How to Wash, Dry, and Care for Polyester Pillows

Pillows on a bed with detergent and dryer balls

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Polyester-filled pillows are less expensive, hypo-allergenic, and easier to care for than down pillows. Once or twice a year, wash them on the gentle cycle in the washing machine with a little bit of regular detergent, using cold or warm water, and dry them on medium heat with wool balls to keep them fluffy. However, before putting them in the washing machine, check the pillow labels to ensure they can go in the washing machine.

Poly-filled pillows come in a variety of shapes. Rectangular, square, round, and rolled polyester-filled inserts for decorative pillows can be washed using the same steps as bed pillows. They come in many thicknesses, with varying degrees of firmness, and are covered with various breathable fabrics from cotton to linen to bamboo. Following these simple instructions, they're easy to clean and keep in good shape.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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


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


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
How Often to Wash Once or twice a year
  1. Treat Stains

    Check for any stains that need extra attention. Treat with a stain remover, or pretreat using high-efficiency (HE), low-sudsing detergents like Tide or Persil. Both 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 tiny amount of detergent (a couple of teaspoons), and select the gentle cycle.

    Someone pouring detergent into a cap

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Load the Washer

    If you have a standard top-load washer with a center agitator, it's essential to load at least two pillows into your washer to balance the machine. When the cycle is complete, run the pillows through an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the detergent is rinsed away.


    Add some towels to keep the washer operating smoothly and prevent the machine from becoming off-balance. Add a few towels for front-load washers and high-efficiency top-load washers to help balance the load, but you can wash one pillow alone successfully.

    Someone adding pillows to a washer

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Dry the Pillows

    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. 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 dry the pillows.

    Someone adding wool dryer balls into a dryer

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Treating Stains on Polyester-Filled Pillows

Between washings, check for any specific stains that need a quick spot-cleaning. To treat small stains, mix 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap in 2 cups of lukewarm water. Dip a clean white cloth into the solution and gently blot from outside 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 the 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.

Care and 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.

Another trick for refreshing your pillow is to create a small, hand-sized opening to pull out all the old fill from the hole and refill it with new, fluffy polyester filling. Stitch up the hole, making the pillow like new.

Storing Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

When not in use, store polyester-filled bed pillows in a plastic storage tub, cotton bag, or cedar chest. While polyester is resistant to mildew and insect activity, you should wash the pillows to remove body soil from the outer fabric (which can attract insects) and completely dry them before storing them. Cedar is a natural insect repellant.

You can also consider using vacuum bags as a long-term storage option. Compressing the bags will make more space to store other things. Once you reintroduce air to the pillows, they will come back to life when you're ready to use them again. 

How Often to Wash 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.

Help maintain a clean pillow by using a removable pillow cover made from a washable, breathable fiber. The protective pillow cover is the last layer of defense from bodily oils, odors, sweat, and dust mites from reaching the pillow. Wash it at least once a month.

Wash the pillowcase more frequently—every time you change your bed sheets—which should be at least once a week.

Tips for Washing Polyester-Filled Bed Pillows

  • Pick a sunny, breezy day to wash polyester-filled pillows so you can put them outside for a final air drying.
  • If your pillow gets wet and sweaty during the hot summer, air it out to dry. Wash the pillow cover at least once a month using hot water and more often during hot weather or if someone is ill.
  • Remove and wash the pillowcase and protective cover to freshen up the pillow. Spritz the pillow with a fabric refresher, or sprinkle the entire pillow generously with baking soda. Allow the baking soda to sit for an hour, then vacuum it away using the upholstery brush attachment. Baking soda absorbs odors, and vacuuming removes dust mites and pet hair. Flip the pillow over, and repeat.
  • When storing a pillow for an extended period, include a fragrant dryer sheet in the storage bag to help the pillow maintain a fresh scent.
  • How do you wash pillows in the washing machine?

    It's best to wash several pillows simultaneously to balance the machine. Wash using a low-sudsing, high-efficiency detergent, or only use a little bit of a regular heavy-duty detergent on a gentle cycle with warm or cold water.

  • How do you keep polyester-filled pillows fluffy?

    When drying your pillows, use wool balls or tennis balls in the dryer; they knead the pillow while the dryer fluffs up the fill with air. You can also use your hand to massage your pillow to break up clumps and hit the pillow to inject air into the filling.

  • When is it time to replace your pillows?

    If your pillows don't bounce back after pressing them or they no longer fluff up after kneading or massaging them, it's time to consider getting a new pillow. For a quick test, fold the pillow in half. If the pillow doesn’t bounce back to its flat shape, replace it.