Whether your bed pillows are made with synthetic filling, foam, or natural materials (such as down), chances are you will eventually need to clean them. While it is important to differentiate between these materials when cleaning your pillows at home, learning to do so will save you the time and cost of having them professionally cared for by a dry cleaner.
Pillows containing loose synthetic fillings are advantageous because they are more durable, more hypoallergenic, and less expensive than pillows containing natural materials. More importantly, they are a lot easier to clean than natural pillows. Your best bet when cleaning a synthetic pillow is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for doing so on the pillow’s label. For this reason, it might be a good idea to remove and save your pillows’ labels for future reference.
Generally, it is safe to place pillows with synthetic fillings in a commercial washer and dryer. Be sure to use cold water and a non-abrasive detergent. Dry the pillows on low heat and add tennis balls (or some clean sneakers) to the dryer to help the pillows retain their shape. Pillows are bulky and require adequate space to move around in a commercial washer or dryer; therefore, it is best that they be cleaned separately from your other bed linens and washables.
Foam or memory foam pillows are also made from synthetic materials and can be treated similarly to pillows containing loose synthetic fillings. When cleaning, follow the manufacturer’s directions for care. While hand-washing foam pillows in lukewarm soapy water are preferred, they can be cleaned using a commercial washer. Keep foam pillows in their covers in order to prevent fraying. Foam pillows washed in a commercial washer should be laid flat in a cool, dry place in order to dry; never dry foam pillows in a commercial dryer.
Pillows containing natural filling, or down, require the most care when cleaning. It is recommended that down pillows be dry cleaned by a professional, and only when necessary. Keeping down pillows in pillowcases and fluffing them regularly to reduce matting will reduce the need for cleaning.
If necessary, a down pillow can be hand-washed in warm soapy water and hung out to dry. While drying, be sure to shake the pillow occasionally to reduce matting. Keep drying down pillows out of the sun, which can cause an unpleasant smell. Also, do not allow down pillows to remain wet after washing: wet down pillows can attract mold and mildew.
Important: Most down pillows will benefit more from a simple airing-out than a thorough cleaning. You can give new life to a down pillow by setting it outside on a dry sunny day. Then, re-fluff by tossing the pillow into the dryer for about 20 minutes (on low heat) with a fabric softener sheet and some tennis balls. It is recommended that down pillows be replaced every 4-5 years.
Knowing these guidelines will allow you to properly care for and extend the life of your synthetic, foam, and natural pillows.