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

If you prefer feather and down bed pillows instead of polyester or foam pillows, they can be washed at home to keep them smelling fresh and clean. 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 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.

How Often to Clean Feather Bed Pillows

It's perfectly fine to clean feather bed pillows weekly or monthly if you prefer, especially during hot and humid seasons. However, even if you wash them at least annually, your expensive pillows can last for a long time.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Materials

  • High-efficiency, low-suds detergent

Instructions

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
  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 foam-filled pillow or extra 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. Choose the Right Detergent

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

    Warning

    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. Add a Second Rinse Cycle

    Set the washer for 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

    Fluff the pillows as you remove them from the washer and while they're still wet. Then, place them in the dryer 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 help break up clumps of feathers during the drying cycle.

    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.

    fluffing the pillows while unloading the dryer

    The Spruce / Michele Lee

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, feathers, or a blend. Clothing and household goods in the United States that contain down are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. A product labeled "100% down" must contain only down feathers. Products labeled as "down" can contain a mixture of down, feathers, and other fibers.

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 are more resilient to compacting. The higher the down fill number, the better the quality. The highest down fill rating is 900.

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

Goose Down

Geese have the largest down clusters, with the Hungarian goose producing what is most widely considered the finest down. Due to the size of 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, eiderdown from the eider duck is larger and considered to be of good quality.

Feather and 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.

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.

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 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 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.