How to Clean Pillows?

Spilled wine on your favorite sweats? Throw them in the washing machine. Spilled wine on your favorite pillow? Don’t head to the laundry room just yet!

You might already know how to choose the right pillow, but do you know how to wash it properly? Deciding how to clean pillows is like following a Yes/No chart. Depending on the pillow material and washing needs, you may need completely different cleaning techniques. And for memory foam pillows, cleaning is a little more complicated than pressing “Start” on your washer.

From stain removal to spring cleaning, you can clean almost any pillow inside your home. Read our complete guide on cleaning memory foam pillows and other types of pillows.

Can You Clean Memory Foam Pillows?

Unlike cotton or rayon, memory foam isn’t usually found in laundry piles or closets. Can you wash memory foam pillows without professional help?

In short, the answer is yes—it just depends on your pillow’s particular design and size. So, be sure to not only refer to the tag but also to the pillow size chart.

Memory foam works a little differently than natural pillow fillers, thanks to low-resistance polyurethane. This dense substance gives memory foam its signature “molding” quality, contouring to the shape of your head.1 However, it also makes it more susceptible to water damage—which can make cleaning difficult. 

Luckily, many pillow designers combine memory foam with more water-friendly materials (like plush microfiber in The Original pillow). If unsure whether your pillow is safe to wash at home, check the laundry symbols on their tags. If you see “Dry Clean Only”, that means that home washing pillows is out of the picture. If not, you can clean your memory foam pillows.

How Do You Clean Memory Foam Pillows?

Like most pillows, memory foam pillows can be divided into two parts. Both of these parts need regular cleaning, although at different frequencies and intensities:

  • Inner core –  Filler material enclosed in an adjustable or sealed shell
  • Outer cover – Any fabric layer (pillowcase, sheath, or sham) surrounding the core

While the outer cover may need more frequent cleaning, the memory foam inner core may need a deep cleaning just once per year. It all depends on your lifestyle and how many happy accidents occur. Let’s explore the three main techniques used to clean the inner core of memory foam pillows.2

Spot Cleaning

Takeout curry? Red wine? Sweat spots? All of these count as stains—and they can be spot cleaned from memory foam pillows.

Spot cleaning means cleaning a particular area on a fabric surface. For in-the-moment accidents, it’s the easiest and safest way to restore your pillows. When trying to remove stains on your memory foam pillow, follow these spot cleaning steps:

  1. Remove the pillow case and wash separately if necessary.
  2. Grab a towel or paper towel and absorb any excess liquid, dirt, or stain material.
  3. Mix liquid dish soap with water into a bubbly and frothy consistency. Dip a clean sponge into this solution, and then gently dab the stain in circular motions.
  4. Repeat dabbing until the stain begins to fade.
  5. Dip a fresh cloth or sponge in clean water, and dab the spot until no soap mixture remains.
  6. Let the pillow air dry. You may also dry the spot lightly with a hair dryer.
  7. If the stain does not fully come out, repeat steps 3 to 6.
  8. Put the pillow case back on when fully dry.

Sometimes, life throws you a “tricky” stain—blood, wine, hair dyes, etc. To spot clean these difficult substances, you may need a stronger or more particular substance than dish soap. Some handy stain solutions to keep on hand include:3

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Vinegar and baking soda
  • Enzyme detergents
  • Ammonia
  • Petroleum jelly

Always research your stain type before applying a cleansing solution. Once you find the right one, get to work fast. Most stains lift better when removed quickly.

Deodorizing

Just like your bed sheets, your memory foam pillows can pick up scents over time. After all, your body is lying on them every night!

When combating any stenches at home, baking soda is your best friend. This all-purpose ingredient is a safe and effective deodorizer for memory foam pillows (and other household items). Freshen up your pillows by following these deodorizing steps: 

  1. Remove the pillow case and wash separately if needed.
  2. Lie the pillow down on a flat surface with access to direct sunlight.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda across the entire pillow surface, covering it almost entirely.
  4. Leave the pillow in the sunlight for one to three hours.
  5. Vacuum off the baking soda completely.
  6. Repeat steps 2 to 6 on the other side of the pillow.
  7. Put the pillowcase back on.

And voila! Your memory foam pillow should be smelling good as new. If you find that any stenches or scents are still present after this process, your pillow may need a deep cleaning. 

Deep Cleaning

The phrase “deep cleaning” can sound intense, but it’s a normal and doable part of pillow maintenance. It just means that you are thoroughly cleaning the entire filling of your memory foam pillow.

Even with regular spot cleaning and deodorizing, memory foam pillows usually need deep cleaning just once per year. Cleanse more, and you might damage the pillow’s material. 

Depending on your pillow, deep cleaning could mean machine washing or sink washing. For machine washable memory foam pillows, you’ll need to:

  1. Remove the pillow case and wash separately if needed.
  2. Check that any zippers or fastenings are closed on the inner core’s shell. A safety pin around any zippers can ensure it stays closed.
  3. Wash on a cold/gentle cycle, forgoing fabric softener or bleach.
  4. Tumble dry on low one pillow at a time until the inner core is completely dry. This could take a few cycles depending on your dryer model.
  5. Put the pillowcase back on when fully dry.

Simple and easy, it’s not hard to see why machine washing is a plus (that’s why our memory foam pillows are washer-friendly). However, you can always give your memory foam pillows a deep clean in a large container. Follow these steps for a hands-on deep clean:

  1. Remove the pillow case and wash separately if needed.
  2. Fill a clean and large sink, bathtub, or container with lukewarm water. Add gentle laundry detergent to the water until slightly frothy.
  3. Submerge your pillow in the water until completely wet. Gently squeeze your pillow a couple of times, forcing soapy water into the core material. Notice the clarity of the water coming from your pillow.
  4. Empty the water. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until the water runs clean from your pillow.
  5. Gently squeeze out excess water from your pillow, then let it air dry completely.
  6. Put the pillow case back on when fully dry.

Remember that deep cleaning is only necessary about once per year. The only other reason to deep clean your pillows would be a large stain or substance penetrating the inner core. Otherwise, don’t go crazy with deep cleaning—you might end up damaging the memory foam’s supportive structure.

How Do You Clean Other Types of Pillows?

While we love pillows with memory foam, there are definitely more filler materials out there—and they each come with their own washing needs. 

From natural down to synthetic polyester, there’s a preferred washing technique for every pillow material.4 Consider these cleaning routines for your other pillows:

  • Down or feather pillow – While light and delicate, natural down and feathers can usually handle washing machines. Most down pillows can be washed on Cool/Delicate cycles and dried on low heat. Just make sure to avoid high heat, or you might damage the feathers or down.
  • Latex – This synthetic material has very similar cleaning needs to memory foam. Hand washing and spot cleaning are preferred for synthetic pillows, but a few models may allow for machine washing (always check the tag).
  • Polyester – Durable and low-maintenance, polyester pillows are a popular option. You can machine wash polyester pillows on a warm/gentle cycle, using minimal mild detergent to avoid shrinkage. Air drying is preferable, but machine drying on low heat is usually fine.
  • Buckwheat – An alternative natural option, buckwheat hulls are usually removable from the inner core. Pour out all the buckwheat hulls into a large bowl or cooking tray. Let them dry in the sun for a few hours. In the meanwhile, wash the buckwheat pillows’ shell casing on Cold/Delicate and air-dry or tumble dry on low.
  • Microbeads – A synthetic alternative to buckwheat pillows, microbead pillows are usually machine washable. Add multiple pillows at once to a washer machine, to avoid any tearing or excess movement. Run on a Cold/Delicate cycle, and then fully or partially air dry. You can speed up air drying with a short dry cycle on low heat.

Fresh Pillows, Fresher Designs with Coop Home Goods

When you take care of your pillows, it’s only right that your pillows take care of you. Your sleep quality pillows that will last through every stain and deep cleaning. That’s why at Coop Home Goods, we’ve designed pillows built for a lifetime of support. 

With machine washability, hybrid memory foam cores, and adjustable fillings, our pillows are here to make your life easier. Find the low-maintenance and long-lasting comfort you need by exploring our pillow collection.

Sources:

  1. Sleep Foundation. What is Memory Foam? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mattress-information/what-is-memory-foam
  2. The Spruce. How to Wash Latex and Memory Foam Bed Pillows. https://www.thespruce.com/wash-latex-memory-foam-bed-pillows-2146358
  3. Better Homes & Gardens. 10 Powerful Stain Removal Products You Should Always Have On Hand. https://www.bhg.com/homekeeping/laundry-linens/stain-removal/stain-removal-products/
  4. Consumer Reports. How to Wash Your Pillow. https://www.consumerreports.org/pillows/how-to-wash-a-pillow-a1157640885/
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