How to Wash Latex and Memory Foam Bed Pillows

bed pillows

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Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 24 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Choosing a bed pillow is a very personal thing. For some, a solid foam pillow is a good choice because it offers neck support while others prefer a shredded foam pillow that is soft and squishy. Whichever type you choose, your bed pillow is one of the most often used pieces in your home and should be cleaned regularly. 

When shopping for a foam pillow, you'll discover two types of foam: latex foam and memory foam. Latex foam has been manufactured since 1929. It is often called foam rubber because it is made from the sap of rubber trees. Latex foam is naturally hypoallergenic and antifungal. Pillows can be a solid block of latex foam or filled with shredded latex foam.

Memory foam was created in 1966 in a NASA lab from polyurethane and other chemicals. Memory foam has gone through three generations of development to improve breathability, temperature, and odor control. The appeal of a memory foam pillow is that it molds to the contours of the head and holds that shape, reducing pressure points. The foam can be used for solid or shred-filled pillows. 

How to Wash Foam Pillows
Detergent High-efficiency gentle detergent
Water temperature Cold to lukewarm
Cycle type Handwash only
Drying cycle Air-dry only
Special Treatments Handwash only
Iron Settings Do not iron

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Large sink or tub
  • Small bowl
  • White cloths
  • Vacuum

Materials

  • High-efficiency gentle detergent
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Baking soda

Instructions

Warning

Never place a solid foam pillow in a washer, even in a front load washer or top load washer with no center agitator. The movement, especially the final spin, is too harsh and can cause the foam to break.

The same steps can be used for cleaning latex foam, regular memory foam, gel-infused memory foam, or memory foam with gel inserts pillows. 

  1. Select the Best Time to Wash

    It is best to select a breezy, warm day to clean foam pillows to hasten the drying because they cannot be placed in a clothes dryer. Allow at least 24 hours for washing and drying if the pillows are drying inside or only spot-clean the pillow.

  2. Mix a Washing Solution

    To deep clean, a foam pillow should be hand-washed. Fill a large sink or bathtub with lukewarm water and a small amount of a gentle detergent used for handwashing delicate items. Use about one teaspoon of detergent per gallon of water.

  3. Add the Pillow

    Completely submerge the pillow in the detergent and water solution and squeeze it gently to move the cleaning solution through the foam for about 10 minutes.

  4. Rinse the Pillow

    Drain the soapy water and refill the sink with fresh water. Squeeze the foam gently to remove the suds. Drain and refill the sink several times with clean water until no more suds appear. Gently squeeze the foam to remove the water, no wringing! Wringing can break the foam.

  5. Dry the Pillow

    Allow the pillow to air dry on a flat, ventilated surface away from direct heat and sunlight. Do not use a clothes dryer because the high heat can cause damage and cause the foam to crumble. To speed drying, use a portable fan to circulate air. Depending on the thickness of the foam, it can take up to 24 hours for a pillow to dry completely.

How to Spot Clean and Freshen a Foam Pillow

If you don't have time to thoroughly wash a foam pillow, spot cleaning can remove stains until it can be washed.

  1. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in two cups of lukewarm water.

  2. Treat the Stains

    Dip a clean white cloth into the solution and gently blot from the outside of the stain toward the center. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth as the stain is transferred. 

  3. Rinse and Dry the Foam

    Once the stain is gone, dip a clean white cloth in plain water and blot to remove any remaining soap. Allow the pillow to air dry completely. If you must speed the drying process, use a hairdryer set on cool to dry the cleaned area.

  4. Freshen a Pillow With Baking Soda

    If the foam pillow just needs to be freshened, begin by removing the protective cover and tossing it in the wash. Sprinkle the entire pillow with baking soda, covering it well. Allow the baking soda to sit on the surface for at least an hour and then vacuum it away using the upholstery brush attachment on your vacuum. This will help absorb odors and remove any dust mites or pet hair that might be on the pillow. Flip the pillow over and repeat.

Tip

Whether you have a latex or memory foam pillow, the best thing you can do to help maintain a clean pillow is to use a removable pillow cover that is machine washable. The cover should be made from a breathable natural fiber like cotton, bamboo, or linen and always used in addition to your regular pillowcase. Wash it at least monthly using hot water and more often during hot weather or if someone is ill.


By using a pillow cover, your foam pillow should only need to be thoroughly cleaned once or twice a year unless there is a spill or accident.