How to Wash a Pillow: 4 Easy Steps

Written by
Purple Staff
Last Updated
May 9, 2023
min read

Cleaning bed sheets regularly is a standard practice in most households. But cleaning pillows? Not so much. Because of their constant contact with hair and skin, pillows gather sweat, body oils, and bacteria that also deserve the same hygienic attention we devote to our bed linens. 

To ensure your pillows stay clean, it's important to take the proper steps to care for them. Keep reading for the ultimate pillow cleaning guide.

How Often Should You Wash Pillows?

Pillows should be washed at least twice a year. However, if your pillows are more often exposed to dirt, debris, spills, or pets, a wash  every 3-6 months is recommended. If you eat and drink in your bed, sleep with pets, or tend to sweat excessively in your sleep, you should wash your pillows every three months.

How To Wash Your Pillow

First, check the tag on your pillow for instructions on how to clean your pillow. If you do not see instructions, these are steps are acceptable for properly cleaning most pillows.


Step 1: Vacuum

person vacuuming pillow

We recommend vacuuming your pillow before washing it. This will help target and remove any dust, dead skin cells, or dust mites that may have collected on the pillow fabric. To vacuum your pillow, take the upholstery attachment of your vacuum and run it over both sides of your pillow several times. Even if you do not throw your pillow into the washing machine regularly, vacuuming it often will help keep it feeling and looking fresh.


Step 2: Spot Treat Pillows

Spot-treat your pillow if it has any noticeable stains. Spot-cleaning pillows will follow a similar process to bed sheets and mattresses.

Depending on the type of stain, you could use soap and water or a dedicated stain remover. Soap and water work great for general stains like dirt and grime, while  a stronger stain remover will help remove tougher stains, like blood, sweat, or vomit.

Remember to use cleaning solutions sparingly when removing stains. You can always add a little more if needed. Here are four steps for spot-treating a stain:

  1. Apply a small amount of solution to a clean cloth, then gently pat the stain with the cloth.
  2. Let the solution sit for a few minutes, then gently pat the area with a clean cloth.
  3. Add cold water to another clean cloth, then pat the area with the wet cloth.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 if the stain is still present.

Having trouble washing blood stains out of your pillow or other bedding? Check out our article on how to get blood out of sheets to make your bedding look pristine again


Step 3: Machine Washing Pillows

Only certain types of pillows can be cleaned in the washing machine. Down or microfiber pillows are machine washable, while memory foam or latex pillows should be hand-washed. Machine washing the latter may tear and damage their material.

Always check the manufacturer tag on your pillow before washing. The manufacturer tag will provide information on compatibility with a washing machine, cleaning instructions, and whether or not to use a top-loading washer with an agitator, or a front-loading washing machine without an agitator.

There are also several things to consider while cleaning your pillow in the washing machine. We recommend washing two pillows at the same time to keep your washing machine balanced. Always use a gentle spin cycle to help maintain the shape of your bed pillows while cleaning them.


Step 4: Dry Pillows

pillows air drying

After you have either machine-washed or spot treated your pillows, you will need to give them time to dry. Check the company's website before drying. Machine-washable pillows, like down or polyester, can be t dried in a dryer on tumble-dry at a low to medium heat setting. 

Machine Dry: We also recommend drying your pillows on low for several cycles to assure they are properly dried. A few dyer balls or clean tennis balls thrown into the dryer with your pillows will help prevent any clumps.

Air Dry: Pillows requiring a  hand-wash or spot-treat will need time to air dry. Cleaning experts recommend allowing enough time to air-dry before replacing any pillow protectors or pillow covers on your pillows.

Air drying will help prevent any mildew and mold from collecting in or on your pillow. To air-dry, hang your pillows on a clothesline or next to a window in your house. For more tips on keeping your mattress mold-free, read our guide on how to get mold out of your mattress.

Despite your best efforts to wash and dry your pillows regularly, you may notice  pesky odors or stains. . Read our guide for the tell-tale signs your pillows are at the end of their time with details on how often to replace your pillows.

Cleaning Recommendations For My Purple Pillow

Purple offers a variety of pillows to fit your sleeping style and needs. These different options also mean that cleaning and care instructions will differ depending on the pillow.

We recommend either referring to our manufacturer tag on your Purple pillow or going to our website for further instructions here. With proper cleaning and care, your Purple pillow will last many years  and many restful sleeps. Upgrade Your Sleep With Purple

If you’re looking for innovative sleep solutions, Purple has designed a collection of pillows that blend plush, cushioning comfort with head, neck, and shoulder comfort that ensure rejuvenating sleep. Debating a firm or soft pillow? Read our firm vs. soft pillow comparison guide to learn which firmness level best suits you.

Purple Harmony:  State-of-the-art cushioning technology for the perfect blend of support and comfort. 

Purple Cloud Pillow: Cloud-like comfort with hypoallergenic gel fibers that won't clump, trap heat, or fall flat

Purple Pillow: Purple’s original pillow made with our proprietary honeycomb grid that relieves pressure, provides ergonomic support, and keeps cool. 

Purple TwinCould Pillow: The classic down-alternative pillow reinvented with a moldable, fluffy feel and adjustable design for customizable comfort.

Not sure what pillow to choose? Read more on steps to choose a pillow for you.

Washing A Pillow FAQs

Is it safe to wash pillows in the washing machine?

Yes, it is safe to wash pillows in the washing machine, provided that the manufacturer tags confirms. Generally, most pillows filled with fiberfill, cotton, and down feathers can be washed in your washing machine, but it’s still best to check the care tags to avoid damaging the filling.

Which pillows cannot be washed?

Latex and memory foam pillows typically can’t be washed in the washing machine, although they often come with machine washable covers that can be removed and washed