When was the last time you cleaned your pillows? Most of us clean our pillow cases every couple of days or so, but we often forget about cleaning the pillows they protect. While you might think that your pillow is constantly protected from general nastiness, the reality can be very different.
The average pillow is often covered in dead skin, sweat, dust and saliva. And some pillows are crawling with microscopic mites — which can trigger allergic reactions and breathing difficulties in some people.
Thankfully, you don’t need to throw away your pillows because they haven’t been washed in a while. Depending on the type of pillow you’re dealing with, the cleaning process could be relatively straightforward.
If your pillows are filled with down, the cleaning process is very simple: throw them straight into your washing machine. To keep your washer balanced, however, aim to wash just two pillows at a time.
But before you do anything, you should read the washing instructions — which should be printed on a care label. If you’re OK to machine wash your pillows, do so on a relatively cool, fast cycle. Once they’re clean, tumble dry your pillows to plump them up again. Again, keep the heat relatively low, and take them out occasionally to give them a good fluffing.
Feather pillows are also machine washable, but it’s important to check for even the tiniest tears before washing them. The fast spin of a cycle could open up a tear and release potentially damaging feathers into the inner workings of your machine. Use a small amount of fabric detergent, and wash two pillows together.
If you want to fluff up your feather pillows when drying them, place three tennis balls into your dryer. You should also remove the pillows every few minutes to give them a shake. Unfortunately, feather pillows can take quite a while to dry in a domestic tumble dryer, and that can leave them smelling musty afterwards. If the weather is good, dry your feather pillows in the sun.
Foam pillows are a little trickier to clean, as you can’t put them in your washing machine. However, most have a removable cover, which provides protection for sweat, dust and everything else that can find its way onto the surface of the pillow. The best you can do is vacuum the pillow with an appropriate accessory.
If you notice stains or strange odours, there is another option. Using a small amount of detergent and a little water, blot stains with a microfibre cloth. Just make sure you don’t drench the foam inside the pillow, as this can lead to permanent damage and deformities. You can then freshen up the pillow by throwing it in the tumble dryer with some dryer sheets.
Note: Foam pillows generally have a shorter lifespan than other types. If you fold your pillow in half and it takes a while to return to its normal shape, it’s probably time to buy a replacement.
If you decide to wash your pillow, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a replacement for at least a couple of days. It is vital that you give washed pillows sufficient time to dry — otherwise they can become susceptible to mould growth.
The best way to dry pillows is with fresh air, as this will also leave them smelling fresh. If you have to use a tumble dryer, however, make sure you give the pillows time to dehumidify afterwards (which could take several days). Putting a pillow case back on and using it prematurely could lead to mould growth — and all of the issues it can cause.
Don’t throw out your pillows before you’ve at least tried to clean them. However, you’ll know yours are ready for the bin when they’re misshapen or flat.