In a year, your pillow sees more than 2,900 hours worth of action. But, in that same year, how many hours have you spent washing your pillows? Even if you wash your pillowcase often, the pillow itself fills up with dead skin, dust, mites and bacteria. And since you use it every night, a clean pillow will certainly make you sleep easier.

If it’s been a while since your pillow hit the wash, don’t worry. Here’s an easy guide on how to clean your pillow and rest easy.

How to wash pillows 

The first thing to do with any pillow is to give it air. Fluff your pillow every morning to remove dust and get some air moving through the padding. This keeps your pillow from getting clumpy and helps remove any dry skin, dirt or dry material that’s on the surface. 

Fluff your throw pillows while you’re at it! They can get dusty too, so a good fluff will keep all your cushions clean.

In addition to a daily fluff, make sure you wash the pillowcase regularly. About once a week, throw the pillowcase in the wash with all the bedding. Since the case gets most of the makeup, skin and saliva residue, keeping it clean will help the pillow itself stay fresh. 

Once again, get your throw pillow cases in on the cleaning action. You don’t need to wash them once a week, but once a month or so (if your throw pillow has a removable case), it’s good to toss them in with the laundry.

If your pillow has a specific care tag, be sure to always follow those directions. If the tag is gone (or just unreadable), here are some more pillow cleaning tips.

How to wash feather pillows

Good news — just throw this in the washing machine! As long as there are no tears in your pillow, a feather pillow can be machine washed without problems. Use a mild detergent and wash two pillows at a time to keep the machine balanced. 

Drying is slightly more complicated. Feather pillows can be thrown in the dryer, but it’s best to add a couple of tennis balls to the mix. The tennis balls will keep the feathers from clumping, so the pillow dries evenly. Be sure to keep the heat low and give yourself time. Feather pillows will take a while to dry.

It’s very important to be sure the pillow is completely dry before it heads to your bed. A damp pillow will smell musty and can grow mold. So, give your feather pillow a little extra time in the dryer.

How to wash down pillows

Down (and artificial down) can also be washed in the dryer. Again, wash two at a time to keep the machine balanced and use a gentle detergent. After the wash cycle is completed, give the pillows an extra rinse and spin cycle, just to ensure that there’s no soap residue left over.

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In the dryer, keep the setting on low heat and tumble dry. You may need to take out the pillows periodically to fluff or rearrange to make sure they’re drying evenly. You can use a tennis ball on down pillows, too, but it’s not a requirement. Again, give yourself extra time for the pillows to dry and make sure they’re desert-level parched before putting them back on your bed.

How to wash foam pillows

Sadly, foam and memory foam pillows cannot be washed. But there are ways to keep them fresh. One, put your pillow out in the sun. Sunlight helps kill bacteria and remove odors. Add a good shake and fluff and your pillow will be a lot fresher. For a deeper clean, vacuum the surface of the pillow with the furniture attachment to remove any settled in dust and mites.

If you have small stains on your foam pillow, use a mild soap and damp cloth to remove them. If your pillow is covered in stains, sadly there’s not much you can do.

What to do with old pillows

Eventually, even the most cared for pillow will have to go. Before you throw it in the trash, consider a few recycling options. An old bed pillow can make a great new throw pillow. Just add a new cover and you’ve got a decorative pillow that looks like new.

If you’re a gardener, use an old pillow to protect your knees as you weed through the rose bushes. Or, make an old pillow into a new bed for your dog. Some shelters accept donations of old pillows to make bedding for the animals, which can be a great and easy way to get rid of pillows you can’t use at home.

If you already have too many throw pillows and dog beds at home (and your nearby animal shelter isn’t taking donations), then you’ll have to put your pillow in the regular trash. Pillows don’t need to be disposed like mattresses, though if you can find a way to upcycle or donate your old pillows, that’s always the best option.

When do you need a new pillow? 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a pillow needs to be cleaned or if it’s just past its prime. One way to test your pillow is: fold it. If you fold your pillow in half and it pops back into shape quickly, your pillow is still good. If it doesn’t regain its shape, it’s time to go pillow shopping. Generally, pillows last anywhere from 18-24 months, if your folding test was inconclusive.

A good pillow is key for a good night’s sleep. So, when you’re looking for a new place to rest your head, be sure the pillow gives you good head and neck support.

If you need a new pillow, this list is a great place to start. It gives recommendations on everything from firm to fluffy, all with super high quality that easily lasts a few years. And a good, clean pillow is step one to the restful sleep you deserve.

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