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How to wash pillows & cushions: the ultimate guide

When’s the last time you washed your pillows? Follow our pillow cleaning tips to get them clean.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

how to wash pillows

Key steps

When you’re cleaning pillows or cushions:

  1. Remove them from the case first.

  2. Wash them on a gentle cycle if they’re suitable for machine washing.

  3. Wash them by hand in soapy water if they can’t be machine washed.

  4. Dry them thoroughly in sunlight or a low-heat tumble dryer.

  5. Vacuum and spot clean memory foam pillows or cushions that are too large to be washed.

You’re probably used to cleaning pillowcases but it’s easy to forget that the pillow inside needs the occasional wash as well. Pillows and cushions don’t have to go in with your weekly wash but it’s worth cleaning them a couple of times a year to get rid of dust mites, bed bugs, and dead skin cells. Here’s how to wash cushions and pillows.

Once you’re done cleaning the pillows, make a note of the date on the care label – this will help you know when your pillow is due for its next wash.

How to wash pillows in washing machines

Before you throw your pillows (or cushions) into the washing machine, the first question to ask is: “can I wash pillows in the washing machine?” Although many pillows are machine washable, there are always exceptions. For example, if your pillow is made of memory foam.

If they’re suited for machine washing, here’s how to launder a pillow in the washing machine.

  1. Strip off the pillowcase and squeeze the air out of the pillow so it’ll fit more comfortably in the washing machine.

  2. Put the pillow in the washing machine and start the cycle. To be on the safe side, use a gentle setting. You only need a small amount of laundry detergent.

  3. Pillows take a while to rinse out completely, so it’s worth running a rinse cycle after the wash has finished.

  4. If the care label permits, you can tumble dry the pillow on low heat then put it in an airing cupboard to make sure it dries completely. 

  5. If you don’t have a tumble dryer or the pillow can’t be tumble dried, hang it on a clothesline - ideally in sunlight.

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This method also works for washing cushions.

How to wash pillows by hand

If your pillows aren’t suitable for machine washing, you might need to consult a dry cleaner or wash them by hand.

  1. Massage them clean in a tub of warm water, with a little detergent such as Breeze

  2. Rinse them thoroughly and hang them up to dry afterwards.

Be careful when handling memory foam, which is easily damaged. For a gentler cleaning, you can give them the occasional vacuuming and clean away any stains with a soapy cloth, then rinse and let dry. This may also be useful if you’re dealing with sofa cushions that are too large to be cleaned by other methods.

Pillow cleaning tips

  • Double up on pillowcases to keep your pillow fresh for longer and protect it from stains. 

  • For even more effective protection, get a waterproof pillow protector to go under your pillowcase.

  • If you’re cleaning a feather pillow, sew up any rips in the material first or you might end up with wet feathers everywhere.

  • If your pillow has serious stains, pre-treat them before washing by rubbing some detergent onto the stain and leaving it for 10 minutes. Then follow up with one of the above methods for how to clean pillows.

  • When you’re tumble drying your pillows, put a couple of tennis balls in the dryer to fluff them up. Put each tennis ball in a clean white sock beforehand.

  • If your pillow doesn’t spring back when it’s folded in half, it might be time to replace it.

Now that your pillows are clean, you can lie back and relax! Well, unless your mattress also needs cleaning, in which case you’ll probably need our article on how to clean a mattress.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on washing pillows and cushions

Can you strip memory foam pillows?

If you want to strip a memory foam pillow it will depend on the type of memory foam pillow you own. A shredded memory foam pillow can be machine washed whole on a delicate cycle with mild detergent. A solid memory foam pillow can be stripped and the pillowcase and covers can be popped in the wash with your other laundry.

How many pillows can I put in the washing machine at once?

How many pillows you can wash at once is purely dependant on the size of your washing machine drum. If it is big enough, we recommend washing 2 pillows at a time. This will not only speed up the process for you but also help to balance the machine cycle and circulate the detergent and water more evenly.

How do you disinfect a pillow you can't wash?

Learning how to disinfect a pillow you can't wash is actually a lot simpler than you think. All you need is a bottle of disinfectant spray or a little borax. If you choose to go down the borax route, we recommend sprinkling a couple of tablespoons over the surface of your pillow and leaving it in place for 1 hour. Once the borax has done its job and sanitized your pillow, all you need to do is vacuum up the residue.

Will washing pillows fluff them too?

If you want fluffy pillows, washing them can help – but it is not the only step that matters. After washing you should lay them flat and massage them with your fists until you feel the fibres begin to fluff up again. Allow it to air dry fully before use to ensure it retains its fluffiness.

Originally published