Mould, dust mite droppings, dead skin: Unless you wash your pillows regularly, these and other delights could greet you when you lay your head down at night.
Keeping pillows fresh and hygienic is easy when you know how to do it. Here’s what you need to know.
How often should pillows be washed?
Once every six months should do the trick, as long as you give them a daily fluff-up to remove dust and help maintain your pillows’ comfy shape, along with washing your pillowcases once a week.
It’s a good idea to hang your pillows on the clothesline for several hours once a month. Pick a sunny, breezy day for optimum benefit and a fresh smell.
If you have foam or latex pillows, you may not be able to hang them outside. Instead, throw them in the dryer on the no-heat cycle.
How to wash pillows
Start by checking the label for cleaning instructions, as some pillows may need to be dry cleaned.
If the tag is missing, you should be safe putting most pillows, including down, feather, cotton and fibrefill, in the washing machine.
Memory foam and latex pillows should not be washed because the padding can break down. Instead, if there’s a removable cover, wash it and then vacuum the pillow to remove dust, or put them in the dryer for 20 minutes on the no-heat or air-dry setting.
To wash pillows, use warm water, a little mild detergent and your machine’s gentle cycle. If your machine is large enough, put in two pillows to balance the load. The robust agitator on top-loading machines can be hard for pillows, so keep the wash cycle down to just a few minutes. After rinsing, spin dry twice to remove as much moisture as possible.
Tip: Liquid detergent can cause clumping in down and feather pillows, so use a mild powder or a product designed for down.
You can air dry pillows (more of that wonderful, fresh-air smell!) or pop them into the dryer. Check the care instructions on the tag before using a dryer, however, and be careful with foam pillows, which can catch fire when exposed to heat.
An hour on moderate heat will dry most pillows, but for feather or down, use the no-heat or air-dry setting. Periodically removing and fluffing up the pillows during drying helps prevent clumping, as does adding a couple of tennis balls to the dryer.
When you’ve finished drying, check the pillows carefully for any remaining moisture because it can cause mildew.
Sources: Consumer Reports, marthastewart.com, others.
Originally published September 7, 2021