How to Wash a Body Pillow

Over time, your body pillow collects sweat, dirt, and other debris, potentially attracting dust mites and triggering allergic reactions. Washing your body pillow every 3 to 6 months keeps your sleeping environment hygienic and comfortable.

Washing your body pillow isn’t always as simple as just tossing it into the washer and dryer. Some pillows are perfectly okay in a washing machine, though others can be permanently ruined from the aggressive wash. We’ve made a step-by-step guide on how to properly wash different types of body pillows so they can last as long as possible.

Machine Washing

Machine washing is the most convenient way to care for your pillow; however, not all pillows can be placed in a washing machine or dryer. Down, down-alternative, and cotton are all durable and malleable materials, making them machine-washable.

1. Wash Your Pillows Alone

Since body pillows are large, they’ll likely fill up the entirety of your washing machine. Overstuffing your washer means your pillows won’t have enough space to be cleaned properly and may potentially lose their shape. However, for small body pillows, such as knee pillows, you can place two into your washer at a time.

Use a low heat setting when washing your pillows. Some people prefer using hot water to kill any bacteria in their pillows, though this can ruin the shape and fluff of certain pillows. If you want to wash your pillow on high heat, always check the care instructions to be sure it’s safe.

2. Use a Mild Detergent

Wash all pillows using a mild detergent containing only surfactants (no builders) to dissolve dirt and grease. Avoid using bleach or chlorine, and only use a couple of tablespoons of detergent.

3. Air Dry or Tumble Dry on a Low Setting

Once your pillow has been washed, you can either air dry it or tumble dry it on a low heat and low tumble setting. Dense down and feather pillows can take around 2 to 3 hours to dry, though cotton and polyester pillows dry quickly. You can add tennis balls or wool dryer balls to your dryer to quicken the drying process and fluff your pillows.

When air drying, keep your pillow flat and lay it under the sun, or next to a fan if it’s a cold or wet day. With both air dry and tumble drying, be sure your pillow is completely dry before placing it back into its cover and onto your bed. Damp pillows encourage mold and mildew development and can ruin your pillow.

4. Fluff Your Body Pillow

After your body pillow has been fully dried, hand-fluff your pillow to prevent lumps and give it some fullness. Massaging, kneading, and swatting your pillow against your mattress are all simple ways to fluff it. Fluffing your pillows regularly extends their lifespan, regardless if you’ve just washed them or not.

Hand Washing

If your body pillow is too large or made with a delicate material, hand-washing is your best option. Technically, any pillow can be hand-washed as the method is gentle and effective; however, it’s only really necessary for memory foam and latex foam pillows.

1. Fill a Bathtub or Large Bucket With Cold, Soapy Water

Since body pillows are large, a sink or small bucket won’t be big enough to wash them. Instead, opt for a large bucket or bathtub. Fill with cold water (hot water damages foam) and a mild detergent. Mix the two so the water forms suds.

2. Work the Soapy Water into Your Pillow

Immerse your body pillow into the soapy water mixture and allow it to fully soak. Once it’s wet, gently squeeze and massage the soapy water into the pillow for several minutes or until it’s clean.

3. Thoroughly Rinse

Empty the tub of the soapy water before rinsing your body pillow completely. Press your pillow and ensure all the leftover detergent is completely gone. Then, gently squeeze out the excess water without wringing your pillow to prevent misshaping it.

4. Air Dry

Leave your damp pillow to air dry flat, either outside under the sun or with a fan inside. The heat from the sun effectively kills bacteria, though you shouldn’t leave your pillow under direct sunlight for more than an hour or two as this can cause discoloration. If your pillow is still damp after an hour or two of sun drying, bring it inside to finish drying.

Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning is helpful for small stains on your pillow, and it’s best to treat the stains as soon as possible to prevent them from setting. With spot cleaning, you don’t have to fully wash your pillow every time it gets a little dirty—over-washing pillows can wear them down. This cleaning method works for essentially any type or size of pillow since it’s not water-immersive and gentle.

1. Use a Mild Detergent and a Damp Cloth

Using a mild detergent, create a soapy water mix in a small bucket and immerse the cloth into it. Wring out the drenched cloth so it’s damp before proceeding.

2. Gently Scrub Off the Stains

With your damp cloth, gently scrub the stain off the pillow before rinsing the detergent off the pillow. If the stain is still present, you might have to repeat this step several more times to fully remove it.

3. Pat the Area Dry and Air Dry

Once the stain is gone and any detergent residue has been rinsed off, pat the area dry with a clean and dry cloth. After the excess water has evaporated, set your pillow to air dry flat under the sun or in front of a fan for several hours.

How do you wash a body pillowcase?

The guidelines for washing your pillowcase depend on the materials. Remove the cover from the pillow and check the wash instructions. Most pillowcase materials are machine-washable, though others might need hand-washing or dry cleaned. 

How long do body pillows last?

As with standard pillows, body pillows last between 1 to 2 years. You can extend your body pillow’s lifespan by using an enclosed body pillowcase and washing your pillow every 3 to 6 months. 

Why do body pillows turn yellow?

Pillows start yellowing due to sweat and oil buildup, and while your pillowcase and regular maintenance can protect your pillow, it’s still common to see discoloration over time.

A simple way to whiten and wash your pillow is to combine 1 cup of laundry detergent, 1 cup of powdered dishwasher detergent, 1 cup of cup bleach (if your pillow is bleach-safe), and half a cup of borax. Let the detergent dissolve before adding it to your washing machine or hand-washing your pillow.

You might also try using a baking soda and vinegar mixture for a natural cleaning solution, though it might not work as well.

How do you disinfect a pillow you can’t wash?

It’s common for decorative pillows to be made using leather, wool, suede, and other materials you cannot immerse in water. In this case, spot cleaning is a good option. You can also try a disinfectant spray, sprinkling borax over your pillow, and vacuuming your pillow. 

For disinfectant sprays or borax, first, spot-test the treatments on a small area of your pillow—preferably the backside—and ensure they don’t cause stains or any discoloration. If nothing happens, you’re clear to continue cleaning it. 

How do you clean faux fur pillows?

Body pillows—particularly decorative ones—can be made from faux fur and feel fuzzy. If washed improperly, they can mat and lose their soft, fluffy texture. Most faux fur pillows are made using acrylic, but read your pillow cover tag to check for specific wash instructions.

For acrylic faux fur pillows, remove the cover from the pillow. The cover should be hand or machine-washed at a low temperature so heat doesn’t ruin the furry feel. If your faux fur pillow is made with a material other than acrylic, dry-cleaning is the best option. 

The actual pillow will need to be hand-washed or machine-washed depending on the material it’s made from. 

Conclusion

While using and cleaning a pillowcase or cover for your body pillows temporarily protects it from stains and debris, always thoroughly clean your body pillow as well. Proper maintenance is not only important for sanitary and health purposes but also extends your body pillow’s lifespan. By following the correct washing guidelines for your specific body pillow, it will better support your body and help you sleep comfortably.

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

Sarah Anderson, Editor-in-Chief 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.

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