The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Pillows

Key Points

  • Basic pillow care — like daily fluffing and using a pillow protector — keeps your pillow fresh and supportive.

  • Washing pillows every three to six months removes accumulated dust mites and oils, but always check care tags for specific cleaning guidelines.

  • Replace old pillows that show signs of wear, such as lumpiness or persistent stains, to maintain optimal sleep quality and hygiene.

Craving that perfect moment of comfort every time your head hits the pillow? It's not just about buying the right pillow; it's also about knowing how to take care of it. Think about it: You spend about one-third of your life with your head resting on a pillow. Yet, how often do you consider what's going on inside that fluff?

From hidden dust mites to uneven fill distribution, your pillow is home to more than just sweet dreams about the latest Hozier album, which released in August 2023. Learn how to fluff, protect, and spot clean your pillow, and even when to finally say goodbye to your old, worn-out pillow. Your best night's sleep depends on more than just a comfy bed — it starts with the pillow beneath your head.

The Basics of Pillow Care

When it comes to a good night's sleep, it's important to consider the quality of the pillow. However, even the best pillows require regular care to maintain their loft, comfort, and hygiene.

How To Fluff Your Pillow

Maintaining the loft and shape of your pillow is crucial for optimal support and comfort. Over time, the fill inside a pillow can become compressed due to nightly use, leading to a flattened appearance and reduced support. To counter this, it's advisable to fluff your pillow daily.

You can fluff a pillow by grabbing it on opposite ends and pushing in and out, much like an accordion. Alternatively, you can also give it a good shake. For pillows filled with materials like memory foam or latex, gently kneading can help maintain shape.

Fluffing enhances air circulation within the pillow, making it feel fresh while also redistributing the fill evenly. This ensures that your neck and spine are properly aligned, reducing the risk of muscle strain and ensuring a restful sleep.

Why Pillow Protectors Are Important

Pillows are susceptible to various forms of wear and tear, not to mention accumulation of dust mites, allergens, and even fungi. A pillow protector is a removable, washable layer that goes between your pillow and its pillowcase. It acts as a barrier against moisture, dirt, and allergens, prolonging the life of your pillow.

When choosing a pillow protector, look for one that contains breathable fabric like cotton to ensure comfort. It should also be tightly woven to offer maximum protection against dust mites and other allergens. Some pillow protectors even come with waterproofing capabilities, which is a great feature for those prone to night sweats or accidental spills.

Storing Unused Pillows

Proper storage of unused pillows is just as important as regular cleaning and maintenance. Improper storage can lead to an accumulation of dust, mold, and even pests, thereby shortening the lifespan of your pillows.

When storing pillows that you won’t be using for a while, make sure they are clean and completely dry to prevent mold and mildew. Place them in a breathable cotton bag and store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can degrade the fabric and filling over time.

For long-term storage, avoid using plastic bags as they trap moisture, leading to potential mold issues. A climate-controlled space is ideal for maintaining the integrity of the pillow's materials. Taking the time to store your pillows correctly ensures they remain fresh, clean, and supportive for when you next need them.

How To Spot Clean Your Pillow

Spot cleaning serves as a focused, effective way to address stains without having to wash the entire pillow. Knowing how to treat common types of stains, from yellowing to wine spills, keeps your pillows looking fresh and clean. Learn the appropriate methods for tackling these stains in the guide that follows.

Yellow Stains

Yellow stains on pillows often result from a combination of sweat, oils, and saliva. Understanding how to remove these marks ensures your pillows stay as inviting as they are comfortable.

Dampen the stained area with water. Apply a mixture of equal parts baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and water. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Air dry or follow the manufacturer's drying guidelines.

Sweat Stains

Sweat stains are stubborn and unsightly, affecting both the look and hygiene of your pillows. Here's how to tackle them effectively.

Pre-treat the area with a stain remover or a little laundry detergent. Use a soft-bristle brush to work the solution into the stain. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Dry according to pillow care guidelines.

Blood Stains

Blood stains can happen from minor injuries or nosebleeds. Quick action improves the chances of complete removal.

Blot away as much blood as possible with a clean cloth. Apply hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain. Let it bubble for a few minutes. Rinse with cold water. Dry following the manufacturer's recommendations.

Wine Stains

Wine stains, though less common, are equally challenging. Act quickly for the best results.

Blot the stain with a clean cloth to remove excess wine. Apply salt to the stain to absorb liquid. After 10 minutes, rinse the salt away with cold water. Apply a mixture of lemon juice and salt to the stain. Rinse and dry according to care guidelines.

How To Wash Your Pillows

Pillows serve as a nightly sanctuary for your head and neck. Proper care and cleaning remain crucial for extending their lifespan and maintaining a hygienic sleep environment. Take the time to develop a proper pillow washing routine.

Why You Should Read the Care Tags

Care tags attached to your pillows offer vital information on how to properly maintain them. These small labels contain instructions for washing, drying, and other aspects of care. Disregarding these guidelines can lead to a reduced pillow lifespan, compromised material integrity, or even voided warranties.

Washing Different Types of Pillows

Navigating the intricacies of pillow care can seem daunting, especially given the variety of pillow available. From memory foam to latex to down, each type comes with its own set of care requirements.

While the list here covers some common types, many other specialized pillows also exist. Understanding the nuances of each material helps ensure both cleanliness and longevity.

Memory Foam

Spot clean stains on memory foam pillows using a mild detergent mixed with water. Avoid saturating the pillow. Air dry by placing the pillow flat on a clean surface. Direct sunlight can help kill bacteria but may also degrade the foam. Opt for indirect light. Memory foam pillows should not be machine washed or dried, as this breaks down the foam.


Fill a bathtub or basin with tepid water and a small amount of mild detergent. Submerge and gently squeeze the latex pillow. Rinse thoroughly under cool running water. Let the pillow air dry on a flat, clean surface away from direct sunlight to prevent the latex from breaking down.


Down pillows are machine washable on a gentle cycle using a mild, down-safe detergent. Use cold water for washing. Ensure thorough rinsing to remove all soap residues. Tumble dry on low heat. Consider adding a few clean tennis balls in the dryer to help fluff the pillow.

Down Alternative

These pillows are typically machine washable. Use a gentle cycle and warm water. Tumble dry on a low setting. Periodically check the pillow to break up any clumps that form during drying. For optimal results, add a softener during the rinse cycle.


Feather pillows are machine washable, but washing them hurts their lifespan. Use a mild detergent and a gentle cycle. Rinse the pillow multiple times to ensure the removal of all detergent. Tumble dry on low. Add a few clean tennis balls or dryer balls to help fluff the feathers.

Each material requires a specific set of care steps. Following these guidelines helps ensure a long-lasting, comfortable, and clean pillow.

How Often You Should Wash Your Pillows

The frequency of washing your pillows depends on multiple factors like material and personal hygiene habits. As a general rule, wash them every three to six months. This helps to remove dust mites, skin cells, and oils that naturally accumulate.

For those with allergies or skin sensitivities, consider washing them more often, even monthly. Regular washing promotes a cleaner sleep environment, contributing to better overall health.

And please don't forget to wash your pillowcases, too. Sleep researcher McKenzie Hyde conducted a study to determine how much bacteria naturally gets on sheets: "After one week, pillowcases and sheets contain between three million and five million CFUs (colony-forming units) per square inch. By the fourth week, both areas of your sleeping space have almost 12 million CFUs." This is more than 39 times the bacteria found in a pet bowl.

When To Replace Your Pillows

Over time, even the most well-cared-for pillows reach the end of their lifespan. The following section offers guidelines on when to replace your pillows and why it's crucial for your well-being.

Generally, it's advisable to replace your pillow every two years or sooner.

Replacing pillows is a necessity often overlooked. Over time, pillows accumulate dust mites, dead skin cells, and oils. Additionally, the support they provide weakens, which can lead to neck or back pain. When it's time to purchase a new pillow, consider a specialty pillow.

How You Can Tell if Your Pillow Is Too Old

Identifying an aging pillow isn't always straightforward. But, there are signs to watch for that indicate it's time for a replacement.

If your pillow appears lumpy or flat, it's likely past its prime. A pillow's fill should distribute weight evenly, so unevenness can result in improper support. A quick test involves folding the pillow in half; if it doesn't regain its original shape, it's too old.

Other signs include persistent odors and any visible signs of wear, like stains that don't disappear even after washing. These indicators are not just about aesthetics; they also point to a compromised structure and function, necessitating replacement for better sleep hygiene.

Can You Rejuvenate an Old Pillow?

Breathing new life into an old pillow might seem like a cost-effective option, but there are limitations.

To a certain extent, you can rejuvenate an old pillow. Washing and thoroughly drying can eliminate odors and kill bacteria and dust mites. Adding a supportive pillow cover can also temporarily improve comfort and support.

However, these measures won't restore lost volume or the pillow's original level of support. Rejuvenation methods can serve as short-term solutions but are not substitutes for a new pillow when the time comes for replacement.

How To Choose Your Next Pillow

Selecting the right pillow can make a significant difference in your sleep quality and spinal health. Understanding various pillow features such as fill material, sleep position compatibility, size, firmness, support, and budget can help you make an informed choice.

Fill Material

The fill material directly impacts comfort, support, and longevity. Common options include memory foam, down, synthetic fills, and latex. Memory foam molds to the shape of your head, while down is light and fluffy. Latex offers good support and is hypoallergenic.

Sleep Position

Your preferred sleep position plays a critical role in pillow selection. Side sleepers often benefit from a firm, high-loft pillow. Back sleepers might prefer a medium-firm pillow, while stomach sleepers usually need a soft, low-loft option.


Firmness levels range from soft to very firm. Your choice should align with your sleep position and personal comfort preferences. For instance, a side sleeper usually requires a firmer pillow for adequate neck and head support.


Support is distinct from firmness. A supportive pillow keeps your head aligned with your spine. Ergonomically designed pillows can offer specialized support for different sleep issues, such as snoring or sleep apnea.

Size and Dimensions

Pillows come in various sizes, including standard, queen, and king. Consider your bed size and how you sleep (e.g., do you move around a lot?) when selecting the dimensions of your next pillow.


Pillows are available at a wide range of prices. While it might be tempting to opt for a budget-friendly choice, remember that a good-quality pillow is an investment in your sleep and, by extension, your health. Choose the best pillow you can afford, keeping in mind all the above factors.

Man tucks an orthopedic pillow with a fresh bright white pillowcase

Why You Need To Take Care of Your Pillow

Pillows may seem like simple accessories, but they play a significant role in your overall health and well-being. They offer support for your neck and spine, setting the foundation for a good night's sleep. Like any other household item, pillows need care and attention to prolong their lifespan and maintain optimal function.

From the importance of daily fluffing to the use of protective covers, the right care techniques can make all the difference. Choosing the right methods for cleaning and stain removal preserves not just the look but also the integrity of your pillow. Storage also matters. Protect your pillows from moisture, dust, and pests by storing them correctly. Finally, knowing when to replace your pillow can help prevent discomfort and health issues.

Once you've cleaned your pillow, subscribe to Snooze. And, as always, sleep well.

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