Guide: How to Wash Any Pillow

Last Updated on February 22, 2021

by Marc Werner, Founder - Ghostbed

Just as one should wash sheets regularly, the rest of the bedding needs regular cleaning as well. This includes learning how to wash pillows that cradle tender heads drifting off to dreamland. While pillow cases should be washed weekly with the sheets, pillow covers and protectors should be washed once a month, and the pillow needs to be cleaned at least twice a year. With most people spending one third of their lifetime sleeping with his or her head on a pillow it is imperative to keep the pillow as clean as possible to promote a healthy sleep environment. Different types of pillow compositions require different cleaning techniques to keep them maintained as best as possible. Read manufacturer instructions first before proceeding to clean. Follow directions, along with using your best judgement, to attain the best cleaned pillow results.

Step-by Step Method: How to Clean Various Types of Pillows

I: How to Clean Memory Foam Pillows (Ghostbed)

II: How to Clean Cotton and Feather Pillows

III: How to Clean Wool Pillows

IV: How to Clean Buckwheat Pillows

V: How to Clean Microbead Pillows

I. How to Clean Memory Foam Pillows (Ghostbed)

It is important to take special care when learning how to wash pillows that are made of memory foam. These types of pillows cannot be placed in a washing machine and should never be fully submerged into water. A washing machine can shred and damage the material, and a dryer can work adversely by melting the foam. Once again three steps are applied to wash memory foam pillows.

Step 1

Remove pillow case, this can be machine washed in a gentle cycle using warm water and mild detergent.

If your pillow has a protected scrim or inner cover remove this carefully. This cover can be hand washed in a sink using mild detergent and gentle handling.

Step 2

Identify the areas that need to be cleaned. Using a clean cloth, dampen the cloth with water and a mild detergent. Lightly rub the effected area pressing in lightly to penetrate into the stain and just slightly into the foam.

Using a second clean cloth, wet the cloth completely and ring out almost all the water. Place the moist cloth over the area previously cleaned and press the cloth into the pillow firmly. Completely rinse the cloth, again ringing out almost all of the clean water. Once again, press the moist cloth into the affected area. Continue repeating this process on this and all soiled areas – using a damp cloth with a mild detergent, then using the clean moist cloth to “pull out” the detergent and the stain.

Step 3

Air drying is imperative for the memory foam to dry properly. A machine dryer may cause damage to the pillow.

Using a clean dry towel, firmly press the dry towel into the treated area. Rotate the towel to a dry area and press the towel again into the treated area. Continue this process until the area becomes as dry as possible. Let the pillow stay uncovered in a dry well-ventilated area so it can dry out completely. This is very important to prevent mold.

II. How to Clean Cotton and Feather Pillows

For those asking, “Can you wash cotton & feather pillows”? The answer is a "Yes". Cotton and feather pillows are probably the easiest types to wash and dry via the machines. Please do not use this method for memory & shredded memory foam pillows. In three steps, you will have fluffy fresh pillows.

Step 1

Before washing remove the pillow case and cover, or protector. You will wash these separately with the sheets before placing them back on the clean pillows. Set the washing machine on gentle, with a warm water temperature, and for the largest load cycle. Using a gentle liquid type detergent add the required amount for a large load. As the water fills place up to two pillows into the tub.

Step 2

Before putting in dryer you must be assured that all the detergent has been rinsed out. Although the wash cycle is completed you will want to run the pillows through for an extra rinse cycle. Set the washer on rinse to make sure that the detergent is totally gone from the very center of the dense pillow fill. Once the rinse cycle is over, run two spin cycles to assure that all excess water has been wrung out.

Step 3

Drying cotton and fiberfill pillows in a dryer is perfectly fine. Take two tennis balls and place them each in a clean white sock and toss them into dryer. These will help fluff your pillow(s) when drying. Place the pillow(s) into the dryer and set on low to medium heat. Set the dryer for 30 minutes and start. Every 30 minutes you will want to check for dampness, especially deep in the center. Fluff the pillow(s) and repeat the drying time until fully dry.

III. How to Clean Wool Pillows

Step 1

Place pillow in a larger commercial front loading machine to allow for water to flow around and through the pillow, and to keep wool fibers from sticking to each other. Add gentle liquid detergent and place on delicate cold wash and rinse cycle.

Step 2

Hang the pillow to line dry for about four hours. Once the pillow is almost dry place it in a large commercial dryer on a low temperature to finish drying and allow it to fluff.

IV. How to Clean Buckwheat Pillows

Cleaning a buckwheat filled pillow is all washing its cover and not the actual buckwheat. Once buckwheat hulls are soaked they will be ruined making them soggy, unsupportive, and a breeding ground for mold.

Step 1

Unzip the cover to the buckwheat. If the cover does not have a zipper, then you will have to open a seam and resew it once filled with the newly cleaned hulls. Place buckwheat filling in a large container. Now machine wash the cover in cold water. Sift through the buckwheat to make sure that all the hulls are in good shape. If there are any damp ones you may want to discard them. You can always buy and add new buckwheat as old hulls are tossed out.

Step 2

Place pillow cover to dry on a line or drying rack in the sun. While the cover is drying place the container of buckwheat in the sun as well. Stir up the hulls during the drying process to cycle the bottom ones to the top.

Step 3

Once the cover is completely dry then pour, or scoop, the buckwheat hulls back inside and zip up, or sew up, to be ready for bed.

V. How to Clean Microbead Pillows

With tiny beads of polystyrene making up this type of pillow, washing it can get messy if there is one itsy bitsy tear in it. By being extra careful you can easily wash these types of pillows.

Step 1

Place entire pillow inside a large tied up pillow case. This way if the pillow does have a rip the beads will be contained. Place the pillow in a washing machine, preferably a top loader, with a couple of heavy towels to keep the lightweight pillow from floating to the top of the wash. Place gentle liquid detergent and set the cycle of gentle with warm water.

Step 2

Dry the pillow in a dryer on the low temperature setting. Take out before completely dry to avoid over heating that will damage the microbeads. Finish drying by removing pillow from the protective pillow case and air drying on a line or rack.

Even with the understanding of how to wash pillows they will still need to be replaced every one to two years. With dead cells and oils from the skin and hair sitting on the pillow, as well as normal wear and tear, the pillow will certainly have lived a productive life. Proper maintenance is imperative to allow for the bed pillows to live a full life promoting the best sleep possible.

Marc Werner - Founder, GhostBed

Marc Werner

Founder - GhostBed

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After undergoing three neck surgeries, Marc knew what it was like to live and sleep in constant pain. In 2001, after searching fruitlessly for a comfortable pillow and mattress that supported his neck and back ... Learn More

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