We may receive financial compensation for products purchased through links or codes on this website. is owned by Healthy Sleep, LLC and includes Amerisleep, LLC advertising. Learn more

The best of the best

Compare the best mattresses of 2021 all in one place to find your perfect bed.


Without proper care, even high-quality pillows can collect oils, dandruff, and other debris, which can impact sleep quality. Changing your pillowcase every week is a great place to start, but it’s not enough to keep your sleep environment hygienic.

Washing your pillows once a month improves your sleep, although you can damage your pillow if you do not wash it properly—different types of pillows require different methods of cleaning.

This article explores how to clean and maintain pillows according to their filling. We’ll also discuss when you should replace your old pillow.

Pillow Washing Guidelines

There are different ways to wash a pillow; unfortunately, washing a pillow the wrong way can destroy the material.

Before you do any washing, always read the pillow’s care label—there, the manufacturer will explain the best way to take care of your pillows.

If you don’t have access to the care tag, you may follow one of our general instructions.

How to Wash Memory Foam Pillows

Memory foam pillows become delicate when wet—we don’t recommend throwing one of these pillows in a washing machine. Memory foam is also susceptible to mold and mildew, so it needs to dry quickly.

To hand-wash your memory foam pillow, take off the pillow protector and toss it in the washing machine with the rest of your bed sheets. Then, fill a tub with lukewarm water and some laundry detergent.

Gently submerge the cushion and squeeze it repeatedly. Drain the tub and fill it again with clean water. Submerge the pillow and squeeze until the soapy water is removed from the memory foam.

Press all the excess water from the pillow. You can place the cushion between two dry towels and press down to get more water out. Afterward, let it air dry in direct sunlight or under a fan.

Do not use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process as the heat will melt the memory foam.

How to Wash Down Pillows

Down pillows are one of the few types of pillows you can put in a washing machine. If you have a washing machine with a spindle (the agitator found in the middle of the washing drum), you’ll need to place two cushions in the drum at a time to keep things balanced.

If your pillow is any larger than a king-size pillow, you’ll need an industrial washer to clean it properly, although this rule applies with any larger pillow type.

First, add a small amount of mild detergent to the bottom of the drum and fill it with warm water. Then, set the machine on a gentle, cold rinse cycle and spin all the excess water out of the pillows.

Transfer the pillows to the dryer and throw in two clean tennis balls—the balls fluff the cushions as they dry. Make sure to set the dryer to low heat.

How to Wash Feather Pillows

Feather pillows are machine washable. Like down pillows, you’ll want to wash feather pillows two at a time with a little liquid detergent.

Set the washing machine to the delicate wash cycle and spin the extra water from the cushion.

You can reduce drying time by throwing two dryer balls in with the pillows. The dryer balls will break up any clumping and fluff your pillows in the process.

Warning: Do not place a feather pillow in the washer or dryer if it has a torn cover, as the pillow’s filling could leak out and ruin your washer.

How to Wash Synthetic Pillows

You can clean polyester pillows the same way you wash down and feather pillows.

Place the cushions in the washing machine two at a time and add a mild detergent. Place the machine on a spin cycle to get rid of the excess water. Transfer the synthetic pillows into the dryer with two tennis balls and tumble dry on low heat.

How to Wash Latex Pillows

Latex pillows cannot go in the washing or drying machine. Latex is sturdy, but it can still mold if not dried quickly.

Dilute laundry soap in a bucket of warm water. Place the pillow in the bathtub and pour the soapy mixture over the cushion. Squeeze the cushion gently until you see suds. Run clean water over the cushion and squeeze until the water runs clear. Press the water from the pillow and dry in the sun or under a fan.

How to Wash Buckwheat Pillows

Unfortunately, the only washable part of buckwheat pillows is the cover. If buckwheat hulls get wet, they mold and lose support, so you will have to replace them. Make sure to wash the cover in cold water and hang dry to prevent material shrinkage.

Keeping Your Pillows Clean

If you take measures to keep your pillows clean, you won’t have to wash your pillows as often. Below are a few tips to keep your pillow from getting dirty.

Cover your pillow with a pillowcase.  Pillowcases shield your pillow from debris and liquid spills. Washing your pillowcase once a week will minimize grime build-up and increase the cushion’s lifespan. If you use a bed sham pillowcase for a decorative pillow and avoid sleeping on it, you can wash it less often, about every two to four weeks.

Don’t eat on your bed. If you regularly eat on your bed, you’ve probably dropped food on your pillow. Crumbs and stains attract bacteria, dust mites, and bed bugs, which can cause allergic reactions and impact your sleep quality.

Regularly spot clean. Spot cleaning your pillow ensures you don’t clean your cushion as often, although it won’t replace a thorough cleaning. If you happen to spill a dark liquid, you can spot clean to prevent the spill from becoming a stain.

Air out your pillow. Allowing your pillow to air out prevents the pillow from smelling stale.

You only need to fluff feather, polyester, and down pillows to keep them fresh. You can also hang your cushion outdoors on a clothesline once a month to remove any odd smells.

Sunlight is a natural deodorizer, so setting a memory foam pillow in direct sunlight will prevent the pillow from smelling.

Baking soda can absorb smells. Just sprinkle baking soda over the top of the pillow and let it sit for 2 hours. Vacuum up the baking soda with an upholstery attachment and repeat the process on the cushion’s other side.

When To Replace Your Pillow

Your pillows can only last for so long before it’s time to toss them in the trash.

If your pillow is no longer supportive or it’s no longer helping you sleep, it’s time to toss it. You won’t be able to fluff loose-fill pillows if they have lost support. Memory foam and latex pillows will begin to deteriorate as they lose support.

A moldy scent is another indicator you need a new pillow—sleeping with a moldy pillow can cause health issues.

Generally, a loose-fill pillow should be replaced every six months for hygienic reasons. Buckwheat and shredded memory foam pillows don’t need to be thrown away; simply replacing the fill every six months and washing the cover weekly will keep the pillow fresh.

Solid memory foam pillows have a lifespan of 12 to 36 months. As long as you follow the care tag’s washing instructions, you shouldn’t have to throw the cushion away before that. Remember, memory foam and latex pillow’s density make them susceptible to mold and mildew, so make sure to dry them quickly.

Latex pillows can maintain support for up to 10 years; however, for hygienic reasons, we suggest tossing your latex pillow every two years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to wash pillows in the washing machine?

If your pillows not marked “dry clean only” it is safe to wash it in your home washing machine. Most pillows can be washed at home with a mild detergent and a gentle washing cycle.

When should you throw away a pillow?

When your pillow is no longer supporting your head and neck properly, you should replace it. Your head should be kept in alignment with the neck and shoulders during sleep. A pillow that causes your head to sag below the shoulders or one that pushes it too far forward, can cause tension to build up, leaving you sore in the morning.

Can an old pillow make you sick?

If mold, mildew, or bacterial have formed in the pillow, it can make you sick. Breathing in these contaminates every night can lead to allergy symptoms such as sore throat, headaches, and nasal congestion.

How often should you wash your bed sheets?

Your bed sheets should be washed at least once every two weeks. If you frequently sweat during sleep, it is best to wash them once a week. Those with severe allergies may also benefit from washing their bed sheets every week.

How often should you change your bed pillows?

You should replace your pillows every 1 to 2 years. Washing a pillow can increase its lifespan, but it may stop supporting you correctly after a year or two. If you notice that your head is falling below your shoulder or that it is no longer cushioning the neck, it may be time to replace your pillow.


The best pillow is supportive, sleep-promoting, and easy to wash. Some pillows are easier to maintain than others and, therefore, fit busier lifestyles. Regularly washing your pillows increases your sleep quality since debris and allergens aren’t irritating the nose or throat as you sleep.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *