Skip to Content

Can You Clean Pillows In The Washing Machine? 

Most of us include pillowcases in our weekly washing list and hardly ever think about washing the pillows, except when we must because of a spill. Typically, we will postpone washing pillows as we feel they are still okay or we are worried the machine washing might damage them. However, pillows should be washed at least twice a year to maintain a healthy cushion for our sleepy heads.

Only some pillows are machine washable. Feather, down, fiberfill, or cotton pillows are generally safe to clean in a washer. Still, wool, latex, or memory foam pillows should be hand-washed or dry-cleaned. However, drying is essential; always read the label for cleaning instructions.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our disclosure.

It is human nature to postpone or shy away from acting on difficult decisions. Cleaning pillows is an excellent example, as we are not guaranteed that our pillows will come out the same as when we put them in the washing machine. We found most pillow-washing worries unfounded, but specific guidelines exist. So, how can you successfully clean pillows in the washing machine?   

pinterest pin about how to wash pillows in the washing machine

Can You Clean All Pillow Types In The Washing Machine

Pillow washing can be an interesting tee-time discussion with various suggestions and tips, from pillow types to washing machine settings. Of course, they need regular washing to stay fresh, and you can clean all pillow types in the washing machine. However, the first rule is to look at the label to confirm your pillow-washing intentions.

The different types of pillow fillings make the washing of pillows a difficult decision. For example, they are filled with feathers, down, fiberfill, or cotton, and each has specific washing recommendations. In addition, good pillows aren’t cheap, and they will be a massive loss if damaged. 

Therefore, although you can wash most pillows in a washing machine, you must follow the guidelines and manufacturer recommendations to mitigate any associated risk factors. Also, drying pillows is as important as washing them. Lastly, let us discuss the guidelines and recommendations for cleaning the different pillow types without damaging them.

The Different Pillow Types And Their Washing Recommendations

The pillow type is the most crucial factor when washing them in a machine. Typical pillow types are feather, down, memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, and microbeads. Not all pillows are machine washable; some require hand washing or dry cleaning. Therefore, inspect the tag before deciding on the washing method. 

Cleaning Down, Feather, Fiberfill, And Cotton Pillows

Down is ultra-soft material from duck and goose underbellies. Down alternative is a synthetic such as polyester. Feather pillows are more affordable as they use the topcoats of ducks and geese. In addition, cotton fill is most common and used in other bedding fabrics because it is inexpensive and easily maintained. 

Firstly, the cleaning method of pillows may differ between manufacturers. Therefore, although many feathers and down pillows can be machine-washed, some can only be dry-cleaned. In addition, washing any cushion should be done with care. There are feather or down-specific soaps on the market that will prevent clumping or soapy residue.

Also, it is essential to do everything gently. The water must be lukewarm and use half of a mild detergent in a gentle and delicate setting. Drying should also be on a low heat setting to prevent damage. There is a risk that overdoing any of the above could result in clumpy feathers or down pillows. 

Cleaning Latex And Memory Foam Pillows

Memory foam pillows are popular for shaping in contour to your neck and head. In addition, Latex foam is a soft and breathable pillow fill, providing soft head support. The usual recommendation is to wash Latex and memory foam pillows by hand. In addition, check the label, as some foam pillows should not be washed. The reason is the washing can agitate and break up the foam.

So, how do you clean foam pillows? The best alternative is to spot-clean them with a clean cloth. First, dip the material in a mild soap solution, twist-dry, and gently rub the pillow area. Alternatively, you can dry clean or vacuum them regularly to remove dust. The positive side is that these foamy materials usually are dust mite resistant and could suffice with irregular cleaning practices.  

Cleaning Wool Pillows

Wool is an anti-bacterial, highly breathable, soft pillow fill with 100-percent or blended wool fill options. Many would argue to never wash wool pillows as the fibers will clinch together and form clumps. However, if you must wash your wool pillows, hand-wash them with lukewarm water and a mild detergent. In addition, we listed two cleaning methods for wool pillows below.

How To Handwash A Wool Pillow

This process is also suitable for other pillow types requiring hand washing.

  1. Fill a basin or container with lukewarm water
  2. Add a small amount of wool detergent
  3. Place the pillow in the water slowly by massaging it until fully saturated
  4. Empty out the water
  5. Fill the basin with clean water
  6. Rinse the pillow gently (Repeat as needed)
  7. Allow drying

How to Freshen A Wool Pillow

This freshening method will also work for foam or latex-type pillows. Give them some air after wiping them with a damp cloth.

  1. Remove the pillow from the pillowcase.
  2. Open the inner pillow cover and remove the wool.
  3. Spread the wool fibers evenly apart on a clean sheet
  4. Please place it in the sun to breathe and freshen
  5. Wash and dry the pillowcase and inner cover
  6. Put the wool back in the inner cover and level it out
  7. Put the fresh pillow in the pillowcase

Cleaning Pillows In A Washing Machine

These steps are primarily for pillows filled with cotton, polyester, down, or feathers and should not include any foam pillows. Foam, memory foam, or latex pillows are typically not machine washable. Therefore, scrutinize the laundry symbols on the label. Once you have determined that your pillow is machine washable and not hand washed or dry cleaned only, you can follow the next steps. 

Firstly, try to wash two pillows for a better load balance and to prevent only one from gymnastically dancing excessively in the machine, which may result in damage or clumping. Alternatively, you can add a towel or two for extra padding. 

Secondly, you will need a mild laundry detergent or fabric soap per recommendation. You may also use a stain pre-treatment spray to rid the pillow of hard stains. Optionally, you can use wool dryer balls to assist with drying and replace a fabric softener. Finally, use cool or lukewarm water with a delicate wash cycle.

The Steps To Clean Pillows In A Washing Machine

Step 1: If required, check and spray the pillow and pillow cover with a stain remover. Allow it to work for a few minutes.

Step 2: Put the pillows in the washer 

Step 3: Pour a small amount of detergent or fabric soap into the dispenser

Step 4: Set the washer to a delicate cycle in warm water. Optionally, add an extra rinse cycle to ensure all soapiness gets removed.

Step 5: Allow the washer to complete the cycle and remove the pillows

Step 6: Put the cushions in the dryer and add the optional dryer balls 

Step 7: Set the dryer at a low heat temperature or the lowest setting. You may also opt for no heat when drying down-filled pillows

Step 8: Allow to dry for roughly an hour or a bit more

Step 9: Remove the cushions from the dryer and inspect for dampness or moisture

Step 10: Repeat the drying step until the pillows are completely dry

Tips For Cleaning Pillows In A Washing Machine

  • Check the tag or label before washing the pillows.
  • Front-loader washing machines are a better option for machine-washable pillows.
  • The top-loader models tend to create excessive friction between the drum and fabric.
  • Mitigate top-loader friction by placing two pillows vertically in the loader and reduce the spin time
  • Use lukewarm water
  • Use an extra mild detergent
  • Use a delicate cycle washer setting
  • Ensure the load space is filled completely to prevent unnecessary tumbling in the washer or dryer
  • After washing, ensure they are dry before using or storing
  • Wash pillows at least once a year or more frequently when needed
  • Old pillows may wash and dry more complicated than newer ones
  • Replace old pillows instead of not washing them
  • Fluff and shake them into shape during and after drying. This tip is also suitable for each morning while making the bed.

Why Do You Need To Wash Pillows?

The exact reason for washing bed sheets and other linen applies to pillows – to maintain a hygienic environment. Pillowcases are a great help but do not provide the cushion with a hundred percent protection from mites or sweat reaching the pillow and its filling. It may sound a bit disgusting, but dead skin attracts dust mites resulting in allergies.

If your pillow smells a little musty, it may indicate bacteria. Also, suppose you spilled some of your morning coffee in bed, or baby Jane had a burping accident on the pillow. In that case, it is all a good enough reason to wash your pillows regularly. In addition, it should not be a burden but a regular mundane washing task.

When Should I Replace Pillows Instead Of Washing Them?

Pillows are not unique, and they will age as anything else. Remember, the average adult spends at least 3000 hours cuddling them each year. So the moment they are too flexible, and you can fold them in half and don’t jump back, you should know the time is near. In addition, when they become lumpy, smelly, and covered with stains, you can add replacements to your shopping list. 

Can You Dry Or Dry Wash Pillows In A Dryer?

Yes, you can dry pillows in a dryer but ensure to use a low-heat or no-heat setting. In addition, check them regularly to ensure they dry evenly. Also, use dryer balls as they act as a fabric softener and will dry wash and assist with drying. Finally, remember to exclude foam pillows, but most other types can be placed in a dryer in a low or no heat setting. 

Dry Cleaning Pillows

Many labels on pillows allow for dry cleaning only. So, what is the difference between dry cleaning and washing machine cleaning? The short answer is water – many dry-cleaning methods do not use water but chemical solvents to rid cleaning items of stains. That is why some pillows should be dry cleaned, as the water in the cleaning process will harm them.

However, although dry-cleaning is recommended for certain pillow types, you will lose some traditional laundry-cleaning benefits. For example, the primary purpose of a dry cleaner company is to clean the items. Therefore, that is what they are good at, and your pillows may lack the good-and-clean-and-fresh tra-la-la smells that come with laundry washing. 

Can A Washing Machine Or Over-Washing Damage your Pillows?

It’s a shame that this is the case, but it’s accurate. First, you shouldn’t put pillows that can’t be washed in a washing machine through the washing machine cycle. Secondly, the outcomes could be undesirable if you use the wrong settings on the machine, such as washing in too hot water. Finally, there’s a limit to how often you can wash a cushion before it disintegrates or deteriorates too much.

As they age, the impact of the washing process will increase, and your pillow may look slightly different than before. If you are unsure, opt for hand-wash or dry cleaning instead.

Cleaning Pillows Without A Washing Machine

Only some pillows allow for machine washing, yet all pillows need regular cleaning to keep them looking and smelling fresh. There are a few other options to ensure clean pillows. In fact, many believe that these machine-washing alternatives pose a lower risk and encourage pillow durability.

Washing pillows by hand will eliminate the roughness of washer movement and allow for more delicate hand-washing motions. For example, a washer cannot massage a pillow on the same level as the hands.

Spot-cleaning will remove any spills or stains when washing is not necessary. Remember, washing pillows too often can also negatively impact durability. 

Vacuum-clean pillows regularly to rid them of dust or hairs. Also, freshen them with sprays and change the pillowcases regularly. 

Use an absorbent cloth to soak up spills immediately to prevent them from entering too deep into the pillow. Then, spot-clean the area and allow it to dry. It is always a good idea to leave it in the sun for a while. 


Some pillows may be cleaned in a washing machine. However, follow the cleaning instructions on the pillow label or tag. Never machine wash foam or wool pillows. If unsure, opt for one of the other methods, like hand washing or spot cleaning. Although cushions should be cleaned regularly, the amount of washing will ultimately impact the shape and firmness, indicating time for a replacement. 

Share and join us on social media!