How Often Should You Wash Your Pillows?

Your pillow is gross. You should wash it. Learn more about how (and how often) here.

Why wash your pillows?

Everybody (hopefully) knows that they should wash their pillowcases about every two to three weeks. Less well-known, though, is that your pillows themselves require the same treatment—just not as frequently.

The reasons behind washing your pillowcases and your pillows themselves are pretty much the same. The places where we sleep are essentially traps for millions of tiny particles that float off of and around our bodies, turning our bedding into breeding grounds for some unwelcome house guests.

“While we sleep, our bodies shed millions of skin cells, which can accumulate and feed dust mites. Although not harmful per-se, the dust mites feed on the dead skin cells, and in turn produce droppings that can cause allergic reactions,” said Dr. Nikola Djordjevic of HealthCareers.

If dust mite droppings and potential allergies weren’t good enough reasons for you to wash your pillows, here’s another: dirty pillows can massively mess up your skin-care routine. As it turns out, pillows are a massive source of bacteria that can cause acne, even when you’ve got a clean pillowcase between your face and the pillow itself. Pillows are probably some of the everyday things you’re not washing nearly enough.

“Yes, the case you use provides a barrier between the pillow and your skin, but the bacteria from the pillow can still seep through and find it’s way onto your skin, causing conditions like acne to emerge,” said Sam Williamson of DermCollective.com. “In particular, subclinical acne is associated with failing to wash your pillows regularly, a type of acne that sits deep within the skin and usually shows as aggressive red bumps.”

It’s especially important to clean your pillows if you’re a pet owner who regularly shares their bed with a furry companion.

“Cats and dogs often sleep in the same bed with their owners. It may be cute and cuddly, but you should know that it also takes the need to clean your bed to a whole other level,” said Matt Clayton of pethairpatrol.com. Learn some more reasons you shouldn’t let your cat sleep in your bed.

How frequently should pillows be washed?

The consensus among experts seems to be that the average person should throw their pillow in the washing machine two to three times per year (so about once every four to six months). That can change a little depending on a few factors like your regional climate (pillows should be washed as often as four times annually in hotter areas) and whether or not you shower before you go to bed or when you wake up in the morning:

“If you shower at night and thoroughly dry off before you go to bed, including your hair, your pillow will stay clean longer,” said Jeanine Joy from bestmattress.reviews.

How do you wash pillows?

The best method for cleaning pillows can vary depending on what material from which the pillow is made. Check the tag on a pillow before you wash it for any specialized cleaning instructions. Otherwise, follow these instructions from Michael Silva-Nash, executive vice president of Molly Maid of Greater Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas:

  • Use a mild, liquid detergent
  • Wash two pillows at once to keep the washing machine balanced
  • For most pillows, wash in warm water on the gentle cycle
  • When they are done getting washed, throw pillows into the dryer along with a couple of tennis balls. The tennis balls will help keep the pillows plump.

Foam pillows should not be machine-washed. Silva-Nash suggested an alternative method—vacuum them with a hose attachment and then spot clean any particularly dirty areas with a damp cloth. He also recommended that if a pillow can be folded in half and not bounce back to its original shape, it’s probably time to start thinking about replacing that pillow. Find out more about the right way to wash your pillows.

Originally Published in The Family Handyman

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