How To Wash Your Bed Pillows To Make Them Look Like New Again

Part of being an adult is washing your sheets regularly (at least, it should be), and you might even have “cleaning your mattress” on your list of sleep hygiene tasks. But, when you strip your bed of all the sheets and pillowcases, so you can throw them in the washing machine, and you start vacuuming and spot-cleaning your mattress, you might have noticed your pillows have an unfortunate looking yellow color.

You might wonder if it is okay to wash your pillows in the washing machine, and it turns out that you absolutely can. Yellowed pillows are far from attractive, and if yours have reached that color, it means that your body’s natural oils have made their way into your pillows. But, before you head to the store to buy new ones, try washing your pillows in the washer, and you may be surprised that when you are done, they will look brand new. Read on and learn how to wash pillows!

Washing Pillows


The ultimate homemaking expert, Martha Stewart, says that you should wash your pillows every three to six months so that you can remove the bacteria, mold, dead skin, dirt, dust, and odors. However, she does add that before you throw them into the washing machine, check the tag to make sure your pillows aren’t dry-clean only.

  • To get rid of the yellow stains, fill your top-loading washer with hot water (If you have a front-loader, do this step in a large tub or laundry sink if it doesn’t have a soak option).
  • As the washer fills with water, add a cup of quality liquid or powdered laundry detergent, a half-cup of washing soda or borax, one cup of dishwasher detergent, and one cup of bleach.
  • Make sure everything has dissolved before adding your pillows. You can speed up this process by turning on the agitators (gentle cycle) for a few minutes. If you are using a tub or laundry sink, just let it sit and dissolve.
  • If your pillows have removable covers, take them off and throw them into the water with your pillows.
  • If your washer is large enough, you can wash two pillows at a time and balance the load.
  • Agitators in a top loader can be tough on pillows, so make sure to keep your washer on a gentle cycle.
  • After about an hour of soaking, flip the pillows upside down and keep the lid open, so the machine doesn’t start running.
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dirty bed pillows
(DAMRONG RATTANAPONG/Shutterstock.com)
  • At this point, you will let your pillows soak for another hour. The soaking process gives the cleaning ingredients a head start on the process of getting rid of the yellow stains. And, flipping the pillows halfway through makes sure they are fully saturated.
  • After the soak, start the machine and let it run through its full cycle. And, because of all of the soap and bleach, it is best to run it through the rinse cycle twice.
  • If you have a front loader without a soak option, after soaking your pillows in a tub or laundry sink for a couple of hours, transfer them into your washer and put them through a full wash and rinse cycle.

For down or feather-filled pillows, it is best to wash them by hand:

  • Soak them with water and the above soap and bleach mixture for a couple of hours, and then submerge the pillows and knead them gently.
  • Then, drain the sink or tub before rinsing them in cool water.
  • Next, press the pillows to expel the water and roll them in a dry towel. You can also toss them in your washer — either top-loading or front-loading — and put the machine on the spin cycle to get rid of excess water.

Drying Pillows

pillows hanging on a clothesline

Now comes the easy part. All pillows (except foam) can go in the dryer.

  • Simply toss them in and add dryer balls to make sure they stay fluffy. A laundry hack is to put clean tennis balls inside of clean white cotton socks, and they should work just as good as anything store-bought. The balls will also help break up filling clumps.
  • Dry your synthetic pillows on low-heat for a few hours, or add a few clean, dry towels into the load to help absorb the moisture and speed up the drying process. If you have down or feather-filled pillows, dry them on the no-heat option.
  • For foam pillows, hang them on a drying rack or clothesline. This will take a while, and you must feel your way around the pillow to make sure they are completely dry.
  • You want to make sure that your pillows are completely dried all the way through because if you don’t, mildew can develop. So, instead of setting your dryer to auto-dry (which will only detect surface moisture and ignore the dampness inside) be sure to send your pillows through a full drying cycle at least a couple of times.
  • Now that your pillows have gone from grungy to clean, it’s time to put them back on the bed. They will be so white and clean, bedtime won’t happen fast enough.
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Pillow Maintenance

woman with a clean pillow
(Yuttana Jaowattana/Shutterstock.com)

It’s important to fluff your pillows every day, but try to keep washing them to about once a month. Pillows definitely deserve your attention, and it doesn’t take much to keep them fresh and clean. No matter if your pillows are synthetic (like polyester) or natural (down), you can easily wash them in the washing machine or by hand and get rid of that yellow tint and back to looking like new.

Fluffing your pillows on a daily basis helps remove any dust and restore their shape. Hanging them on a clothesline for a few hours once a month will air them out and minimize the need for washing. But, if that isn’t an option, tossing them in the dryer on a no-heat cycle is a good alternative (This is also a good idea for comforters).

Pillow covers are also good to have because they protect your pillow from sweat and body oils seeping into the pillow. If you do have the covers, toss them into the washer with your sheets each week to keep them fresh.

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