How to Clean and Care for Feather Bed Pillows

Someone washing feather bed pillows

The Spruce / Michele Lee

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

If you prefer feather and down bed pillows instead of polyester or foam pillows, they can be washed at home as often as you need (and at least semiannually) to keep them smelling fresh and clean. It's possible to wash them by hand, but it's much easier and faster to clean down and feather pillows in a washing machine on a gentle cycle with cold water. A common misconception about washing feather pillows is it will ruin the comfort and integrity of the filling. Just be mindful to avoid excessive wringing and twisting of your pillow throughout the cleaning process, as it can smash the filling and cause clumping.

Before you begin the washing process, take a few minutes to examine the cover of the pillow. The fabric covering should be tightly woven to keep filling contained during washing, and any worn or ripped seams or other areas should be immediately mended. If you don't patch up problems, you'll end up with a washing machine full of feathers.

Follow these simple steps to wash your down and feather pillows to have them fluffy, clean, and fresh smelling again.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Dryer
  • Dryer balls, tennis balls, or clean canvas shoes
  • Extra pillow or white towels to balance washer (optional)


  • High-efficiency, low-suds detergent


Materials for washing feather bed pillows

The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Wash Feather Bed Pillows
Detergent High-efficiency (HE), low-suds detergent
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Gentle
Drying Cycle Type Medium
Special Treatments Dry with dryer balls
Iron Settings Do not iron
How Often to Wash At least every six months

How to Wash Feather Bed Pillows

  1. Load the Washer Correctly

    If you're 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, add a fiber-filled pillow or white towels.

    If washing in a top-load, high-efficiency washer or a front-load washer, add a couple of white towels to help balance the load.

    Two white pillows in a washer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  2. Add the Detergent

    Set the water temperature to cold water, and use the gentle cycle. Add only 1 to 2 teaspoons of a high-efficiency, low-suds detergent. Suds are bad for feathers if they're not completely rinsed away. Start the washer.


    Do not use fabric softener on feather or down pillows because it can coat the down and reduce the amount of fluff in the pillow.

    Someone using an HE detergent

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  3. Run a Second Rinse Cycle

    After the washer is finished, run an extra rinse cycle to get rid of any residual detergent in the feathers.

    Control panel of a washing machine

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  4. Fluff the Pillows

    Once the second rinse cycle is complete, remove the pillows from the washer and fluff them while they're still wet. Then, place them in the dryer set on medium heat.

    Someone loading pillows in a dryer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  5. Add Dryer Balls

    Add wool dryer balls, clean tennis balls, or even a pair of clean canvas tennis shoes to the dryer with your pillows to help break up clumps of feathers during the drying cycle. Start the dryer.

    Two pillows and dryer balls in a dryer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

  6. Continue to Fluff the Pillows Until Dry

    Stop the dryer every 15 minutes, and re-fluff the pillows by hand. Drying time will vary depending on the size of the pillows. Make sure they're thoroughly dry before placing them back on the bed.


    To double-check that the pillow is bone dry, squeeze it all over for any clumps that are still trapping moisture. Residual moisture can lead to fungal growth.

    fluffing the pillows while unloading the dryer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

Treating Stains on Feather Bed Pillows

A down pillow should always have a zip-up cover and pillowcase on it to help protect the pillow from stains. However, pillows are prone to turning yellow due to a buildup of body oil, sweat, and dust.

To lighten the yellow stains, mix a solution of 1 cup powdered laundry detergent, 1/2 cup borax, and 4 cups boiling water. Put the pillow in the washing machine, add the hot water solution, and let the pillow soak for 30 minutes. Flip the pillow over halfway through, and then wash and dry it as normal.

Storing Feather Bed Pillows

Feather bed pillows need to breathe. Protect them from dirt and dust by storing them in pillow covers instead of plastic bags or bins. Keep them in a cool, dry spot, such as a linen closet.

How Often to Wash Feather Bed Pillows

It's your preference as to whether you want to wash new pillows before you use them. Then, it's perfectly fine to clean feather bed pillows weekly or monthly if you prefer, especially during hot and humid seasons. It's recommended to wash them at least every six months.

It's also ideal to invest in waterproof, allergen-blocking pillow protectors, as they will allow you to wash your pillows less and thus extend their lifespan. Laundering down pillows correctly involves a lot of hand-fluffing and working out clumps, which means room for human error. The more often you wash them, the more risk there is for leaving moist clumps behind and growing mold in your expensive pillows.

Tips for Washing Feather Bed Pillows

  • Wash feather pillows on a low-humidity, sunny day for quicker drying. Do not air-dry feather pillows outside on a humid day.
  • Always use a washable pillow cover to keep the feather pillow as clean as possible. Change and wash pillowcases and pillow covers at least weekly.
  • Keep feather pillows as dry as possible. Never sleep on a feather pillow with wet hair.
  • To freshen feather pillows, place them in a tumble dryer on low heat or the air cycle for 10 minutes.
  • Why do feather pillows smell after washing?

    An odor is not a good sign after washing and drying feather pillows, as it likely means there's been some mold or mildew growth from filling that has remained damp. Never put a pillow in its pillowcase until you're positive it's bone dry.

  • How long do feather pillows last?

    When used with a protective cover and cared for properly, feather pillows can last five to 10 years on average. But this can vary based on use and the quality of the pillow.

  • What are the differences in feather bed pillows?

    Feather bed pillows can be filled with down clusters, feathers, or a blend. Down cluster pillows are the most expensive but will have a longer life, are easier to clean, and are more resistant to compacting.