Here’s Why You Should Wash Your Pillows Often

Here’s Why You Should Wash Your Pillows Often

What it is about bedding that causes us to ignore cleaning it? Most of us are pretty good about sheets and blankets, but what about everything else? While our beds may not get much attention, we spend a good amount of time in them. Not paying attention to the cleanliness of our sleeping space is, in a word, gross.

Here’s why you should wash your pillows often:

According to various experts, we should be washing our actual pillow every three months, and the pillow cover every three weeks. Why? Pillows are a favorite habitat for some pretty disgusting things, including countless numbers of bacteria and fungi. Dirt, dead skin cells, and skin oil seeps into the crevice of our pillow. Oh, and a relative of spiders, the dust mite, loves to pay our pillow a visit en masse.

The accumulation of dust mites is also a health concern, causing physical reactions that imitate allergies. Statistically, two-thirds of all people with allergies are sensitive to the presence of dust mites – meaning more severe allergic reactions. If this rational discourse isn’t enough, just Google “dust mite” and click on “images”…yeah…an ugly little sucker. Imagine a colony of these just nesting in your pillow.

Many allergens are airborne – transmitted through the air and inhaled. This is not the case with dust mites; symptoms that accompany the presence of dust mites are usually strongest in the morning. In other words, if “allergic” symptoms are more severe in the morning time, the pillow may be the issue. Doctors also recommend that people who have year round nasal allergies get tested for a dust mite allergy.

Further, we should have a cover for every one of our pillows – and they should be cleaned at least every three weeks. Further, zippered pillow protectors can assist with lessening the buildup of mites, bacteria and fungus.

Pillows other than those with feathers can be cleaned in the washing machine. Those containing feathers should be dry cleaned in order to prevent damage. Again, ensure that the pillow itself is cleaned at least once every three months. In between cleanings, cycling a pillow for 30 minutes on low in the dryer can help clear out pillow muddle that has accumulated.

Here are some additional tips:

– Replace your pillows every six months if heavily allergic.

– For those with no allergies, pillow replacement once every year or two is sufficient.

– It is more important to clean your pillows than to replace them.

– Mark on a calendar when you clean pillows and covers. Schedule the next cleaning date for both.

– If allergic, get tested for dust mite allergies.

– Between cleanings, cycle pillows in the dryer on low setting for 30 minutes. This helps to clear out some of the clutter.

Here’s a quick way to test if your pillows need to be replaced: fold the pillow in half and place a book or shoe on top. If you let it go and the object is flung off, the pillow is still fine for use. If not, it’s probably time to find another pillow.

If your pillows are still usable, here are some quick washing (and drying) instructions:


– Check label and confirm pillow can be machine-washing (most can)

– Remove the pillow case and any pillow protector

– Fill washing machine 1/3 full with hot water (hint: substitute for boiling water to get a deeper clean)

– Add these ingredients: 1 cup laundry detergent, 1 cup powdered dish washer detergent, 1 cup bleach, ½ cup borax. Or, just add regular detergent for a less-intensive clean

– After detergent dissolves, add the pillow(s) and fill the washer with hot water (hint: 2 pillows are ideal for one cycle)

– Halfway through the cycle, flip pillow(s) over. This evens out effects caused by the hot water stream.

– Repeat rinse cycle.


– Use air cycle for down and feather pillows. Synthetic pillows can be dried using low heat setting.

– Place pillow(s) in the dryer (hint: adding tennis balls wrapped in several clean socks can help fluff the pillow as it dries). On a nice, warm day set them outside in the sun to dry.

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