can you put pillows in the washing machine

Can You Put a Pillow in the Washing Machine?

Pillows are essential for a comfortable night’s sleep, providing the necessary support for our heads and necks. Over time, they accumulate dust, sweat, and even dust mites, which can lead to allergies and reduced pillow longevity. Cleaning your pillows is thus a crucial aspect of maintaining their functionality and ensuring good health. While many people often wonder if you can put a pillow in the washing machine, it’s essential to understand the right methods to ensure the pillows remains in prime condition.

Washing pillows is feasible, but requires careful techniques to maintain their structure and freshness. While many pillows can be machine washed, it’s essential to balance the load and use a gentle cycle. Hand washing and spot cleaning offer alternative methods for delicate or lightly stained pillows. Avoiding fabric softeners, ensuring thorough drying, and regularly fluffing can prolong their life and comfort.

Let’s look at these methods in much greater detail.

Using a Washing Machine to Wash Pillows

For Machine-Washable Pillows Only

Washing pillows in the machine can be effective and efficient, provided you follow the right steps. Here’s a detailed guide to get your pillows fresh and clean:

  1. Preparation: Check the label on your pillow to ensure it’s machine-washable. Remove the pillowcase and any protective coverings. Inspect the pillow for any rips or tears, fixing them before washing.
  2. Balancing the Machine: Place two pillows together in the machine. This ensures an even wash and avoids any imbalance.
  3. Choose the Appropriate Setting: Opt for the gentle or delicate cycle. Warm water is ideal. Add a mild liquid detergent, ensuring you don’t overdo it.
  4. Rinse Well: Run an extra rinse cycle to make sure all detergent gets washed out.
  5. Remove Excess Water: After washing, press gently on the pillow to squeeze out any lingering water. Remember not to wring it out as it may harm its structure.
  6. Drying: Allow the pillow to air dry in a ventilated space. If using a dryer, use a low heat setting and toss in clean tennis balls wrapped in socks to fluff the pillows.
  7. Check and Fluff: Once dried, give your pillows a good fluffing to ensure the filling is evenly distributed. Check for any damp spots; if found, let the pillow dry a bit more before using.

Hand Washing Pillows

For Delicate or Non-Machine-Washable Pillows

Hand washing is a gentle approach for cleaning pillows, especially when they are delicate or aren’t designed for machine wash. Here’s how to do it effectively:

  1. Gather Materials: Secure a bathtub or a large basin, mild liquid detergent, and clean towels.
  2. Fill and Mix: Pour lukewarm water into the tub or basin and mix a modest amount of the detergent until it’s well-dispersed.
  3. Submerge and Clean: Gently press the pillow beneath the water, allowing it to soak. Agitate the water with your hands, ensuring the pillow gets cleaned throughout.
  4. Drain and Refresh: Once the pillow seems clean, release the soapy water. Refill the tub or basin with clear water.
  5. Rinse Properly: Immerse the pillow again, agitating it to wash out any residual detergent. You might need to repeat this a couple of times to ensure all soap is gone.
  6. Water Extraction: Place the pillow between two towels and press softly. This will help absorb any extra moisture without damaging the pillow’s structure.
  7. Dry in Air: Position the pillow in a spot with good airflow, ensuring it’s not exposed to direct sunlight which might break down its fibers.
  8. Inspect and Use: After the pillow has thoroughly dried, feel it for any damp areas. Ensure it’s entirely dry before placing it back on your bed to prevent mold growth.

Spot Cleaning Pillows

For Light Stains and Spots

Spot cleaning is an efficient approach when dealing with minor stains or spills on your pillow. It targets the specific area that needs attention without subjecting the entire pillow to a cleaning process. Follow these steps for a successful spot cleaning:

  1. Assess the Stain: Determine the nature of the stain. Protein-based ones (e.g., sweat or blood) often require cool water, while others can be treated with lukewarm water.
  2. Prepare a Cleaning Mix: Blend a small portion of mild liquid detergent with water in a bowl.
  3. Apply with Care: Dip a clean white cloth into the solution and gently blot the stained area, moving from the outer edges inward to avoid spreading the stain further.
  4. Cleanse the Area: Take another cloth, dampen it with plain water, and dab the treated spot to rinse off any soapy residue.
  5. Pat Dry: Use a dry towel to gently pat the area, soaking up any remaining moisture.
  6. Air It Out: Place the pillow in a breezy area, ensuring it’s shielded from harsh sunlight, which could harm its material.
  7. Inspect for Clarity: Once the spot is dry, examine it to ensure the stain is entirely gone. If remnants remain, you might want to repeat the process or consider a different cleaning approach.
  8. Return to Use: When satisfied with the result and once the pillow is completely dry, it’s ready to be used again.


What happens if you wash pillows incorrectly?

Improper washing of pillows can lead to various problems. They might become lumpy, causing discomfort during sleep. The fillings can bunch up in one place, leading to uneven distribution. This not only impacts the comfort level but can also affect the longevity of the pillow. Mold and mildew might develop if pillows aren’t dried properly, presenting health risks. It’s essential to follow recommended washing guidelines to avoid these issues.

Should you use fabric softener when washing pillows?

While fabric softeners provide a fresh scent and soft feel to fabrics, they might not be the best choice for pillows. The residues left behind by fabric softeners can coat the fibers, reducing their natural fluffiness and potentially shortening their lifespan. Instead of fabric softeners, consider using white vinegar as a natural softening agent that doesn’t leave unwanted residues.

How do you keep pillows from losing their shape after washing?

After cleaning, it’s essential to retain the pillow’s shape for optimal comfort. Fluffing them by hand post-wash can help. During the drying phase, avoid hanging them as this can pull down the fillings; instead, lay them flat on a rack. Periodically fluff and rotate them during the drying process to ensure even drying and maintain their form.

How often should you wash your pillows?

Maintaining cleanliness is essential for the health and longevity of your pillows. While pillow protectors and cases require more frequent washing, the pillows themselves benefit from a thorough clean every six months. This regular cleaning helps remove accumulated oils, dust mites, and other allergens, promoting a healthier sleeping environment.

Can you dry pillows in the dryer?

Many pillows are safe to dry in a machine dryer, but it’s always wise to check care labels before proceeding. When using a dryer, opt for a low heat setting to prevent damage to the fillings. To help maintain their fluffiness, consider adding clean tennis balls wrapped in socks or commercial dryer balls. Ensure pillows are completely dry before returning them to your bed, as even slight moisture can encourage mold or mildew growth.


Washing pillows, when done correctly, can extend their lifespan and maintain their comfort and support. Whether using a washing machine, hand washing, or spot cleaning, always ensure your pillows are properly dried and cared for. Keeping them clean not only assures comfort but also promotes better health.