How to clean your pillows, because they are full of dead bugs
Dust mites, dead skin, poop? Yeah, it's time to wash those things.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
What You Need
• Washing machine
• Gentle laundry detergent
• 2 pillows, at least
• Dryer softener sheets
• 2-3 tennis balls
Total Time Needed: About 55 minutes, depending on the washer and dryer
Pillows are grosser than you could possibly imagine
I typically wash my sheets and pillowcases about once a week – on a rare occasion, maybe every two weeks. It never occurred to me to wash my actual pillows until I learned that pillows are ideal breeding grounds for dust mites and the flu! The research stated that after two years, approximately 1/3 of a pillow’s weight contains dead skin, dust mites (which eat the dead skin), and droppings (poop from all those mites)! Additionally, 10% of people and 80% of allergy sufferers are allergic to proteins found in waste and decomposed dust mites!
Horrified, I was ready to purchase new pillows (see our top-rated bed pillows) when I realized it's not exactly a financially sound decision to buy new pillows every week. So, I looked at the care tag on the side of the pillow and found some welcome news: you can wash your pillows in the washing machine! In fact, it's easy to do. In less than an hour, you can have clean and fresh pillows and save a few bucks in the process.
Experts recommend washing your pillows every six months to prolong the lifespan. Here's what you need to know:
Washing cotton, down, and synthetic pillows
- Check the tags on your pillows to make sure they can be washed in the washing machine. Most pillows can, regardless of whether they’re down or synthetic, but a few can’t.
- Remove the pillow from pillowcase or sham, if applicable. You can also throw these pillow covers and/or shams in the washing machine along with your pillows.
- Put your pillows in the washing machine. The trick is to wash at least two pillows at a time to keep the washer balanced.
- Add your detergent as normal.
- Start the wash cycle using warm water and opt for the gentle cycle, unless otherwise specified.
- Tumble dry the pillows on low heat, fluffing and turning them often.
- Add a softener sheet for freshness, and add a couple of sneakers or tennis balls to help fluff them.
Washing foam pillows
- Remove the pillowcases from your foam pillows.
- Place two pillows in the washing machine to balance the load.
- Add a gentle detergent, using the delicate cycle. Let the machine go for several minutes and then spin them a few times. Check to see the wetness. If the pillows are still soaked, spin a little longer. Remove them as soon as they are no longer soaking wet, slightly damp is okay.
- Place the pillows in the dryer at the lowest heat possible. Add a softener sheet for freshness, and two or three tennis balls to help fluff them. Keep an eye on the pillows and remove them as soon as they are dry.
When is it time to buy new pillows?
No pillow is meant to last forever. Some stains won't wash out, and maybe your aching neck or sore back demands a change. That's when it might be time for a replacement. Sleep experts suggest replacing a pillow every few years, however, these are a list of questions I find helpful in deciding when to trash my old ones:
- Is the pillow lumpy or bumpy?
- Does your feather pillow have to be punched or fluffed up for support?
- If you fold the pillow in half, does it stay folded?
These are all signs that it's time to shop for a replacement pillow!
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.