How to Wash and Brighten Pillows

I finally discovered the difference between a regular pillow and a great pillow. For years I had been sleeping on one of those cheap filled pillows and wake up with a crick in my neck every so often. I have now see light with my memory foam pillow and I sleep so much better. The reason I tell you this is that the regular pillows flatten and lose their shape over time and need to be washed 2-3 times a year. I still use a cheap pillow under/behind my memory foam pillow and even though my head isn’t usually on it, it too needs to be washed.

How to Wash Pillows

As you can see in the photo above, at least one of the pillows was ridiculously yellow before the wash. I may have neglected to wash it for a while… Washing your pillow is easy and here are a few easy tips to wash pillows. For all intents and purposes, the pillows I washed were polyester fill with a cotton cover and these are my recommendations to wash this type of pillow.

  1. Always check the tag for washing instructions as these are designed to keep the integrity of said pillow.
  2. For a top loading machine, always wash 2 pillows at once to keep the machine balanced. I also recommend this for front loaders.
  3. To help whiten ridiculously yellow pillows, soak the pillows in a bleach solution prior to the wash cycle for 30 minute to an hour. I recommend about 1 cup for 2 pillows and using the soak function on your washer (if it has one).
  4. Use a mild detergent, like the free and clear version of your favorite detergent or a homemade laundry detergent, and wash in warm to hot water with a white vinegar rinse aid/fabric softener. I used All Free and Clear because it is made for sensitive skin (no dyes or scents) and because I like it (not a sponsored post). The hot water, as well as the bleach, will help kill anything living in your pillows.
  5. For smelly pillows from husbands or teenagers, add 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda to your wash to help kill the smells.
  6. Dry your pillows in the dryer with tennis balls on medium to high heat. The tennis balls will help keep your pillows fluffy by preventing the fill from clumping. The high heat is, again, if you are trying to make sure you kill everything that might be living in your pillows. Drying your pillows may take 2-3 timed cycles. Check the moisture levels in your pillows between cycles by letting them cool a little bit. You should be able to feel any moisture left in your pillows. Dry your pillows until you can no longer feel any moisture when your pillows are cool.

Other Pillow Washing and Maintenance Tips

Wash Pillows 2-3 Times a Year

During your spring and fall cleaning, wash your pillows, or when you notice they are turning yellow. Hopefully, you are washing your pillow cases 1-2 times a week, so check the coloring of your pillows. I notice when washing my pillow cases there tends to be a “grease” spot from where my head rests. When I start to see that grease spot on my pillow cover, or the actual pillow, I know it’s time to wash the pillow.

Use a Pillow Protector

To keep your pillows cleaner, use a pillow protector under your pillow case. These pillow protectors will help keep allergens out of your pillows and act as a second line of defense against the oils on your face and skins cells from getting through to the fill. I wash the ones on my memory foam pillows about once a month to every other month.

Replace Your Pillows

Polyester filled pillows have a life span of about 2 years. I’m sure many of us keep our pillows longer than that (guilty) but after that amount of time, they will no longer provide the correct support needed for your head and neck. You can test your pillow’s ability to support your head and neck by folding your pillow in half. If your pillow unfolds itself, then your pillow is still good to use. If the pillow remains folded, it’s time to get a new pillow. I would also encourage you to replace your pillow if the color matches the color of gold more closely than white. 🙂

Washing Feather Pillows

Washing a feather pillow is very similar to washing a polyester pillow. You may wash a feather pillow in the washer using mild detergent and warm water, however, do not bleach your feather pillow. Bleach will strip the feathers of natural oils. Dry the pillow on low heat, again with tennis balls to fluff, for 2-3 cycles until no moisture remains. You may also dry your feather pillow outside in the hot sun; bonus, this will also naturally whiten your pillow.

At this point I have typed the word pillow so many times it looks funny. We sleep on our pillows every night for about 8 hours so it should make sense to wash pillows 2-3 times a year and replace them after 2 years. I still keep some pillows longer than that to serve as my decorative sham pillows, or my secondary pillow. I do plan to do a post on washing memory foam pillows in the future as these pillow do need different and special care.

Happy Cleaning!