How to Clean a Pillow

A comfortable, clean pillow is essential to a good night of sleep. But unlike keeping sheets clean, many people forget about washing pillows. Sure, they’ll wash the pillowcases, but what about the pillows themselves? Maybe you never thought about it and wonder, “CAN you wash pillows?” The answer is yes—most of the time! If you’re wondering how to wash pillows, keep reading.

Why Should I Bother Washing Pillows?

Many of us fluff and air out our pillows now and then. However, it’s important to note that actually washing pillows can go a long way in removing dirt, odors, and allergens from the place you rest your head1.

How to Wash Pillows

So now that you know the why, let’s discuss the how. Believe it or not, it is okay to throw most foam-filled or synthetic pillows in the washing machine occasionally. (As always, be sure to check the care instructions on the label to be safe.) Twice per year should do the trick2.

Here are some tips for how to clean a pillow at home:

  • Use a quality detergent.
  • Put the pillow inside a pillowcase before placing it into the washing machine. This keeps it from snagging.
  • Set the machine on the gentle cycle. If using a traditional machine, agitate for only a few minutes and then use the spin dry feature two times or more to remove moisture from the pillows.
  • For a more balanced load, clean two pillows at once.
  • Unless otherwise suggested on the care label, set the dryer to run for about an hour at a moderate level of heat.
  • Throw one or two tennis balls into the dryer to prevent pillow from clumping.
To keep pillows clean between washings, you can use your vacuum’s upholstery tool to remove dust. Or, you can hang them on a clothesline outside3, ideally on a sunny, windy day—or throw them in the dryer for a few minutes on a no-heat cycle.

Some experts say you can indeed machine wash certain pillows safely even if dry cleaning is recommended. However, if the instructions on the care label say to dry clean, it’s best to stick with the manufacturer’s recommendation or risk a ruined pillow.

  1. SOURCE: Laundry Advice For Allergy Sufferers (Jan. 2014). National Allergy. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from:
  2. SOURCE: How to Wash a Pillow to Keep It Smelling Fresh (Sep. 2016). Consumer Reports. Retrieved from:
  3. SOURCE: Cleaning with Sunlight (July 2012). Science Daily. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from: