The Best Way to Clean Your Pillows (And Yes, You Need to Clean Them)

Yes, you need to clean your pillows, too.

When was the last time you washed your bed pillows? Last month? Last year? Never? If it's been six months or more, it's time to give them a bath.

If You Have Down and Fiberfill Pillows...
Good news! You can wash these kinds of pillows in your washer. For best results, we recommend washing two pillows at a time (to help keep the washer balanced) and using a front or top-loading machine without an agitator. 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, definitely read that and follow the directions. If not or you've clipped off the tag, use warm water and opt for the gentle cycle. It's also a good idea to add on an extra cold-water rinse and spin. Tumble dry the pillows on low heat, fluffing and turning them often. In the Good Housekeeping Research Institute Home Appliances and Textiles Labs, we toss in a few rubber dryer balls, like Nellie's, to help plump the filling and keep it from clumping as it dries.

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Germs from Spreading All Over Your House

What About Foam Pillows?
Unfortunately, you can't put foam 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 your vacuum's upholstery tool. If possible, dial down the suction level to make the job a bit easier to do. Or, 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 solution. Rinse with a damp cloth. Allow the pillow to air dry completely before putting it back on the bed.

Related: You're Not Washing These Items Enough

Some foam pillows include instructions for hand washing. If you choose to follow them, be very gentle. Wet foam is heavy and tears easily. To help pillows stay cleaner longer, use liners under your pillowcases and wash them monthly.

If you're just not up to washing your pillows, you can definitely replace them. Check out the results of our test of 66 fiberfill, down, wool, and combination pillows to see which scored best.

- By Carolyn Forte

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