How to Wash and Care for Latex and Memory Foam Bed Pillows
Foam pillows-standard polyurethane, latex foam, memory foam, and gel-infused memory foam-are generally less susceptible to collecting dirt than pillows with natural fillers, such as cotton, wool, or feathery down. But eventually, your foam pillows or seat cushions like Everlasting Comfort's seat and lumbar support set will collect skin and hair cells, dust mites, and possibly stains.
After removing their coverings, foam pillows offer some special challenges for cleaning, as solid foam can be damaged and broken by the action of a washing machine and clothes dryer. For solid foam pillows, you must use gentle detergents and hand-washing to clean them. It's especially critical that foam pillows be dried out thoroughly after washing, as any residual moisture can foster the growth of bacteria and musty smells.
|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
- High-efficiency gentle detergent
- Dishwashing liquid
- Baking soda
How to Wash Solid-Foam Pillows
This method will work for all types of solid-foam pillows, including standard polyurethane, latex foam, memory foam, and gel-infused memory foam.
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 1 teaspoon of detergent per gallon of water.
Wash the Pillow
Remove the foam pillow from its protective cover (the cover can be washed separately with other laundry). Completely submerge the foam pillow in the detergent and water solution and knead it gently for about 10 minutes to move the cleaning solution through the foam.
Drain the soapy water and refill the sink with fresh water. Knead the foam pillow 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, but do not wring it out, as this can break the foam.
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 or more for a pillow to dry completely.
Check the foam for any residual moisture before returning it to tis protective cover.
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.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in 2 cups of lukewarm water.
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.
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 up the drying process, use a hairdryer set on cool to dry the cleaned area.
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.
What Is a Foam Pillow?
At one time, the filler material inside the fabric cover of bed pillows usually consisted of some kind of natural material, such as cotton, wool, or the feathery down from ducks or geese. But today's sleepers very often find that a pillow filled with some form of flexible rubber or polyurethane foam offers a better sleeping experience. In whatever form, foam is a resilient pillow filler that conforms to the sleeper's head and bounces back after being compressed.
Though it doesn't affect how the pillow is cleaned, the foam used in pillows comes in several different forms:
- Latex foam: As a pillow filler, latex foam can either be made from authentic latex harvested from rubber trees or (more likely) a synthetic version of latex. Pillows with natural latex are fairly expensive, but they are a good choice for sleepers with sensitivities to the chemicals used in synthetic rubber and foam. Natural latex foam is completely hypoallergenic and anti-fungal. Typically, a latex foam pillow will be a solid block of resilient material perforated with holes to improve air circulation and reduce heat. But there are also shredded latex pillows available, which some sleepers find preferable.
- Flexible polyurethane foam: This is the original form of resilient foam widely used in cushions and pillows. Polyurethane is a synthetic polymer derived mostly from petroleum distillates. Polyurethane pillows can either use a solid block of foam or shredded pieces. They are an inexpensive option, but may not last as long as pillows made with other types of foam.
- Memory foam: This is a special type of synthetic foam that was first 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. Because it tends to "sleep hot," memory foam pillows are now sometimes augmented with one or more gel layers that reduce heat retention. Memory foam can be used for both solid or shred-filled pillows.
Treating Stains on Foam PiIlows
Most stains that seep through a pillowcase and pillow cover onto the foam pillow can be removed by careful blotting using a solution of water and gentle detergent (see above). With deeply set-in stains such as blood or wine, a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide cleaner will usually do the trick. Never use bleach on a foam pillow.
Foam Pillow Care and Repairs
The life of a foam pillow can be extended if you routinely use an additional protective pillow coverr beneath the pillowcase. Changing pillowcases weekly and washing the pillow cover monthly can keep the inner foam pillow in good shape for many months.
Foam pillows that are frequently bent and doubled over can eventually begin to break down, so if possible, keep your pillow flat while sleeping on it. There is no repair possible with foam pillows. Once you do see your foam pillow begin to crack or shred from extended use, it's time to buy a new pillow.
Storing Foam Pillows
If foam pillows must be stored for long periods, it's best to remove the inner foam pillow from its protective cover and store them separately. The foam itself is not subject to mildew or mold, but the fabric covers can sometimes absorb moisture, or be subject to insect attack. The covers can be folded and stored flat in a dry location or cedar chest, while the inner foam pillow can be stored in closed containers or plastic bags. It's generally best not to compress foam pillows for storage.
How Often to Wash Foam Pillows
If you use a pillow cover and regularly change pillowcases, your foam pillow should only need to be thoroughly cleaned once or twice a year—unless there is a spill or accident.
Tips for Washing Foam Pillows
- 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 protective 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.
- Thoroughly vacuum your foam pillow each time you change bed linens (preferably, once a week). This will remove dead skin cells, dust mites, and other allergens and keep your foam pillow fresh.
Can I machine-wash a shredded foam pillow?
Maybe—provided the manufacturer does not warn against it. The reason that solid foam pillows can't be machine-washed is that the mechanical action can break the foam. This is not an issue if the foam is already shredded. A shredded foam pillow often can be machine washed on a gentle cycle using mild detergent. After washing, squeeze out excess water by hand, then throw the pillow in the dryer at low heat along with a tennis ball tied inside a sock. The tennis ball will fluff up the pillow as it dries. It may take several drying cycles to get the foam filling fully dry.
How long does a foam pillow last?
Foam pillows typically last longer than polyester-fill pillows, but it is still a good idea to replace them after 18 to 36 months—or when you notice the foam beginning to crack or lose its resiliency.
Should I disinfect my foam pillows?
The simple process of cleaning and drying the inner foam pillow, along with thoroughly laundering the pillowcases and protective covers, is generally sufficient. Spraying a non-bleach disinfectant spray on foam pillows does not hurt the foam, but make sure to allow the spray to dry completely before covering the foam and using the pillow again.
Best Mattress for Allergies. Sleep Foundation.
Rostami-Tapeh-Esmaeil, Ehsan, et al. Chemistry, Processing, Properties, and Applications of Rubber Foams. Polymers, vol. 13, no. 10, 2021, p. 1565. doi:10.3390/polym13101565
How to Clean Your Pillow: Washing & Spot-Cleaning Guide. Mattress Clarity.