Washing a pillow in washing machine: this is how you do it right!

In spring we feel the need to bring everything to shine at home: clean the windows, bring the balcony or terrace back into shape and clean out long-forgotten cupboards. In addition, you’ll also want to lie down in an absolutely fresh-smelling bed. Unfortunately, fresh bed linen is not enough. The pillow also needs to be washed. Did you know that pillows should be washed once or twice a year? Here you can find out what you need to consider when washing a pillow and how to dry them properly.

How to wash a pillow properly depends on the filling. There are many things you can do wrong when washing your pillows – from the wrong temperature to the wrong detergent, or the wrong drying. If you make one of these mistakes, the pillow can be irreparably damaged. But we will tell you how to do it the right way so that this does not happen to you.

How often should you wash your pillow?

washing a pillow in washing machine instructions

The pillow should be washed about once or twice a year. Because even if you may not believe it, at night the pillow is faced with a lot of things. Sweat, saliva, skin flakes, sebum, hair, and dust mites – it’s really not pretty.

Fortunately, most of it is kept away from you thanks to the pillowcase. That is why bed linen should be changed once or twice a month. If you struggle with acne, you can even wash your pillow every few days or at least once a week. But some things find their way into the inside of the pillow and can even cause unpleasant odors.

Tip: Washing alone is not enough for the pillow. So shake or tap it regularly to let the air in. This also ensures freshness and a fluffy filling.

Washing a pillow: The most important things first

Washing dawn pillow in washing machine and dry in tumble dryer

Pillows with down or feather filling must not be washed if you do not have a dryer at home. The down and feathers clump together after washing. They will be separated again in the dryer.

If you do not have a dryer and leave the pillows to air dry instead, the filling will remain lumpy and the pillow will become unusable. In the worst case, the clumped down and feathers may even become moldy.

Washing a pillow in the washing machine: At how many degrees?

The material of a pillow, or more precisely the filling, determines the temperature at which the pillow can be washed. The most common fillings are:

  • down (40 to 60 degrees)
  • feathers (30 to 40 degrees)
  • Polyester, Elastane, Acetate (handwash up to 30 degrees)
  • Cotton (up to 60 degrees)
  • Latex or Memory foam (often not washable)
  • Wool or silk (30 degrees)
  • Microfibre (60 to 90 degrees)

However, these are only approximate values, as the actual temperature varies from pillow to pillow. It’s, therefore, essential to look at the manufacturer’s label.

Tip: If the label allows it, allergy sufferers should wash their pillows at 60 degrees. This is the temperature at which dust mites and viruses won’t survive. If the material must not be washed at high temperatures, there is another trick to clean a pillow without washing: mites also die at very low temperatures. So if possible, put the pillow in the freezer. Then tap it gently, air it out and your pillow is mite-free.

washing pillows once or twice a year

Washing down pillows in the washing machine

Down pillows usually consist of a down/feather mixture. Many people think there is not much difference between down and feathers, but that is far from the case.

Down is the lower plumage of geese and ducks. That is why they are fluffier and have no quill. Due to their voluminous, fluffy structure, they can store heat and still provide air balance. Their structure also makes them more difficult to wash.

That is why it is important that you do not use any heavy-duty laundry detergent for down pillows. This attacks the natural layer of fat in the down so that they can clump together more quickly afterwards. Also, you shouldn’t add fabric softener. This could cause the down to stick together inside the pillow.

Instead, use a mild detergent or opt for a special down detergent. Wash the down pillow in the washing machine on a delicate wash cycle and choose extra rinse to make sure that all detergent residues are rinsed out.

Important: Only wash one pillow at a time in the washing machine and use a small amount of mild detergent. One-third of the usual amount is enough to get the pillow clean.

You should also check carefully if the pillow has flaws or holes. These could tear open completely during washing and the washing machine can be seriously damaged.

If in doubt, put the pillow into a special laundry bag, so that down and feathers would be caught in it and could not spread throughout the washing machine.

Drying down pillows in a tumble dryer

When washing down pillows, drying is an absolutely essential part. If you dry them incorrectly, the down will clump together or start to get moldy. This would ruin the pillow. So if you don’t have a dryer, it is better to take your down pillows to a dry cleaner.

It is best to put the down pillow in the dryer immediately after washing. Use the delicate cycle again. If necessary, repeat several dryer cycles. Under no circumstances should the pillow still be damp after drying.

Also, add a few dryer balls so that the pillow is particularly well loosened and the down becomes super fluffy again. It also makes the pillow dry faster.

washing pillows depending on filling dawn feathers or microfibers

Washing a feather pillow in the washing machine

Feather pillows are also often a feather/down mixture. Feathers, however, ensure that the pillow is fuller and more stable than is the case with soft down. The requirements for washing feathers are similar, but not the same, as feathers have a quill that can easily break.

It is best to shake feather pillows every morning and air them regularly. This way they need to be washed less often.

New feather pillows can often be washed at 60 degrees. At this temperature, most bacteria and dust mites are killed. Older feather pillows can usually only be washed at 30-40 degrees. So take a look at the label, and if in doubt, wash at the lower temperature.

You should also not use a heavy-duty detergent for feather pillows. This would also attack the natural fat layer and roughen it, thus promoting clumping. It is better to use detergents for fine fabrics or wool, a down detergent is also an option.

Also, feather pillows should only be washed one by one, otherwise, the feathers will be squashed too much.

Also important: Spin the pillow at a maximum of 600-800 rpm (revolutions per minute). Higher spin cycle speed can break the feathers.

Tip: Also check the feather pillow to see if there are any small holes or snags. If the pillow tears open completely, the washing machine may be damaged. It is important that you do not pull out the feathers when you see a quill piercing somewhere. You’ll make the hole even bigger. It is better to carefully push the quill inwards again.

If you want to be on the safe side, put the feather pillow into a laundry bag, so that the feathers are caught in the pillow in case of a tear and cannot spread in the machine.

Drying feather pillows in a tumble dryer

Feather pillows must also be dried in the dryer. If you air-dry them, the feathers stick together. If you dry them at too high temperatures, the feathers can break off. Therefore, they should be dried on a delicate cycle, preferably using dryer balls. They speed up the drying process because the feathers are whirled up again and again. In this way, clumps are loosened.

At low temperatures, some residual moisture sometimes remains in the pillow. Let it dry in the sun and shake it again and again until it is 100 percent dry.

washing a decorative pillow with microfibre filling

Washing polyester, elastane or acetate pillows

Pillows made of synthetic fiber blends can usually only be washed at up to 30 degrees, as synthetic fibers are often sensitive to heat. Sometimes, however, the label also says that such pillows should not be washed in the washing machine at all. In this case, your only option is to go to a professional dry cleaner.

Synthetic fiber cushions, which may be tumble-dried, should be dried on a delicate cycle and with dryer balls.

Washing microfibre pillows

Microfibre pillows are relatively easy to clean. You can use normal heavy-duty detergent and they can be washed in a washing machine at high degrees. However, this is not necessary, as the pillow will be clean again even at a lower temperature. You should only avoid fabric softener, which can make the fine fibers stick together.

Washing a memory foam pillow

So-called neck support pillows usually consist of viscoelastic foam. Such foams would normally not survive a washing cycle in the washing machine. Have a look at the label here. For most neck support pillows it usually says that they must not be washed in the washing machine. There are exceptions, but these are then also written on the label that they are machine washable.

Most of these pillows have an extra-thick, firm removable cover that can be washed in the washing machine at 60 degrees. This cover absorbs most of the skin flakes, sweat, etc. so that nothing gets into the pillow. The compact and firm foam structure also prevents absorption. Therefore it is normally sufficient to wash the cover.

If you would still want to clean your neck support pillow without washing it, you can use a little trick: Just put the pillow in the freezer for a few hours. Germs and bacteria not only die in hot water but also at minus temperatures.

How to clean decorative pillow without washing it - put it in the freezer

Washing pillows in a washing machine but without a tumble dryer

If you want to wash your pillow but do not have a dryer, there are a few things you need to consider. Do not choose the handwashing cycle of your washing machine. The pillow often lies in water and can, therefore, get soaked up. Also, choose a high spin cycle of up to 1000 rpm. In this way, a large part of the water is already pressed out of the fibers.

Caution: The spin cycle of down or feather pillows should be no more than 800 rpm.

The pillow should also be taken out of the washing machine as soon as it has finished washing. Then shake the pillow and place it in the sun or on a hot heater. Shake the pillow repeatedly and turn it occasionally while it fries.