Pillows in a washing machine

How to wash your pillows and when to replace them

Your pillows get a lot of use, but how often do you wash them? Not the pillowcases, but the actual pillow itself? Unwashed pillows harbour dirt, oil, sweat, and dust mites that can cause your allergies to flare up and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Regularly cleaning your pillows will keep them looking and feeling fresh. In this post, we look at how to wash your pillows and whether running them through the washing machine is safe. 

How often should you wash your pillows? 

Your pillowcases, duvet cover, and sheets should be washed every week (or every other week). Washing your bedding removes the saliva, sweat, dirt, and makeup that can build up over the week.

Your pillows will last a little longer between washes than your pillowcases. You should aim to wash your pillow every six months, but four times a year is preferable if you can manage it.

Try using a pillow protector to keep your pillow looking cleaner and smelling fresh for longer. The added layer of protection stops as much saliva and sweat from making its way to your pillow.  

Turning on a washing machine

Can you wash a pillow in a washing machine? 

Most feather, down, and fibre-filled pillows can be washed in a washing machine. Before you go ahead and stick your pillows in the machine, check the washing instructions on your pillow.

You’re looking to make sure it’s not hand-wash or dry-clean only. Though most pillows will be fine, there are some exceptions, like foam pillows which shouldn’t be machine-washed.

Cushions can also be washed in a machine, but just like pillows, you should check the washing instructions first. 

How to wash pillows in a washing machine 

1. Before you wash your pillows, start by treating any stains. You can do this using a pre-wash stain removal spray or a dab of laundry detergent. If your pillow is filled with feathers or down, shake the filling out of the way of the stain before you treat that part of the pillow.

2. Put your pillow into the washing machine and add your laundry detergent. Most pillows can be washed on a gentle cycle, but for down-filled pillows, you may need to adjust this to a delicate setting at a cool temperate (always check the label first).

3. The best way to dry your pillows is to put them in the tumble dryer, but if this isn’t an option, then leave them in an airing cupboard or a well-ventilated room for a couple of days.

4. Most fibre-filled pillows can be tumble-dried on a low-to-medium heat for an hour. For down pillows, reduce the temperature to extra-low. Add a couple of dryer balls (or tennis balls) to your tumble dryer to keep your pillows fluffy. This will stop the filling in your pillows from clumping up.

5. Your pillows must be completely dry before you put them back on your bed. Even a small amount of moisture can lead to mould and mildew, so check them thoroughly. 

Repeat this process every three to six months to keep your pillows looking and smelling fresh. 

How long do pillows take to dry? 

Waiting for your pillows to dry is one of the most frustrating parts of washing your pillows at home. If your pillows aren’t left to dry properly, you risk them developing mould and mildew, which can be dangerous.  

To prevent this, let your pillows dry for as long as possible. Although the cover may feel dry, the inside could still be wet, so it’s always better to leave them longer if possible.  

If you’re using a tumble dryer, set it for one hour, then check to see if your pillows are dry. If they’re still wet, put them back on for another half an hour, and check every 30 minutes until you’re sure they are dry. 

Depending on the filling, air drying your pillows can take several hours to a few days.

Removing yellow stains from a pillow

Why are my pillows yellow? 

If you’ve noticed your pillow is starting to turn yellow, then you might be wondering why. It looks unsightly and has an unpleasant odour to go with it. These yellow stains are caused by moisture that has saturated the pillow.

Sweat is the number one cause of yellow stains, but saliva, face cream, makeup, and even going to bed with wet hair can all contribute to a dirty pillow.

Some cleaning experts suggest using a mixture of baking soda, white vinegar, and laundry detergent to eliminate yellow stains. Baking soda is excellent for removing odours and whitening your pillow.

If you add this mixture to your washing machine, be prepared to give your pillows an extra rinse to get rid of the excess residue.

How often should you replace your pillows? 

The quality and material of your pillow will determine how often it needs replacing. Most sleep experts recommend replacing your pillows every one to two years (except for latex pillows which last slightly longer).

If your pillow is no longer doing a good enough job of supporting you, then it might be time to invest in a new one. Signs that your pillow needs replacing include lumps, sagging in the middle, and excessive yellowing.

Investing in a new pillow ensures your head and neck are supported, so you wake up feeling rested the next day. And if you suffer from allergies, ridding your pillow of dust mites and bacteria can improve your symptoms for a better night’s sleep.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, you might like our post on how to clean your mattress