Sleep Product Tester
Austin is a professional writer and researcher who has covered sleep science and sleep products for over a decade.
Pillows should be cleaned regularly to help prevent the buildup of bacteria and odors. Special care is required when cleaning or washing pillows to prevent damaging the fill. Memory foam can break down when not cleaned correctly, and materials in other pillows can clump or shrink if they aren’t properly handled. We’ll cover what you need to know before washing your pillows.
Many pillows are safe to machine wash, but some require specific care. The first step in proper pillow care is checking the tag for cleaning tips.
We’ll highlight a few of the suggestions you may find on your pillow tags and what to keep in mind:
It can take a while for any pillow to fully dry. When tumble drying the pillows, additional time may be needed to dry the interior fill, even if the cover feels dry. Adding clean dryer balls or dry towels to the dryer can help expedite the process.
Not all pillows should be tumble dried. Some can be dried outside in the sun or in a well-ventilated spot. It’s important to allow your pillow to dry fully before using it.
Feather and down pillows require special attention to protect the loft and integrity of the fill. Always follow the manufacturer’s specific guidelines, as many feather and down pillows can only be dry cleaned. If the pillow can be washed, it should be done carefully:
When drying, you can gently squeeze water out of the pillow, but do not wring it out. Consider using dryer balls to keep pillows fluffed while drying. You can also wash these pillows carefully by hand in a solution of detergent and water.
Solid memory foam pillows should not be machine washed, as this can cause the foam to crack or degrade. They also should not be submerged in water. These pillows can be spot cleaned as needed to remove stains or residue. Lingering odors can often be removed by sprinkling the pillow with baking soda, allowing it to sit, and then vacuuming it.
Shredded memory foam pillows can often be washed, but it’s important to check any instructions provided by the manufacturer. In the event the memory foam pillow can be hand washed, special care should still be taken:
Throw pillows should be washed once every 3 to 6 months, depending on how frequently they are used. Most throw pillows can be cleaned with the following guidelines:
When it comes to body pillows, neck pillows, and other pillow types, you should first consult the pillow tag for any special cleaning instructions. This is also where you’ll find out what type of fill is being used, allowing you to determine which instructions to follow. Many pillows have removable covers that can be machine washed as needed.
Most pillows should be washed at least twice a year, but some may require more frequent care. Over time, your pillows can trap dirt, sweat, oil, and even fungus. If left unwashed, these problems can lead to odors and health concerns.
Cleaning your pillows is the best way to make sure they last as long as possible, but eventually even the most well-maintained pillow needs to be replaced. We usually recommend replacing your pillows every 1 to 2 years, but some pillows can last up to 5 years with proper care.