If it’s been more than six months, it’s time to give them a bath.
Since you rest your head on your pillow every night, you want it to be clean. The first step: checking the content and care label to figure out what’s inside. Once you figure that out, use this advice from Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, to revive your pillow and help make it last longer. Talk about a win-win!
Down and fiberfill
Good news: You can toss these pillows in your washer. We recommend laundering two at a time, to keep the washer balanced, and using a front- or top-loading machine without an agitator — a.k.a. the large spindle found in the middle of some machines, designed to help rotate water and clothes. If an agitator-style top loader is your only option, place the pillows in the tub vertically, so it’s less likely they’ll get wrapped around and damaged by the agitator.
If your pillow has a care label, read it and follow the directions. If it doesn’t, or you clipped off the tag, use warm water and opt for the gentle cycle, then add an extra cold water rinse and spin cycle. Tumble the pillows dry on low heat, fluffing and turning them often. “In the Good Housekeeping Institute, we toss in a few rubber dryer balls, to help plump the filling and keep it from clumping as it dries,” says Forte.
This is another machine-friendly filler — just make sure there are no slits or tears in the pillow cover. For balance, load two pillows at a time and use only a small amount of detergent. Set the machine on the delicate cycle and give the pillows a second rinse.
For drying, place them in the machine with several clean tennis balls, which will aid in the fluffing process. It’s also a good idea to take them out periodically and fluff by hand, using your fingers to break up any clumps. Pillows will take longer to dry than a normal load of clothes. If they have a musty smell, set them in the sun for a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, you can’t put these pillows in the washing machine, but if there’s a removable cover, you can wash that according to the care instructions on the tag. To remove dust from a foam pillow, vacuum both sides with the upholstery tool. If possible, dial down the suction level to make the job a bit easier to do.
Another option: Tumble the pillow in the dryer on the no heat or air-only cycle for 20 minutes. Spot clean any soiled areas with a cloth dipped in a mild sudsy soap solution. Rinse with a damp cloth. Allow the pillow to air dry completely before putting it back on the bed. Some foam pillows include instructions for hand washing. If you choose to follow them, be very gentle. Wet foam is heavy and tears easily.
When to replace
No matter how diligent you are about cleaning your pillows, you’ll need to buy new ones eventually. But how do you know when it’s time to toss? “If you fold the pillow in half, and it doesn’t spring back into shape, plan for a shopping trip,” says Forte. To help pillows stay cleaner for longer, use liners under your pillowcases and wash them monthly.