How to Wash All Types of Pillows

Pillows without sheets stacked on each other on top of bed

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

A good night's sleep requires a comfortable pillow. Pillows can be filled with feathers, down, fiberfill, or foam. While there is no single perfect pillow for everyone, one thing is certain: Pillows should be cleaned regularly to remove sweat, body oils, and dust mites.

It is important to know what type of filling is in your pillows so you can clean them correctly. The methods for cleaning pillows are simple, but you must allow enough time for the filling to dry completely, so plan to wash the pillows on a dry, breezy day to ensure faster drying.

How Often to Wash Pillows

Even if you protect your pillows with removable covers that you wash weekly, the pillow should be washed at least seasonally. It is perfectly fine to wash pillows more often, especially if someone in the household is ill.

How to Freshen Pillows Between Washes

To freshen feather and fiberfill pillows and remove dust and hair between washings, place one or two pillows in an automatic dryer set on air dry for 10 minutes. Add a few dryer balls to fluff the filling.

To freshen solid foam pillows, sprinkle the surface with baking soda and leave it for 30 minutes. Vacuum away the baking soda, flip the pillow over, and repeat the steps.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer or large bathtub
  • Dryer or drying rack
  • Dryer balls
  • Heavy cotton bath towels
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Vacuum
  • Soft, white cloth


  • High-efficiency, low suds detergent
  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Baking soda (optional)


Materials and tools to wash all types of pillows

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Wash Feather, Down, and Polyester-Filled Pillows

Feather pillows and polyester fiberfill pillows can be machine-washed or washed by hand. Do not use an excessive amount of detergent and avoid harsh twisting and wringing. Always inspect the outer covering before washing to make sure there are no holes or rips that will allow the filling to escape.

  1. Pretreat Stains

    If there are visible stains on the pillow, use an enzyme-based stain remover or a tiny dab of detergent to pretreat the stain. Work the stain remover into the soiled area with a soft-bristled brush and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes before washing the pillow.

    Feather filled pillow spot cleaned with enzyme-based stain remover

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Set and Load the Washer Correctly

    Feather pillows should be washed using the gentle cycle and cold water. Polyester-filled pillows can be washed in cold or warm water. It is usually best to wash pillows in pairs to help keep the washer in balance. If you have only one pillow to wash, add a couple of heavy cotton bath towels to balance the load.

    Feather pillow placed in washing machine for cleaning

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Use the Right Detergent

    Residue from laundry products can cause feathers to clump. Use a high-efficiency, low suds detergent in a very small amount—only one to two teaspoons—when washing any type of pillow. Never add fabric softener when washing pillows.

    High-efficiency detergent poured into cap for washing feather pillows

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Add a Second Rinse Cycle

    To make sure that all of the detergent is flushed away, add a second rinse cycle. If washing by hand, change the rinse water multiple times until you see absolutely no suds.

    Washing machine set to second rinse for washing feather pillows

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  5. Fluff and Dry

    Fluff and smooth the pillows as you remove them from the washer. Place in a dryer set to medium heat and add some wool dryer balls to help break apart the clumps of wet feathers. Check the dryer every 15 minutes and re-fluff the pillows by hand during the drying process.

    Wool dryer balls added to feather pillows in drying machine

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Wash Latex and Memory Foam Pillows

Solid foam pillows can only be hand-washed. Never put them in any type of washer, because the agitation during the wash and spin cycle can cause the foam to break.


Because of the density, it can take up to 24 hours for a solid foam pillow to air dry. Choose a warm, breezy day to help speed drying after a thorough washing (and have a spare pillow on-hand to sleep on while it dries, just in case).

  1. Choose Spot Cleaning

    If you don't have time to wash and dry the pillow, spot clean stains by mixing a few drops of detergent in 1 cup of warm water. Use a soft cloth to blot the mixture onto the stained area. Allow it to work for at least 10 minutes. (This same technique can be used to treat tough stains before a complete wash and dry cycle.)

    Dip a clean cloth in fresh water and blot the treated area to "rinse" the foam. Allow the pillow to air dry before using it.

    White cloth dipped in water and detergent spot cleaning pillow

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Choose a bathtub or large plastic tub so the pillow will not be crowded in the cleaning solution. Use lukewarm water and a small amount of gentle detergent. Add the detergent first to the water and stir well so it is evenly dispersed.

    Bathtub filled with water and cap full of detergent poured in for cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Add the Pillow

    Submerge the pillow in the soapy water and squeeze gently (NO wringing) to move the cleaning solution through the foam. Do not leave to soak any longer than 10 minutes.

    Square pillow added to bathtub with cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Rinse Repeatedly

    Drain the soapy water and refill the tub with clean, cool water. Squeeze the foam gently to help release the suds. Drain and refill the tub several times until no more suds appear. Never wring the foam!

    Memory foam pillow squeezed to release water and soap suds in bathtub

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Absorb Excess Moisture and Dry

    Place the pillow between two heavy cotton bath towels and press to help absorb excess moisture. Change the towels several times to absorb as much water as possible. Place the pillow on a drying rack so that air will circulate evenly. Using a circulating fan can help speed the drying process. Do NOT place the pillow in an automatic dryer.

    Foam pillow placed between two towels to absorb excess moisture

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald