Something you use every night for 2-3 years is bound to collect dust, dirt and more unpleasant things like dead skin and maybe even bugs. We’re talking about pillows. While sheets and blankets are cleaned often, pillows are usually ignored, not because we don’t want to clean them but perhaps because we’re not sure how to. The fact is, pillows have high levels of contamination and simply changing pillow covers won’t keep them clean. They need to be actively cleaned by washing. Using dirty pillows can trigger allergies and make existing symptoms worse. To this end, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to wash pillows and keep them clean in between.
The most obvious way is to use a pillow cover as it acts as a buffer between a pillow and dirt. If possible, try to use a cover made of hypoallergenic fabric as it’s designed to prevent germs from entering. If you share your bed with a pet, make sure it doesn’t share your pillow. Animals shed fur and dander that can soil it.
If you take a late night shower, dry your hair thoroughly before sleeping. The dampness from wet hair can seep through into your pillow and create a breeding ground for fungi and mold. The latter can cause allergies and some of the symptoms can be severe such as triggering asthma attacks in those who have asthma.
Sunlight is believed to kill dust mites, and although it won’t clean your pillow of dirt, it will keep it free of bugs and smelling fresh. Sun it for a couple of hours each month or every two weeks if you have the time. Pillows tend to absorb moisture and flatten; sunning can also keep them fluffy.
Just like how mattresses need to be vacuumed, pillows do too. Set the suction to medium and place the attachment on your pillow. Vacuum it for a few minutes before doing the other side. If there are stains, use a little soapy water and a towel to remove them. Place the pillow under sunlight to dry it before using.
Most pillows are washable unless stated otherwise in the care instructions. The key is to be gentle when handling them. If yours can be washed in a machine, do make sure to follow the right steps. Use detergent of your choice – you may prefer using a liquid detergent to avoid residue – and set the machine to a gentle wash cycle. This will prevent the filling and delicate parts from getting ruined. Once washed, rinse it 2-3 times to get all the detergent out.
The next step is to put it through the dryer. Use a low setting and toss in a couple of tennis balls to fluff the filling and prevent it from clumping. If you don’t have a dryer, lay the pillow flat under sunlight and periodically flip it so that it dries evenly. It’s important to dry pillows completely before using them again as dampness can create mold and fungus.
Some pillows can’t be machine-washed and need gentler care, so handwashing is necessary. Fortunately, it’s a quick and simple process. All you need is a tub that’s large enough to fit your pillow in and your choice of detergent. Start by filling the tub with enough warm water to cover the pillow. Add the detergent and soak it for about 30 minutes. Flip the pillow in between so that it’s completely saturated. Rinse several times until the water runs clear and press the pillow to drain excess water. It’s tempting to wring it but don’t as it causes the filling to clump. Once you’re done, lay it flat under sunlight or hang it on a clothesline. You can run it through the dryer too if you have one and add a couple of tennis balls to fluff it.
Pillows accumulate dirt just like any piece of bedding, and it’s important to wash it as often as necessary. Do so every 3-6 months and wash pillow covers at least once a month. While you may still have to replace pillows every 3-4 years, sleeping on clean, fresh-smelling pillows means you won’t have to share them with dust, dirt, and bugs!
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Pillows are often not given the same priority as mattresses, but they’re no less important. They’re what keep the head and neck supported and increase overall comfort during sleep. Make a promise to give them the same care as you would to bedding and mattresses and they’ll see you through many nights of blissful sleep!