Can you wash pillows in a washing machine?

Those annoying collection of plook on your cheeks could also be the handwork of your pillows, and not of the pillowcases alone. And thankfully, the washer is there to help.

In other words,

Most type of pillows are often machine washable, with the exception of pillows slapped with a triple exclamation warning, typically latex, memory foam, gel and bucketwheat pillows.

The fear for these pillows is that the rough agitation of the washer can be too harsh for them handle.

In most cases, the fillings break away, and the comfort of the pillows then disappears magically.

That’s why they are advised not to be cleaned in the washer but rather hand washed or vacuum cleaned depending on the manufacturer.

Below we’ll learn in details the type of pillows that are machine washable and those that aren’t.

What kind of pillows are machine washable?

When it comes to the washer, not all pillows fare well under it. Here is a list of popular type of pillows that can easily bear the agitations of a washer.

Down pillows: Down pillows get their names from the materials they’re filled up with, down, which is the layer of fine feathers found under the exterior feathers of birds. Down pillows aren’t only soft and comfortable, but they’re easily machine washable as they fit in any size washer, and will come out as fluffy as when they were new. At this point it’s good to note that while down pillow of the feather materials are safe for the machine, the synthetic variety usually isn’t as it mostly comes out lumpy and ruined, and your best bet would be to opt for vacuum cleaning.

Feather pillows: Feather pillows, like down pillows, also get their names from the kind of materials they’re filled up with, feathers, which are sourced from geese. And just like down pillows, they too often respond well to machine washing. In fact, feather pillows and down pillows can even be put in the dryer to dry after washing. And they can also be refreshed between washing for better comfort during sleep.

Cotton pillows: Cotton pillows are filled up with cotton fibers and they are machine washable too. The only downside to them is that they hold in a lot of moisture which will take time to dry and will also cause a little distortion in the final shape and feel of the pillow.

Polyester Pillows: They are made from the synthetic material polyester, and they are easily machine washable with a better rate of drying than cotton and down pillows.

Microbead pillows: Microbead pillows are filled with small polyester beads, and they’re typically machine washable. Microbead pillows are often advised to be dried using a combination of machine drying and air drying method to minimize the amount of time the pillow is exposed to heat in the dryer. A final drying session will ensure that the pillows aren’t getting overheated in the dryer. Microbead pillows are often not bleach friendly, and they are typically recommended to be washed alongside white towels to minimize the effect of agitation on them.

While all the pillows outlined here often can be machine washed, it’s still good practice to check the label on the pillow first before proceeding with anything. Yes cotton can be cotton by name, but not all brands are created equally. So make sure to follow the instructions provided with regards to washing your type of pillow.

With this aside, lets now see what kinds of pillows are typically not machine washable.

What kind of pillows aren’t machine washable?

Latex: Latex pillow loose structure when machine washed and as such, they are not advised to be washed in there. Even their covers are typically not advised to be washed in the washer but rather using hand. Their preferred method of cleaning is vacuum cleaning, spot cleaning, with a combination of air drying at room temperature, away from sunlight. However, different manufacturers can have different instructions.

Memory foam and shredded memory foam pillow: Like latex foam, memory foam is delicate and should never go into the washer. It is best cleaned by vacuuming, spot treating and gentle cleaning by hand. For drying, spot treated areas are best dried with a hair dryer, or air drying method. For hand washing, air drying them is the best.

Gel pillows: Gel pillows are best cleaned by hand and air dried at room temperature in a well-ventilated area.

Bucketwheat pillow: Bucket wheat pillow hulls gets ruined in the washer, and thus it is better to empty the hulls inside a container and wash the pillow case by hand or the washer. Then, transfer contents back into the case after it dries.

How to wash pillows in a washing machine

For any pillow that is machine washable, the procedure is pretty easy, unless your manufacturer is already there to complicate things.

Here is the typical procedure to clean pillows in the washer.

Inspect pillow for tears:

It is crucial to inspect pillows for tears which will extend further in the washer and spill out contents everywhere. If after removing the pillow cases, you find any, sew with needle and thread before proceeding with the next step.

Two at a time:

Use little quantity of gentle, low sudsing detergent to wash pillows to avoid soap retention, and make sure to stuff in two pillows at a time, preferably vertical. This will help reduce the effect of agitation on the pillows which can cause shrinkage, and structure degradation. Alternatively, you can wash the pillows with other fabrics that do not leak, or better still, white towels. That should do the trick. When it comes to fabric softeners, not all manufacturers like them in their pillows, and thus you might want to skip them, unless your tags supports using them.

Water temp

When it comes to the water temperature, either cold or warm is fine, but anything more than warm is terrible. So hot water is a big no, because it can adversely affect the structure of the pillow by damaging its fillings.

Spin Fastest:

For washing, a gentle or delicate cycle is the safest bet, especially for down, cotton and leather pillows.


Rinse, and then rinse again to get rid of soap residue and excess moisture.

How to dry pillows

You can dry pillow in the dryer or using the spin cycle and then finishing things off with air drying in a well-ventilated room away from sunlight. For the dryer, first, sandwich pillows between two towels and press down to remove excess moisture from it which will be absorbed by the towels. This is the alternative to hand squeezing when you’re washing clothes by hand.

Removing moisture is crucial to avoid keeping the pillows for long inside the dryer which could adversely affect its comfort qualities.

Put the pillows in the dryer and opt for the delicate cycle like the low heat setting. If your dryer offers the no heat cycles, which is basically another version of a spinner, then perfect go for it, it’s the best. Run the cycle and take out pillows to fluff them up after the cycle. Obviously one wouldn’t be enough to dry out a standard pillow.

If you’re using dryer balls, then there is no need for fluffing as they would do the work for you.

For the other method, spin it in the washer when you don’t have a dryer and your machine has a spinner. If it doesn’t, try as much as possible to remove moisture using the towel method outlined above. Then, air dry by placing pillows on a towel in a well-ventilated room and away from sunlight.

Bear in mind that pillows will take at least one day to properly dry and even more when you neither spinned nor dryer dried.

How to clean pillows that are sensitive to the washer?

Clean these pillows according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, they require vacuuming the surface first, then hand washing. And if there are stains on the pillows, then spot treatment using appropriate techniques and solutions which depends on the type of stain in question.

How often to wash pillows?

Wash pillows after ever four months. Between washing sessions however, it’s always a good idea to freshen pillows in the dryer. To do that, put them inside a dryer with a damp wash cloth, and two to four dryer balls. The former gives balance and prevents excessive agitation on the pillow, and the latter fluffs. Make sure to tumble dry for 15 to 20 minutes.

When to change pillows

While cleaning pillows is doable and a good idea, it’s still requisite to know when those pillows are worn out and need the break of their lifetime. This typically is when the pillow refuses to spring back up after it has been folded in two. This is a really dead pillow, and it’s on you to get a new pillow now.

Final Verdict

While some pillows are not safe to put in the washer, a lot like the down, feather and cotton pillows are usually machine washer safe. They clean well and come out beautifully.

Pillows that aren’t machine washable typically experience structure degradation in the washer as their fillings are subject to pressure which cause them to damage.

To wash pillows in the washer, stitch them up first, then pop inside them in twos inside the washer. Use a gentle cycle and wash with a low sudsing detergent. To dry, spin them twice and dry on towels laid flat in a well-ventilated room and away from direct sunlight. Alternatively, put them in the dryer and spin until they come out completely dried.