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How to Wash Pillows: Machine & Hand Wash

Goodbye lumps, hello fluff.

A good pillow can make all the difference to your sleeping routine. But if you don’t clean your pillows properly, they can lose their support.

Also, they harbor dirt, oil, saliva, sweat, mold and bacteria — not a good look. So they definitely need a good clean every so often!

We’ll show you how to wash pillows whether yours are memory foam, feather, down, buckwheat or have decorative covering.

Key Takeaways

  • Wash down, feather, and cotton pillows in the washing machine on a warm delicate cycle with an extra rinse.
  • Memory foam, latex, and buckwheat pillows cannot be machine washed; instead, vacuum, spot clean, and air dry.
  • Wash pillows every three to six months to remove dirt, oil, and bacteria.
  • Dry pillows with a couple of dry towels and tennis balls or dryer balls to help fluff them back up.

Can You Wash Pillows?

For sure! Most pillows can be machine washed, too. But always check the care label as some will require handwashing.

How Often Should You Wash Pillows?

Every three to six months. If it’s been six months, or longer, get to it right away!

How to Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine

Let’s dive right in! Here is our top method for washing pillows.

Take Note

Make sure to check out our advice for specific materials. Some materials need to be washed differently than others. For example, memory foam, latex and buckwheat pillows cannot be machine washed.

1. Remove the Case

If your pillow has a case, remove that. It can be washed separately.

2. Check the Care Label

Check the care label to see if it can be machine washed, or if it requires washing by hand. Our tips are for machine washing.

3. Fluff

Before putting them in the washing machine, give the pillows a good fluff to remove dust.

4. Soak

Soak the pillows in water from the bathtub or shower. They should be wet beforehand so they can really absorb the detergent.

5. Put Pillows in Machine

Now, it’s time to put the pillows in the machine. We recommend putting two in at a time. This prevents the pillows from getting tossed around too much. But it also ensures there’s enough room for them to get washed properly.

Your Machine Matters

We recommend a front-loading or a top-loading machine without an agitator. The center agitator can damage pillows. If this is your only option, it’s a good idea to take the pillows to a laundromat and use a front-loading machine.

6. Add Detergent

Add in the recommended amount of detergent. We advise that you dissolve powder detergent in warm water before adding it to the dispenser. This will leave less residue on your pillows, as opposed to a thick liquid detergent.

However, if you have a polyester pillow, we recommend one tablespoon of a mild liquid detergent. If you only have powder detergent, that’s okay, too. Just dissolve it beforehand.


Don’t use fabric softener because it coats the pillows and weighs them down.

7. Washing Cycle

For down, feather and polyester pillows, choose a warm delicate cycle. Add an extra rinse cycle and begin the wash!

If you have a wool pillow, use a cold delicate cycle with an extra rinse.

If your pillow has decorative embellishments, such as sequins, always check the care label first. But you should be able to machine wash it.

However, put it in a mesh laundry bag first to prevent damage. Wash it on the most gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent.

8. Check

Once the cycle is finished, check that all the detergent residue has been washed away. If not, put the pillows through a cold rinse and spin cycle.

Is It Safe to Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine?

Down, feather, cotton and polyester pillows are safe to go in the washing machine, per the care label instructions.

However, memory foam, latex and buckwheat pillows cannot be machine washed or hand-washed.

How to Wash Memory Foam and Latex Pillows

  1. Separate your pillow cover from your pillow. Wash this separately according to the care label instructions. We always recommend using a pillow cover — as well as a pillowcase — while using a memory foam or latex pillow for ultimate hygiene.
  2. Vacuum both sides of the pillow to pull out dust and other debris.
  3. Spot clean stains with a gentle detergent and water. Dip a cloth into the solution and wring it out so it’s not sopping wet. Lightly blot stains. Don’t get the pillow too wet or the foam can tear.
  4. Let the pillow air dry completely before putting it back on your bed.

How to Wash Buckwheat Pillows

  1. Remove the hulls from the pillow. Wash the cover separately.
  2. Fill a shallow bowl with lukewarm water.
  3. Add the hulls and swish them around.
  4. Drain the hulls using a sieve.
  5. Lay a towel out in the sunshine.
  6. Lay the damp hulls onto the towel. Spread them out so they can dry quicker.
  7. Give them time to dry. This can take up to 24 hours.

Can You Wash Pillows in a Top Loading Machine?

We don’t recommend it because the center agitator can cause damage. If it doesn’t have a center agitator, then it’s fine! Otherwise, if the machine does have a center agitator, position the pillows vertically so they don’t wrap around the agitator. But we recommend going to a laundromat to use a front-loading machine.

How to Dry Pillows

  1. Check the care label to ensure it can be machine dried. Most pillows can.
  2. Place the pillows in the machine with a couple of dry towels. These towels will absorb moisture, speeding up the process.
  3. Add two tennis balls inside of socks, or dryer balls, to prevent the pillows from clumping.
  4. Set the cycle to moderate heat for one hour. If it’s a down or feather pillow, use a no-heat air-dry setting.
  5. After an hour, check on the pillows. If they’re still wet, repeat the cycle. Make sure to fluff the pillows between cycles.

If you need to air dry the pillows naturally, hang them up on a washing line in a sunny spot with good airflow. Every hour, fluff them up and rotate them so the other side gets the sun. This might take a while. Ensure that you don’t put the pillows back on your bed unless they’re completely dry, as this can lead to mold and mildew.

FAQs on How to Wash Pillows

How Long Should Pillows Last?

You should replace sleeping pillows every one to two years (1).

Pillows absorb a whole lot of stuff throughout the night: sweat, saliva, bacteria… so it’s a good idea to replace them quite often. Another way to test if it’s time for a new pillow is to fold the pillow in half. If it stays that way — it’s time for a new pillow.

How Do You Hand Wash Pillows?

  1. Remove the case and wash that separately.
  2. Fill a tub or sink with lukewarm water.
  3. Add a tablespoon of detergent per pillow. Dissolve it thoroughly.
  4. Submerge the pillows into the water.
  5. Massage and squeeze the pillow gently to fully soak it and welcome the detergent in. You also may notice dirt coming loose.
  6. Once it feels clean, rinse the pillow with fresh water. Do this until no suds run out. This means it’s fully rinsed.
  7. Press it gently against the side of the tub to expel as much water as possible.

How Do You Reshape Pillows After Washing?

Drying it properly will naturally fluff it back to its original shape. If it’s still wet, even slightly damp, it will be hard to fluff it back up completely. Wait until it’s fully dry and then give it a few punches to fluff it back up.

Adding dryer balls to the drying cycle can also help reshape it.

Why Is My Pillow Lumpy?

A lumpy pillow is normal, so do not fear! They get lumpy when the stuffing collects dirt, moisture, and other gross things. The filling clumps together and gives you a lumpy pillow. The only way to fix this is to clean and dry it properly.

Will Washing Pillows Fluff Them?

If your pillows are looking flat, washing and drying them can help bring them back to their full fluffiness! But if it’s time for a new pillow, it might be hard to get them super fluffy again. If, after washing, the pillow is still flat and unsupportive — it’s time for a new one.

How Long Do I Put My Pillow in the Dryer?

Put your pillows — two at once — in the dryer for an hour at a time. Check on it and if it’s not fully dry, fluff it up and return it to the dryer for another hour. Repeat until the pillow is entirely dry.

Can You Wash Throw Pillows Without a Removable Cover?

Check the care label first. If it says it’s machine washable, then do a gentle, cold cycle with a mild detergent. Otherwise, it’s best to hand wash the pillow, using our tips on how to hand wash pillows.

Sleep Like a Log

You can revive your sleeping routine when you clean your pillows. In return for this easy cleaning method, your pillows will be free of dirt, bacteria and lumps. You’ll be sleeping like a baby once again.

Always remember to check the care label, as this will tell you if it’s safe to machine wash your pillows. If you have memory foam, latex or buckwheat pillows — you will need to wash them specially.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!