How Often Should You Wash Your Pillows?

You wash your sheets weekly, you clean your washing machine every three months, but those pillows on your bed? They've gone without a wash since—well, we better not say. Now is the time to finally start washing your pillows religiously. You truly don't even want to know what might start lurking below the case otherwise. We're breaking down everything you need to know about washing pillows to help simplify the process.

White Bedding with Book and Coffee
Michelle Patrick / EyeEm/Getty Images

Can You Wash Pillows?

As you can probably tell by the amount of text following this answer, yes, it is possible to wash pillows—but we don't recommend it for those $5-a-pop, polyester-fill ones you stocked up on in bulk for your guest room. Just go ahead and replace those as they're likely to become bumpy, lumpy, and lose their fluff after a spin cycle or two. Truth be told, we think your dollar is best spent on a higher-quality pillow that can be washed. If washed properly and regularly, a good pillow can last upwards of 10 years.

Why Should You Wash Your Pillows?

Oil, dirt, sweat, makeup from that night when you couldn't be bothered to wash your face—the gang's all here or, more accurately, accumulating on your pillow with each passing slumber. We hear bed bugs are also a possibility, but we refuse to believe they exist; we sleep best with a hefty dose of denial.

How Often Should You Wash Your Pillows?

There's conflicting information on how often pillows should hit the wash. To get a professional take, we reached out to The Company Store, a source for some of the coziest bedding options out there. Associate Product Merchant Susan Lazor recommends washing sleeping pillows two to four times a year and also pairing with a pillow protector before putting on the pillowcase. The extra layer provided by the pillow protector acts as a barrier and will help extend the life of your investment (er, pillow).

How Should You Wash Your Pillows?

This is where things might get a little dicey. Lazor says different pillows call for different washing techniques, so it's best to refer to the care label. Machine washing is the ticket for some, whereas others (like The Company Store's top-selling Best Down Pillow) require dry cleaning. Consumer Reports recommends letting your pillows air out every month or two between washes. This involves giving them a good fluff and hanging outside in the sunshine on a clothesline. Alternatively, you can put them in the dryer on a non-heat cycle to bring them back to their ultimate fluff. This process doesn't work for every type of pillow (again, consult your care label), but should work for most.

How To Wash Foam Pillows

Don't even think about throwing your foam pillows into the washing machine. For a quick refresh, start by sprinkling your pillow with baking soda, letting sit for about 60 minutes, then vacuum. Repeat with reverse side. For a full-blown deep clean, you'll have to hand wash by submerging into a tub or large sink filled with water and a couple teaspoons of gentle detergent. Squeeze or knead the pillow so all the soapy water makes it through every layer. You'll want to do this for about 10 minutes. Next, drain the sink or tub and wash out every last bit of detergent, dirt, and grime until the water leaving the pillow runs clear. Gently squeeze the pillow to remove extra water and let sit flat on a drying rack to dry. Warning: The drying process could take upwards of a day. You might want to have a backup waiting in the linen closet for this reason.

How To Wash Polyester Pillows

Polyester pillows can go into the washing machine. If Consumer Reports says it's true it must be. Just be sure to wash on the gentle cycle and use detergent sparingly. It's best to wash your pillows two at a time or throw in a couple towels if you're going solo.

How To Wash Down Pillows

Use a gentle or low-suds detergent, or one that's particularly formulated for use on down products. According to the authority on all things laundry, The Laundress, the process for washing down pillows is relatively easy. Simply set the washing machine on the delicate cycle, add detergent, and voila. Since you'll be using it sparingly, don't feel guilty about splurging on The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo.

How To Wash Feather Pillows

Did you know there's a difference between down and feather pillows? We didn't either until recently. The feathers in a feather pillow most often come from the back feathers or wings of ducks or geese, whereas down is a type of cluster devoid of the quill. If you're getting poked by a little spiky quill, chances are you have a feather pillow on your hands—or under your head.

Because feather pillows are so similar to down pillows it's safe to use the same cleaning method as above.

How To Wash Throw Pillows

Throw pillows will follow the same instructions as their bed pillow counterparts. So if you have a down-filled throw pillow consult the instructions in that section above. If you have a polyester-filled throw pillow, follow our suggestions for polyester bed pillow care. Removeable covers should be laundered separately and according to care instructions. More delicate fabrics such as silk will need to be dry cleaned.

How To Dry Pillows

No moisture can be left in pillow or else it could mold. Down pillows should be dried with no heat, but low heat can work for other fill options. Just say away from hotter temperatures as high heat will cause just about any pillow to get clumpy and bumpy. The exception? MyPillow, which the site says can't be overdried. Very resilient, who knew? If you use tennis balls, put them in white socks to avoid color transfer, but don't use tennis balls or other fluffing options before consulting your pillow's care instructions.

WATCH: Things You Should Never Put in the Washing Machine

How Often Should You Replace Your Pillows?

How often should you replace pillows depends on the product. When they lose shape or get bumpy or uncomfortable go ahead and toss them. As we mentioned above, with proper care a good down pillow can last for upwards of 10 years making them a better investment than cheaper options that you wind up replacing every 6 months.

Was this page helpful?
Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Fountain L. Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow. Sleep Foundation.

  2. Gripp S, Quesada C. Biology, Habitat, and Management of Bed Bugs. College of Agriculture Penn State Extension.

  3. Noyed D. How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets? Sleep Foundation.

  4. Rae H. Do You Need a Pillow Protector? Consumer Reports.

  5. How to Wash Your Pillow (Yes, You Should). Consumer Reports.

Related Articles