How to Clean and Care for Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

Pillows on a bed with detergent and dryer balls

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

If you like a soft, squishy pillow at night but you're allergic to down, a polyester-filled bed pillow may be your best choice. Polyester-filled pillows are less expensive, hypo-allergenic, and easy to care for. You'll find them in many thicknesses, with varying degrees of firmness, and covered with a variety of breathable fabrics from cotton to linen to bamboo. They're easy to clean and keep in good shape with a few simple tips. In addition to the traditional rectangular pillow shape, you can find square, round, and rolled polyester-filled inserts for decorative pillows that can be washed using the same steps. 

How Often to Clean Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

If you use a pillow cover and pillowcase and wash them regularly, a polyester-filled bed pillow should only need to be washed once or twice a year, unless there's a spill or accident. Before you begin the washing process, check the pillow carefully for rips and tears, and mend them—or you'll have a washer tub full of fluff.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Soft brush (optional)
  • Wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or clean canvas shoes
  • Towels
  • Vacuum (optional)

Materials

  • High-efficiency, low-suds laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Stain remover
  • Baking soda (optional)

Instructions

Various tools and cleansers for washing pillows

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Wash Polyester-Filled Pillows
Detergent High-efficiency, low-suds
Water Temperature Cold to warm
Cycle Type Gentle
Drying Cycle Type Medium heat
Special Treatments Use dryer balls
Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Treat Stains

    Check for any stains that need extra attention. Treat with a stain remover, or pretreat using a bit high-efficiency, low-suds detergent like Tide or Persil, which have enough enzymes to remove almost all stains. Work in the stain remover with a soft brush, and allow it to set for at least 15 minutes before washing the entire pillow.

    Someone pretreating a pillow with stain remover

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Set the Washer Temperature and Cycle

    Use cold or warm water, add only a small amount of detergent (a couple teaspoons), and select the gentle cycle. When the cycle is complete, run the pillows through an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the detergent is rinsed away.

    Someone pouring detergent into a cap

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Load the Washer Correctly

    If you have a standard top-load washer with a center agitator, it's important to load two pillows into your washer to balance the machine. You may also need to add some towels to keep the washer operating smoothly and prevent the machine from becoming off-balance. For front load washers and high-efficiency, top-load washers, adding a couple of towels will help balance the load, but one pillow can be washed alone successfully.

    Someone adding pillows to a washer

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Use the Best Drying Techniques

    Fluff the filling before you put the pillows in the dryer. Add wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or clean canvas shoes to help break any clumps in the filling. The dryer should be set on low or medium heat. Stop the dryer every 15 minutes, and re-fluff the pillows by hand. It'll take longer than a normal load to get the pillows completely dry.

    Someone adding wool dryer balls into a dryer

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Storing Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

When not in use, store polyester-filled bed pillows in a plastic storage tub or a cotton bag. While polyester is resistant to mildew and insect activity, the pillows should be washed to remove body soil from the outer fabric (which can attract insects) and completely dried before storing.

Repairs

Pillows can rip along the seams. Repairs can easily be made by hand- or machine-sewing, using a matching color thread. If your pillow is torn and you don't want to replace it, try a liquid fabric adhesive, which should hold the pillow's rip closed so the filling stays inside.

Treating Stains on Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

Between washings, check for any specific stains that need a quick spot-cleaning. To treat small stains, mix 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap in 2 cups lukewarm water. Dip a clean white cloth into the solution, and gently blot from the outside of the stain toward the center. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. Once the stain is gone, dip a clean white cloth in water, and blot to remove remaining soap. Allow the pillow to air-dry completely. If you must speed the drying process, use a blow-dryer set on cool to dry the cleaned area, or place it in a dryer on low heat. 

Tips for Washing Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

  • It's a good idea to pick a sunny, breezy day to wash polyester-filled pillows so you can put them outside for a final air-drying.
  • Help maintain a clean pillow by using a removable pillow cover made from a washable, breathable fiber. The cover is used in addition to your regular pillowcase, which should be washed weekly or more often
  • Wash the pillow cover at least once a month using hot water and more often during hot weather or if someone is ill.
  • To only freshen a pillow, remove and wash the protective cover. Spritz the pillow with a fabric refresher, or sprinkle the entire pillow well with baking soda. Allow the baking soda to sit for at least an hour, and then vacuum it away using the upholstery brush attachment. This absorbs odors, and vacuuming removes dust mites and pet hair. Flip the pillow over, and repeat.