How to Fluff a Pillow

We all know after a while, even the loftiest pillows go flat. What’s more, you have to clean a pillow. And if you don’t dry and fluff it right, it might never pop up again. This is true for pretty much any pillow made of fibers or shredded foam.

Flat pillows are not something you should ignore. Your pillow is an important part of maintaining proper alignment in your spine and waking up pain-free. Flat pillows can pull your cervical spine out of whack, causing neck pain and possibly pain further down your back.

It’s not just head pillows that can benefit from a good fluffing. You may want to occasionally fluff up a throw pillow or give your body pillow some care by fluffing it up.

Even the best pillows benefit from a regular fluffing. The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of time on pillow fluffing. It’s easy and quick. Sometimes you can even let a machine do it for you! Let’s talk about how.

Manually Fluffing a Pillow

The easiest way to fluff a pillow is by hand. This way is also the most common method for fluffing dry pillows between washings. Whether your pillow has gone flat all over or is flattening out in the middle as the filling gets pushed to the sides, you’ll use the same methods to manually fluff.

One method to hand-fluff a pillow is to grab it by either end and then squeeze and stretch it for 30 seconds to a minute. You can then repeat the same steps by squeezing and stretching the pillow on the top and bottom. Give your pillow a final shake after to knock off the dust and distribute stuffing.

Another good way to manually fluff a pillow is to focus on the lumps. You can massage individual lumps until you knead them out. Or you can hit bumps with your fists to loosen them before dispersing them back through the pillow.

Some people even lightly punch their pillow to fluff it up. This may work better with a larger pillow, like a body pillow you sleep with, than a smaller one.

Fluffing a Pillow in the Dryer

After washing your pillow, we always recommend giving it a good fluff. Possibly the best way to fluff pillows after cleaning is in the dryer.

Even if you haven’t washed them, the dryer is still a great way to help your pillow regain its loft. Just remember to carefully read your pillow’s care instructions before tumble drying. Some pillows cannot be exposed to heat, while others can’t take being in the dryer at all.

For dryer-safe pillows, you can toss them two at a time in the dryer on low heat. Don’t add anything else to the dryer, as extra pillows or clothes will prevent your pillows from fluffing up. To increase the dryer’s fluffing power, toss a couple of tennis balls in with your pillows. Put each ball inside its own sock to prevent yellow dye from transferring to the cover of your pillow.

Fluffing a Pillow Outside

Many pillows are too delicate for the dryer. If this is the case for your pillow, you can get rid of moisture and prevent post-wash odors by using the sun. The heat and light from the sun will evaporate all the water from your pillow and help the fibers inside it separate themselves. This will restore your pillow’s loft.

Leave your pillow to air out in a sunny spot until it’s completely dry throughout the insides. It’s best to wait for a bright, hot day with low humidity to air out your pillow.

Do All Pillows Need Fluffing?

Not every time of pillow needs to be fluffed up. As a general rule of thumb, pillows with a shredded fill need fluffing while pillows with a solid core do not.

For example, some of the best memory foam pillows still require fluffing because they contain shredded memory foam. This can benefit you because when a solid memory foam pillow goes flat there’s little you can do about it. Shredded memory foam pillows can last longer because of this.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I need a new pillow?

No pillow lasts forever. And there are lots of signs it might be time to spring for a new one. One big way to tell is if your pillow smells bad. Sweat, dirt, and allergens will accumulate inside your pillow over time. There comes a point when washing it no longer gets them all out. If your pillow stinks even after you clean it, it might be time for a new one.
Another way to tell is if you can’t fluff your pillow anymore. If it stays flat as a pancake or remains lumpy no matter how much fluffing you do, you probably need a new pillow.
Finally, you might need a new pillow if you wake up with neck and shoulder pain every day. Pain in your cervical spine or shoulders is a sign your pillow isn’t supporting you the way it should anymore. Of all the reasons to get a new pillow, this one is the most pressing.

Does material make a difference in fluffing?

Yes. For instance, the way you fluff down pillows will be slightly different from the way you’d fluff alternative down or fiberfill. Down pillows cannot be heat-dried. They have to be put into the dryer on a no-heat cycle or air-dried only.
And while you can fluff shredded foam pillows, solid foam pillows like latex or memory foam pillows can’t be machine-washed or fluffed at all. They don’t have redistributable stuffing.

Should I always fluff my pillow after washing?

Yes. Whether you hand-wash or machine-wash your pillow, if you don’t fluff it during and after the drying process, it can become irreversibly lumpy and flat. Water can clump fibers together. If you don’t fluff your pillow while drying it, clumped fibers can retain moisture on the inside. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re separating lumps and pulling apart individual fibers.

Can a pillow protector prevent me from needing to fluff my pillow?

Sort of. A pillow protector will defend your pillow against dirt, sweat, and oil. This will help you go longer between washings. And if you’re not tossing your pillow in the washing machine all the time, you won’t need to do as many post-wash fluffings.
However, even if you don’t have to wash your pillow as much, a pillow protector won’t help you maintain a fluffy pillow between cleanings. You’ll still have to fluff your pillow if it goes flat while you’re lying on it. You will probably also have to fluff it to redistribute stuffing that gets pushed around while you’re sleeping.

How often do I need to clean/fluff my pillow?

That depends on a few factors. If you have a pillow protector over your pillows, you won’t need to clean your pillow all that often because you can just pull off the protector and wash it. If you have a pillowcase with no protector, you’ll need to clean your pillows between two and four times a year (unless they get stained, in which case you should clean them right away).
As for fluffing, that’s more of an as-needed thing. You should fluff your pillows whenever you wash them. Aside from that, just fluff them when they feel flat to you or the stuffing isn’t distributed the way you want it.

Bottom Line

Different types of pillow require regular fluffing, such as down and memory foam pillows with a shredded fill. By regularly fluffing your pillow, you can preserve its condition and extend its likely lifespan.

Fluffing your pillow is easy and can be done in a few simple steps. Just keep in mind what type of pillow you have, so you can be aware of how gently you should treat it. It’s vital to be aware of your pillow’s care instructions, so you don’t fluff it in a way that damages it.

Just don’t try to save a pillow that’s too far gone with some fluffing. Old pillows can accumulate all sorts of things, from allergens to sweat and oils, so it’s good to replace your pillow every few years.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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