How To Clean Pillows (Expert Tips & Tricks)

How To Clean Pillows (Expert Tips & Tricks)

Chances are, you wash your sheets and your duvet regularly. But (and be honest!) when was the last time that you cleaned your pillows? Unfortunately, most of us forget to do this vital household task because it seems like too much hassle or we don't know where to start. However, if you don't know how to clean pillows, you could be gambling with your health.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, plenty of nasty things could live in your pillows. We're talking dust mites, bed bugs, and other gruesome creatures. If that wasn't enough to make your skin crawl, your pillow might also be home to a whole world of bacteria. If you don't clean your pillows regularly, you might find that you pick up the odd illness from them. Gross! Luckily, there's a way to solve this problem.

If you want to learn how to clean pillows, you've come to the right place. We've got the inside scoop on how to get these bedding essentials looking, smelling, and feeling as good as new in no time. Getting rid of anything icky in there doesn't have to be complicated. Read on to learn the fantastic cleaning hacks you wish you knew.

Hint: Not all pillows are created equal

Before we get into how to wash pillows, you should know something. Not all pillows are the same. If you are familiar with IKEA (or any other home shop!), you will know that there is a rainbow array of pillow options, from feather pillows to memory foam.

You don't want to take the same approach when washing different pillows; the best way to clean them will depend on what they contain. For that reason, you should always read the instructions on the label of your products. You will often find that they have details about how you can wash the pillows in the first place or say whether you can put them in the washing machine. It's well worth checking!

How to clean throw pillows

Throw pillows — or cushions — are decorative ones you have on your bed. You might have a few statement pillows in bold colours or with a cool print. While these pillows don't tend to get as much use as your everyday ones, you still need to clean them. If it has been a while since you last washed these pillows, follow the below steps to get started:

Step 1: Take the covers off!

Do your throw pillows smell bad? The first thing you need to do is take the covers off these cushions. You should find a zip at the side of these pillows, and you can slip the covers off in no time. (Of course, this will not always be possible!)

Step 2: Check the label

Beneath the main cover, you may find a label with washing instructions. If that is the case, it will explain the best way to clean pillows. However, if there is no label, you will need to use your best judgement and follow the next steps here.

Step 3: Use a delicate cycle

Use a front-loading washing machine and pop your decorative pillows in. You want to use a delicate cycle and the mildest detergent that you can find. That way, you won't put too much strain on the decorative pillows when you wash them. Hand wash the covers.

Step 4: Leave them to air dry

Don't make the mistake of putting these decorative pillows in the dryer. You may find that the pillows shrink or change shape thanks to the heat. Instead, put the pillows on a line, allowing them to air dry naturally. That way, they will retain their shape and size.

How to clean a memory foam pillow

Do you have memory foam pillows at home? These beauties can work wonders on your neck and back. However, you may have no clue when it comes to cleaning them. The main problem here is that memory foam is… well, foam. It soaks things up quickly.

With that in mind, it's a bad idea to put memory foam pillows in the washing machine. You may find that the material absorbs too much liquid and is a nightmare to dry. The heat from the washing machine may also warp the foam, leaving it all mangled. If you want to make sure these pillows stay clean and fresh, try the following steps:

Step 1: Vacuum the memory foam pillows

Are you worried that your memory foam pillows are full of dust? Use a handheld vacuum cleaner to give them a good once-over. You should take the covers off before you attempt this step. Give your pillows a good shake and beating. Then vacuum out any excess.

Step 2: Treat stains directly (with baking soda!) 

Oops… if you spilt something on your memory foam pillow, you might be prone to panic. Luckily, you can treat the stain directly. One way is to use baking soda and warm water to make a paste. Next, treat the area with the stain by rubbing the paste into it. Leave it for a few minutes, and then use warm water to dab away the mixture. You can leave the memory foam pillows to dry naturally after that!

Step 3: Hand wash the pillows

If the vacuuming and stain treatments aren't doing the trick, you must go for a full wash. As we have covered, you shouldn't put memory foam in the washing machine. Instead, you can try the hand wash method. Do not submerge the pillows in water completely! Instead, use a damp cloth and some gentle detergent to dab the exterior of the pillows. By the end of this process, the pillows should be damp and not wet. Then leave them to air dry.

How to wash feather pillows

It may come as a surprise to learn that feather or down pillows are the easiest to wash! If you have these pillows in your home, you should have no problem cleaning them. Should the pillows have a funky smell or simply need cleaning, here's what you should do:

Step 1: Read the label

Of course, before we go any further, you need to make sure that you read the label on your feather pillows. While the interior of these pillows is easy to wash, the type of fabric on the exterior may be sensitive. In addition, the label may tell you what setting to use in the machine.

Step 2: Wash on any cycle!

If there is no information on the label of your feather pillows, you may be able to assume that you can wash them on any cycle. Of course, you want to avoid going for a super hot treatment as that may cause the fabric to shrink. Once again, use a mild detergent here.

Step 3: Leave them to dry

The drying process is the same one used for the throw pillows. Yes, you should allow your feather or down pillows to dry naturally. You can either peg the pillows out on a line or leave them in an airy room. They should take no more than a day or two to dry!

Cleaning pillows doesn't have to be a major hassle! Our guide has all the necessary information if you have never done it before. While some pillows tend to have special instructions — which you will find on the label — most are easy to wash. As a golden rule, you should wash pillows every six months. That way, you can get rid of the nasty dust mites or any other dirt and bugs inside them.


Do you need more answers? You've come to the right place if we missed something crucial in our guide. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about washing pillows:

Can you put pillows in the washing machine?

That depends on the type of pillow. Throw, synthetic, and memory foam can be washed on a low setting with mild detergent. Learning how to wash pillows in the washing machine is not hard. Read the instructions on the label beforehand.

Why do pillows turn yellow?

Have you got yellowed pillows? The reason may be grosser than you think. This discolouration is often due to sweat over time. If you tend to get too warm at night, you may find that the pillows absorb your sweat (and all of the dirt in it!). That can lead to a yellow or even brown colour.

How often should pillows be replaced?

You should replace your pillows when they lose their shape and no longer give your neck the support it needs. As a rule, that tends to mean once every 1-2 years.

When was the last time you washed your pillows? Let us know in the comments below! 

Joanne A


Expert in finding beautiful solutions for small and rented spaces. Would happily spend the rest of my life shopping for homewares and watching Disney movies - I only wish I had Cinderella's army of mice to help me clean!

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