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How to Clean or Wash Your Pillows?

Cleaning-a-Pillow

Most of the people need and require pillows to sleep comfortably. Some people need more than just a pillow under their head to fall into that snooze; they need a pillow to hug, a pillow to prop them into position, and even a pillow under the feet. What they very conveniently overlook is that these pillows can and do become very dirty and very fast. So even though you put your bed sheets and pillow covers through the wash once every week or so, the pillows do not come into the wash scanner unless they become visibly dirty. This can lead to a host of health problems for you. To be on the safer side, you should consider cleaning your pillows on a quarterly basis. This guide will outline the ways to clean and wash your pillows quickly, efficiently, and with minimal fuss.

Why Do Pillows Need to Be Cleaned?

Pillows just as mattresses get dirty over time. They have been known to host a variety of germs and bacteria from a lot of sources. Some sources that contribute to your pillow getting dirty are:

  • Sweat: Your head, just like your body, tends to sweat when you sleep, especially if you are a hot sleeper. Most of the moisture from this sweat evaporates, but a lot of it is absorbed by the pillows. This creates a humid environment ideal for germs and bacteria to thrive.
  • Spillages: It is not uncommon to accidentally spill some food or drink on your pillow when you have them on the bed. Ketchup, pickle, and juice are the main contenders. You might mop up the mess from the pillow covers, but even your pillow gets dirty in the process.
  • Dust Mites: The pillow is exposed to dead skin cells which stay in the pillow. These dead skin cells attract dust mites that feed on it. Research shows that an average pillow has thousands of dust mites attached to it.

Cleaning Your Pillow Effectively

Now that the need for pillow cleaning has been established, the question that arises is how to go about it. Cleaning your pillow is a very easy task. Below is a detailed step by step guide based on the type of pillows to help you get started:

  • Cotton, Down, and Feather Pillows: These pillows can safely be put through the washing machine. The steps are as follows:
    • Remove the pillow cover or case. Some pillows come with an additional zip on the case. Remove these as well. Wash them in a separate load.
    • Put the pillows in the washing machine. Preferably in pairs of two so that your washing machine remains balanced. Also, this will ensure that the pillows don’t get thrown around quite so much.
    • Add one scoop of mild detergent to the dispenser. You can also add a little bit of Dettol to disinfect properly. This is especially helpful when you have little children in your house. However, you should skip the softener. Softeners can stay in the pillows affecting their fluff and causing them to clump.
    • To get your pillows looking extra white, you can add ½ scoop of bleach to the detergent.
    • Run the cycle on delicate clothes setting with warm water if your washing machine has the feature. Take care of the wash instructions on your pillows. Some pillows need to be washed with cool water.
    • Place the washed pillows in the dryer.
    • Add two tennis balls in socks and a couple of towels if there is space with the pillows in the dryer.
    • The tennis balls help fluff up the pillows properly. They also prevent the pillows from clumping and make sure that the pillows dry out faster.
    • Check the pillows for any dampness. The best way is to lay them out flat against a hard surface and press in the middle. If you find any trace of dampness, then run the pillows through another drying cycle.
    • If you do not have a dryer, then hang the pillows out in the sun for drying. This works well too. Just keep fluffing it every hour or so to get it back to its appropriate shape.
    • With feather pillows, use the no-heat air-dry setting for the dryer. This is because the heat from the dryer will damage the softness of the feather pillows and make it clump together. It is best to air dry your feather pillows outside on a rail rather than using the dryer.
  • Polyester Pillows: These pillows can also be safely washed in the washing machine. Follow the above steps for cotton and down pillows with the following changes:
    • Use little detergent. Just about 1 tablespoon will suffice.
    • Wash on a gentle cycle with warm water
  • Buckwheat hulls: These require a little variation from the other pillows.
    • Empty the buckwheat filling from the pillow.
    • Spread the filling on a cookie sheet or a large shallow bowl
    • Leave the filling out in the sun to dry. The ultraviolet rays of the sun will take care of all the odors and kill any mold, dust mites, bacteria, and germs residing within the filling.
    • Now wash the shell casing in the washing machine or by hand if you want.
    • Use cold water and mild detergent to wash the shell casing.
  • Memory Foam or Latex: These pillows cannot be washed in the washing machine. They have to be hand washed. The handwashing instructions are as follows:
    • Start with removing the pillowcase and the zip pillow cover attached to the pillow as well.
    • The pillowcase and cover should be washed separately. These can be washed in the washing machine.
    • Fill a large tub with warm water. Make sure the tub is large enough to accommodate the pillow. Alternatively, you can also use your sink for this purpose or even your bathtub.
    • Add detergent to the water and mix it around to get bubbles.
    • Use liquid detergent since it will dissolve easily with water.
    • Add about 1 tablespoon of the liquid detergent for every pillow that you wash.
    • Immerse your pillow in the soapy water. Massage and knead the pillow to get the soap inside the foam and freshen it beyond the outer layer.
    • One good tip is to let the pillow soak in the soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes before you start kneading it.
    • Now remove the pillow from the tub and place it under the running water. Make sure you get all the soap out of the foam by continuously squeezing the pillow under the water.
    • Rinsing the pillow might take you longer than actually washing the pillow did. Be patient and continue rinsing till the water runs clear.
    • Dry out the pillow by placing it outside, preferably on a towel to soak up the water.
    • Do not place your foam pillows in the dryer. The dryer will cause the foam to break, thereby ruining your pillows. It is best to let the foam pillow dry out naturally under the sun.
    • Make sure your pillow is completely dry before placing it on the bed. Foam pillows are made of a sponge-like material and hence tend to retain water.

Things to Keep in Mind before Washing Your Pillows

There are certain things you need to check and bear in mind before you start washing those pillows with the help of the above guidelines. This is important since you don’t want to end up ruining your pillows because of your good intentions. These pointers are listed below for your convenience:

  • Read the wash label carefully. Most of the pillows will have the care label attached to them for reference. Go through the label to check if your pillow is machine washable or not. This part is a little tricky since a lot of pillows come as dry clean only, but they can be machine washed safely.
  • If the label reads dry clean only, but you are ok with taking a risk, then ensure that the machine wash setting is on a low temperature and the run cycle is for delicates or hand wash. If you want to be extra careful, then try hand washing the pillow instead.
  • Always use a mild detergent. It is best to use the powder detergent instead of the liquid variety. This is because liquid detergents tend to leave a sticky residue when they are not rinsed properly, which causes clumping in the pillows.
  • Keep the dryer temperature low. Never dry your pillow at a high temperature.
  • Always wash your pillows by themselves. Do not add other clothing articles into the load with your pillows.
  • A front loader is best for pillows. Top loaders tend to make the pillow float and do not spin properly with a pillow in it. You should consider hand washing rather than running your pillow through a top loader.
  • Try to put two pillows in the washing machine in one load. This will balance the machine and ensure effective cleaning. It will also prevent the pillows from getting thrown around too much.
  • Make sure your pillow is completely dry before bringing it back to the bed and putting a pillow cover on it.
  • Use pillow covers. These go a long way in protecting your pillows from sweat, oils, creams, and lotions. Also, make sure to change and launder both the pillow covers and the pillowcases at least once every week.

When to Replace Your Pillow?

There comes a time when washing or cleaning your pillows is just not enough. They simply have to be replaced. So how do you know that it is time to go pillow shopping? Below are some telltale signs:

  • Your pillow becomes flat, and no amount of fluffing or running through the dryer helps.
  • There is discoloration, which does not go away with washing.
  • The pillow has become lumpy and uneven.
  • You wake up having aches and pains in the shoulders and neck.
  • There are episodes of sneezing, running nose, red eyes, or itchy skin when you sleep.
  • You have never washed your pillow ever since you purchased it years ago.
  • Visible mold or fungus is growing out of the pillow.

Ideally, even without the above signs, you should replace your pillows every 2 years as a general rule of thumb.

Cleaning Pillows FAQs

Some commonly asked questions are discussed below for your reference:

Can You Wash Your Pillows in The Washing Machine?

Yes, you can wash your pillows in the washing machine. Every type of pillow, including down pillows, can be safely washed in the washing machine. Just follow care instructions on the pillows regarding the temperature setting and use a mild detergent.

How Frequently Do the Pillows Need To Be Cleaned?

It is recommended that you should wash your pillow covers once every three weeks. And the pillow itself needs to be washed or cleaned once every three months. However, this is just a general rule of thumb. If your pillows are prone to getting dirty them, it is recommended you clean the once every month to maintain hygiene.

Are You Supposed to Wash Your Pillows After Purchasing Them?

It depends on your preference. It is better not to wash the pillows immediately after buying them. Washing the pillows is very safe, but it does reduce the loftiness a bit. Some people prefer to replace their pillows rather than wash them after some time for this very reason. However, washing periodically will not only be easy on your pocket but as the pillow gets old, washing helps in getting them back in shape and loftiness.

Is It Ok to Put The Pillow In The Dryer?

Pillows can be safely dried in the dryer. Just bear in mind not to overload the dryer since your pillow will expand as it dries. Secondly, don’t max out the temperature. Pillows are best run through a low-temperature dryer cycle.

There is nothing worse than having to lay your head on a dirty, smelly pillow. Most people think that pillows cannot be cleaned and have to be replaced when they lose their loft or start smelling moldy. However, this is just a common misperception. You can and should wash your pillows regularly, preferably every quarter to keep them fresh and extend their life.

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