How To Wash Your Pillows

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

Most people launder their sheets once a week, setting aside the actual pillows for far less frequent washings. It's a bit of a bigger job and one that tends to get put off, so if you haven't done it in a while, why not take care of it this weekend for a nice fresh start to spring?

No need to get gross and talk about dust mites, let's just agree that pillows need to be washed at least twice each year (you'll want to double/triple that amount if you live in a warmer climate) and be sure you're using a pillow cover. Check the care label to confirm that your pillow (down or synthetic) can be machine washed —most can be.

A few tricks that can come in handy before you get started:

  • Fold your synthetic pillow in half, if it doesn't spring open right away, toss it. The material inside is shot and probably won't make it through the cycle without breaking apart.
  • Roll up your pillows lengthwise and secure the ends and middle with rubber bands during wash cycle to minimize clumping of synthetic fibers. For best results, lay flat to dry.
  • Use mild liquid detergent rather than a powder to avoid residue.
  • Wash a pair of pillows together to keep the machine balanced.
  • Recycle old pillows—they work great as padding for dog beds or stuffing for throw pillows!

What You Need


  • Pillows
  • Low-sudsing liquid laundry detergent
  • Tennis balls or wool laundry balls
  • Rubber bands


  • Washer/dryer


1. Read the care label on your pillows first to be sure you can actually wash your pillows. Set the water temperature on your machine according to the care label.

2. Place your pillows in the machine, two at a time to evenly distribute the load.

3. Add a small amount of low sudsing detergent like Woolite and start the load.

4. Run the pillows through the rinse cycle twice after the initial wash to be sure all the soap has been removed.

5. Dry your pillows according to the care label. If you are able to put them in the dryer, place a few tennis balls in with the pillows to speed up dry time and to keep the fibers from clumping. You can also dry the pillows by laying them flat. I like to put mine outside in the sun, but you could just lay them on top of your machine and let them sit for a few hours in warm air while your dryer is working on another load.

More great tips and tutorials: Cleaning Basics

Edited from an original post by Janel Laban published on 1.13.10

(Image credits: Ashley Poskin)