How to Clean and Care for 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 at least annually, your expensive pillows can last for a long time.

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 Feather Bed Pillows
Detergent High-efficiency (HE) low-suds detergent
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Gentle
Drying Cycle Type Medium-heat
Special Treatments Dry with dryer balls
Iron Settings Do not iron

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It's possible to wash down and feather pillows by hand, but it's much easier and faster to clean them in a washing machine. Be mindful to avoid excessive wringing and twisting your pillow throughout the cleaning process as it can smash the filling and cause clumping.

Working time: 15 Minutes

Total time: 2 Hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • High-efficiency (HE) low-suds detergent

Tools

Instructions

  1. Load the Washer Correctly to Keep It in Balance

    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 a front load washer, add a couple of white towels to help balance the load.

  2. Choose a HE Low-sudsing Detergent

    Set the water temperature to cold water and use the gentle cycle. Add only one or two teaspoons of an HE low-sudsing detergent. Suds are an enemy of feathers. Do not use fabric softener, which can coat the down and reduce the amount of fluff in the pillow.

  3. Add a Second Rinse Cycle

    Set the washer for an extra rinse cycle to get rid of any residual detergent in the feathers.

  4. Fluff the Pillows While Wet

    As you remove the pillows from the washer, fluff the pillows before they are placed in the dryer on medium heat.

  5. Add Dryer Balls to the Load

    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 drying cycle.

  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.

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 get lighten the yellow stains, mix a solution of one cup of powdered laundry detergent and 1/2 cup borax and four cups of boiling water.

Put the pillow in the washing machine, and add the hot water solution and let the pillow soak for 30 minutes. Flip the pillow over halfway through, and then wash and dry as directed.

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 high-humidity day.
  • Always use a washable pillow cover to keep the pillow as clean as possible. Change and wash pillowcases and pillow covers at least weekly.
  • Keep feather pillows as dry as possible. Never go to bed with wet hair.
  • 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.

What Are the Differences in Feather Bed Pillows?

Feather and down pillows are expensive. 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 include:

  • 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: Because 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 in the United States that contain down 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.