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How to Clean Pillows and Keep Them Smelling Fresh

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When it comes to making your home feel warm and inviting, throw pillows are an easy and stylish choice. However, they can become dirty over time–either from the natural oils on our bodies or the unavoidable dust and dirt that flows through the air. This makes it all the more important that you know how to clean pillows. Cleaning your pillows is a simple process. And to show you just how easy it is, we’ve put together two handy guides that walk you through the process of machine washing and hand washing pillows.

Machine Washing Pillows

Before you wash any of your pillows, read the care labels. Most synthetic, fiberfill and down pillows are machine wash safe, but most foam pillows are spot-clean only. Knowing this information beforehand will save you the agony of destroying your favorite pillows. For pillows that can be machine washed, follow our four easy steps to remove the common dirt, hair, dead skin, makeup or sweat to get your pillows fresh and clean again!

Step 1: Remove your pillow from the pillowcase and pillow protector. Take a clean cotton or terry towel, dip it into a baking soda and water paste, and spot clean any deep stains by dabbing the surface of the pillow. As an alternative to the baking soda paste, you can also use a stain removal spray.

Step 2: Put up to two pillows (for balance purposes) in the washing machine and wash in a mixture of detergent, vinegar, washing soda and dishwasher detergent. The added ingredients help whiten pillows. Why not simply use bleach? Sometimes it can worsen stains instead of removing them. The below mixture can be used for two pillows:

  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • 1 cup of dishwasher detergent
  • ¾ cup of washing soda
  • 3 tablespoons of laundry detergent

Step 3: After you’ve washed the pillows with the mixture, run a second wash cycle with hot water only to remove remaining detergent or washing soda. Sometimes it lingers after one wash cycle.

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Step 4: Place your pillows in the dryer on the air dryer or low heat setting. To keep them fluffy, throw in a couple of tennis balls to maintain the shape throughout the cycle. If you’re sensitive to smell, put the tennis balls in a pair of socks to prevent the rubbery smell from getting on your pillows.

Hand Washing Pillows

If you’re like us, you love a good memory foam pillow. Their only downfall is that they can’t be thrown into the washing machine. Some outdoor and throw pillows also fall into the spot-clean only category. For these types, it’s extremely important to follow the care instructions to avoid any damage. If the instructions say that your pillow can be hand washed, follow our four simple steps to get your pillows looking brand new again!

Step 1: Remove your pillow from the protective cover and spot clean stains with a baking soda and water paste. If your pillow has a strong odor, spray a 50/50 vinegar and water mix to eliminate the smell. Be sure to spray lightly and let the mix stand for five minutes before blotting the pillow dry with a towel.

Step 2: Set your pillow in the sun to help lighten any discolored spots. Using a toothbrush, apply bleach or vinegar to treat deep yellow stains. Baking soda can also be used to soak up dampness and odor. If you’re applying baking soda, give it a day and then shake or gently vacuum up the baking soda.

Step 3: Hand wash water-safe pillows in a basin with warm water and gentle detergent. Squeeze your pillow to help the detergent work its way through the material. Avoid harsh cleaning methods like intense rubbing or wringing, which can cause damage to foam or tear the netting around the pillow. Finally, rinse the pillow under cool water and squeeze the water out.

Step 4: Lay the pillow flat and allow to air dry on a ventilated surface. Some pillows may require up to 24 hours to dry completely.

Cleanliness Tips for Your Pillows

After all your hard work, we want to make sure you develop good cleanliness habits to keep your pillows in tip-top shape. Whether you have a simple routine that you follow or not, we hope our list of six tips will point you in the right direction!

Tip 1: Wash your face at night to remove makeup or oil and prevent them from staining pillows.

Tip 2: Change pillowcases once a week to limit the amount of sweat and natural body oils that seep into pillows.

Tip 3: Keep mold and mildew away by using natural linen sprays, which can double as soothing sleep aids.

Tip 4: Use pillow protectors to help lessen the amount of dirt, hair, dead skin, makeup and sweat that come into contact with your pillow.

Tip 5: Vacuum pillows that cannot be machine washed to remove dust mites and skin flakes.

Tip 6: Machine wash pillows at least twice a year for pillows that are machine wash safe. You can, of course, wash them more often (experts recommend every three months), but this ultimately depends on your body and sleep habits.

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