Clean Your Pillows!


Pillow talk. It’s usually sexy and almost never about how clean or dirty your pillows actually are. I’ve investigated the situation and demonstrate the proper way to clean your pillows, an often overlooked cleaning task. 

There’s also a fairly interesting quick test which will let you know when it is time to replace your pillows.  If they pass the test – then you can use the cleaning method explained to clean your pillows, quickly and easily!

Warning…this may get gross!

Did you know?

Your pillow doubles in weight over a span of time from absorbing dust, mold, bacteria, allergens, and dead skin when we sleep on them. Oh joy…

To test if you need a new pillow:

Fold your pillow in half and if it won’t bounce back, get rid of it.

If it springs to life when folded over, it’s still good.

Go do it now, I’ll wait…

Best pillow practices:

Wash your pillows 3x a year and replace them once every 2 years.

I usually wait until they go on sale (because what department store isn’t having their year’s biggest bargain-basement-blowout sale on the exact weekend you need new pillows?)

Fillings, nothing more than fillings…

You can wash polyester and feather-filled pillows the same way.

For memory foam or silk pillows, wash them separately and follow product care instructions.  You will never be able to get the water out of a memory foam pillow (they are ‘cellular’ and won’t release soap or water) and silk pillows are a whole other scenario.  I’ve never met anyone with a silk pillow nor have had the opportunity to clean one so I cannot speak from experience and have not come across any solid information on how to do it.  I’d recommend taking the pillow to a dry cleaner.


To clean your pillows:

  • Use a gentle detergent that is ideally scent-free.
  • Press out as much air as possible before loading it into the washer.
  • For top load washers, do 2 at a time for balance (or else you will hear a loud knocking sound coming from your washer and may think there is a monster, Chuckee or Jason in your basement and who the heck needs that additional stress?).
  • Front load washers don’t have an agitator so you can do 1-2 per load. Set your machine to run a full cycle using warm water. Run a second spin cycle to help eliminate excess moisture. By removing excess moisture, you’ll help reduce mold growth and any unpleasant odors from developing.
  • To dry, take 2 tennis balls and split them into 2 socks. Tie the socks to secure the tennis balls in place. The tennis balls will help beat out excess moisture while putting them in socks will prevent the smell and color of the tennis ball from transferring to your pillows. Put the pillows in the dryer using a low heat setting. It may take a few cycles to fully dry the pillows. Once dry, take a deep smell of the pillow to test if there’s still moisture in the pillow.


If your pillow smells, add half a cup of baking soda into the wash.
If you pillow is musty, moldy or has mildew, throw in some vinegar into the wash cycle.

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


  1. To the pillow cleaning solution: even if the pillows don’t smell or aren’t musty/moldy, why not ALWAYS add baking soda & vinegar…for the cleanest, freshest pillows!?
    Thanks for your great ideas & cleaning solutions!

  2. While I do love your ideas could you tell me where your headboard is from. I’ve been looking for a unique one for ages and that looks perfect. Thanks for sharing all the great tips.

  3. Hi
    I have a huge problem with my 7 cats. They have decided to use my house as their toilet. They have been banished from coming inside, which upsets me because I luv to cuddle with them, but, for the sake of our health and higiene …. Is there anything I can use to get rid of that urine smell and also prevent them from coming inside to use it as a toilet.
    Thank you so much.

    • I read somewhere before if you take a needle and thread and put a stitch through the middle of the pillow before you wash it, it will not get lumpy. Every time I have done this it has worked.

  4. I don’t know about memory foam being so close to my face. I tend to fear off-gassing of this rather nasty stuff (read up on what memory foam is made of). Cured memory foam is not so bad but it takes a year to do so. So I buy the pillows and just wait a year to use them. Keep them in a well ventilated space and simply wait. Nothing is too good for my kids and protecting them from toxins is my duty.

    • You are so right about memory foam. I changed both my mattress and pillows to natural latex last year and they are fabulous. Natural, clean, they dont sweat the life out of you and no need for the nasty chemicals used to fire retardant either x

  5. Mellissa, I love your cleaning ideas! I have a small beauty shop on my lanai here in FL, & my customers pass thru my hm to get to my shop & I love to here them say my house looks & smells good, so your tips are marvelous for me! Thanks so , so, so, much!

  6. Ah HA!! It’s time for a trip to the pillow store. Your advice is ALWAYS so factual and fun. You are simply the best Melissa. Do you have any tricks on how to keep your white bed sheets and pillow cases white (eco-friendly of course)?

  7. As i said love melissa on your site…. want to share but i dont see it on my tablet….please show me and put the link up… thank you

    • Try going over the mark with a dry erase marker then immediately wipe it off with a tissue or paper towel. Sometimes this works to remove permanent marker.

  8. The mattress and pillow video were great. However it did not tell how to clean foam pillows, the kind with a million holes in them. They are very comfortable but even with a pillow cover and pillow case they start to smell like my husband’s oily face and scalp. These pillows are very expensive so would like to prolong the life of them.

Tell us what YOU think!!