sure it offers what you need first. There are many types of pillows, and if you’re unsure which one suits you best, check out our best pillows overview and choose the one you think would be suitable. 


I know it’s often forgotten, but it’s extremely important to know how to wash pillows, as a lot of bacteria accumulate there, and you definitely don’t want that. Take some time to wash your pillow, be it in the washing machine, or washing by hand, if it’s made out one of the few materials that can’t be machine-washed.

Washing them in the washing machine might be a bit easier, but washing pillows manually doesn’t take much time too, the processes are pretty much the same. Having washed them, make sure to dry them thoroughly, as dampness in pillows can cause many problems

Although, sometimes washing them isn’t enough and you might need to get a new one. Make sure to choose wisely and take your preferences into consideration, as pillows are extremely important when it comes to your sleep quality and health. That is because they’re the main objects your face comes in contact with. 

Having cleaned your pillow, you might want to consider other things in your sleeping environment too. One of the major ones that your body is in contact too is your mattress. Check out our guide on how to clean your mattress, to sleep well and hygienically

Brittany Ferri

Occupational Therapist, CPRP

Contributed By Brittany Ferri, Occupational Therapist, CPRP

As an occupational therapist, Brittany takes a client-centered approach to look at a person's environment, interactions, habits, and function to determine the best way to improve their health statu...

Read Full Bio...

Scientific References

Contributed by Brittany Ferri, Occupational Therapist, CPRP

1. Rains N., Siebers S., Crane J. et al. 'House dust mite allergen accumulation on new synthetic and feather pillows'

2. Cox-Ganser J. M. 'Indoor dampness and mould health effects – ongoing questions on microbial exposures and allergic versus nonallergic mechanisms'

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Recent User Reviews


From all the pillows I have only two have a zipper to wash them easily, something to consider when getting a new one.

Just what I needed

I spilled coke on my pillow, don't own a washing machine but I'll try hand washing it.

did not know about it

I've never washed my pillow. I did not know that you have to do it:D

already doing it

my dogs sleep in my bed so I wash everything quite often, helps to get rid of different bacterias

Stinky pillow

I washed the pillows but one is still stinky. Will wash it again or throw it away. Other pillows look fine, no smell.

How often?

I wash my protectors maybe once every year... is there a specific time frame to wash them?

Wish I had sun!

I was ready to air dry my pillow but it's cloudy today... I guess I will wash it tomorrow as again. ??‍♂️

dirty pillows

I washed it with my hands, the water was so dirty, wow, I should do it more frequently from now on


Thank you I didn't expect it to be this easy, my boy spilled chocolate milk on his pillow and the pillow absorved it. I'm glad we can wash it.


Don't know if related, I get a lot of acne and I wonder if washing my pillows would help... I cleaned them with a towel but I still have acne.


I'm filling the sink right now to wash my pillow, it's a foam pillow but I hope it works!


My mom used to sprinkle baking soda on the pillow to absorb dust. It really works if your pillow gets smelly. Hope not.

Pillow protectors.

Hello, thank you for the suggestions. I was wondring if there are brands of protective cases you recommend. I have a skin condition, and I need to sleep in fabric more than 1000 thread count.

get rid of allergies

I used to have a crazy allergies when I found out that washing pillows might help and it actually did its work. Now I do it every 1-2 months, just to avoid this crazy sneezing.

Lumpy pillow =(

My pillow got washed but got super lumpyI don't want to throw it again but I don't know what to do. Please help.

very great article

very great article with very good tips

too hard

I think I'll buy a new one instead washing it with my hands



dry it it a balcony

I have a balcony so I easily dry my pillows there

Makes sense

I kinda knew it would be better to hand wash a foam pillow, but wasn't sure. Thank you for the post.❤️


How often should I wash pillows?

Pillows need to be washed at least twice a year . Although pillows shouldn't be used for longer than 3 years, that's the time when you need a new one . If you're looking for a new pillow, check out our best pillows review .

Can pillows be washed in washing machine?

Most of them can be. Although if yours is latex or a memory foam pillow, that are among people's favorites, you might need to wash them by hand. Before washing, always make sure to check the washing instructions label on the pillow .

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are created mostly from polyurethane and have additional chemicals added that increase its viscosity and density. It’s also often called “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. In order to create the air movement and let your body “breath” while you sleep, it has open foam bubbles. Memory foam mattresses are created in a way to adapt to your body curves and to also recover their original shape after you get up. Therefore, this kind of top mattresses offer you the feeling as if is created specifically for you.

Do top rated mattresses offer a money-back guarantee? Is there a catch?

All of the top mattress brands offer a money-back guarantee. The free trial usually starts from 90 to 100 nights, and if you don’t like the mattress, you can simply give it back. The majority of best mattress providers will not only give your money back but will also come to get it for free. If the mattress provider is reputable, there won’t be any catch - everyone understands that you have to try the mattress before knowing if it fits you.

What is off-gassing? Is it poisonous?

Off-gassing refers to the odor which comes from a new mattress. It’s the process that happens when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) leak out of the mattress foam into the air. Those chemicals include both human-made and natural components, including formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Top rated mattresses will have zero or very minimal off-gassing. Many of them are sent to the customer already after the off-gassing. Is it dangerous, though? Even though the smell can be unpleasant, there’s usually only a very small amount of chemicals that can do no harm to your health.

How long do top rated mattresses serve?

The durability of a mattress depends on the provider and the quality of the materials used. Usually, you get a 10-year warranty, which will be valid in case of any defects. Normally, mattresses will serve you from 7 to 10 years, or even longer. Thus, when you buy the best mattress, you should take it as a long-term investment.