It's a good idea to wash a pillow every year or so. Mom used to take them to the dry cleaner, where the stuffing would be taken out, bathed in chemicals, and then put in a fresh, new case. But we try to avoid dry cleaning in general and it seems like an especially bad idea to put all those chemicals right next to your head every night. So, how do you wash a pillow if you're not going to dry clean it? We've got a few tips...It's quite easy, actually. You can do it by hand or use a machine, although it's much easier to rinse in a machine.
- Remove the pillow protector (using a zippered one plus a pillowcase helps keep the pillow clean.)
- Fill the sink or washing machine with hot, not warm, water. Hot water kills dust mites without the need for bleach or other chemicals.
- Add mild, low-suds detergent. We're partial to Woolite.
- Add the pillow.
- Rinse several times.
- Before putting the pillow in the dryer, press excess water out of it with a white terry cloth towel. Do not wring or twist if you have a feather pillow -- you'll smash the feathers.
- Place the pillow in the dryer and air dry, or hang to dry outside. Fluff manually, or toss a clean tennis ball in the dryer.
- Enjoy your newly clean pillow.
Note: if you have a feather pillow, every time you wash it you'll remove some of the natural oils from the feathers. Eventually, they'll break down, and your pillow won't be as soft as it was. Similarly, synthetic pillows can clump when you wash them, so it's a good idea to limit this ritual to once a year or so.
If your pillows just need to be freshened, put them in the sun for several hours on a clear day, or hang them outside and let them air out.
Originally published March 2008 - CB