How to Wash Feather Bed Pillows

Big white pillows in bedroom

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If you prefer feather and down bed pillows instead of polyester or foam, they can be washed at home to keep them smelling fresh and clean. If you wash them carefully, your expensive pillows can last for many years. Before you begin the washing process, take a few minutes to examine the seams and fabric covering of the pillow. Mend any rips or tears immediately. If you don't, you'll end up with a washing machine drum full of feathers!

How to Wash

  • If you are using a standard top load washer, always load two pillows—one on each side of the agitator—to maintain balance. If you don't have two feather pillows, load in a foam-filled pillow or extra towels.
  • If washing in a top load high-efficiency or front load washer, add a couple of white towels to help balance the load.
  • Set the water temperature to cold water and use the gentle cycle.
  • Add only one or two teaspoons HE low-sudsing detergent. Suds are an enemy of feathers.
  • Set the washer for an extra rinse cycle to get rid of any residue detergent in the feathers.
  • As you remove the pillows from the washer, fluff the pillows before they are placed in a dryer set on medium heat.
  • Add wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or even a pair of clean canvas tennis shoes to help break up clumps of feathers during the dryer cycle.
  • Stop the dryer every 15 minutes and re-fluff the pillows by hand. Drying time will vary depending on the size of the pillows.
  • Wash feather pillows on a low-humidity, sunny day for quicker drying.

    Selecting Pillows

    Feather and down pillows are expensive. It is important to educate yourself about what makes a quality, long-lasting pillow. Read the label to determine whether the pillow is filled with down clusters or feathers or a blend.

    There are several types and varying quality levels of down. The three most common offerings are:

    • Goose down: Geese have the largest down clusters, with the Hungarian goose producing what is most widely considered to be the finest down. Due to the size of the goose down, the larger clusters offer more loft and insulating qualities.
    • Duck down: Since ducks are smaller, their down is smaller and more coarse than that of a goose. However, eider duck down is larger and considered to be of good quality.
    • Feather-Down Combinations: Because down can compact with use and age, many pillows and heavy usage items are filled with a combination of down and feathers. The feathers add bulk and stabilize the down.

    Clothing and household goods that contain down in the United States are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. A product labeled "100 percent down" must contain only down feathers. Products labeled as "down" can contain a mixture of down, feathers, and other fibers. Anything labeled as "goose down"—usually the most expensive—must contain at least 90 percent goose down and feathers.

    Pillows with down clusters are the most expensive but will have a longer life. Down clusters are easier to clean than the feather/down combinations and more resilient to compacting. The highest down fill rating is 800. The higher the down fill number, the better the quality.

    Examine the fabric covering of the pillow and make sure that is a tightly woven fabric. This will keep the feathers contained and make the pillow feel silkier.

    Tips for Care

    • Always use a washable pillow cover to keep the pillow as clean as possible.
    • Change and wash pillow cases and pillow cover at least weekly.
    • Keep feather pillows as dry as possible. Never go to bed with wet hair.
    • Do not air feather pillows outside on a high-humidity day.
    • To freshen feather pillows, place them in a tumble dryer on low heat or the air cycle for 10 minutes.
    • Always store feather pillows in a pillowcase to repel dust in a cool, air-conditioned space.
    • Less expensive all-feather pillows will last longer if taken to a dry cleaner. Feathers do not fluff as well as down clusters, and washing can trap moisture and leave permanent damage to the feathers.
    • If you have feather-filled decorative throw pillows, remove the covering before washing or take them to a dry cleaner.