Okay, so, confession time: I don’t think I’ve ever washed my pillows. Like, ever. I sometimes give ’em a good spray of Lysol when my sheets are in the wash, but other than that, they don’t get any attention. I’ve never considered the fact that they even needed washing—am I disgusting? The answer is yes. According to Lindsey Boyd and Gwen Whiting, cofounders of The Laundress, you should apparently be washing your pillows every few months.
“Because pillows come in such close contact with your face and tend to breed allergens, they should be washed two to three times per year, and even more frequently if you live in a warm, humid climate—warmth is a breeding ground for dust mites,” says Boyd. Whiting shares that dust from the air, dead skin cells, dust mites, oil from our hair and skin, and other allergens live in our pillows. Even worse: dust mites feed off of dead skin cells.
Just washing your pillow cases doesn’t cut it, they said, because pillow cases don’t fully encase your pillows. “A good way to protect them better is with pillow covers, which go over your pillows and beneath your pillow cases and have zippered enclosures,” says Whiting. “These should be washed on a monthly basis.”
For pillows made of natural fibers like down, fiberfill, feathers, or synthetic blends, Boyd says you should pretreat any oil-based stains, like makeup. She recommends using The Laundress Wash & Stain Bar ($6), along with cool water to wet and work a lather into the area. Maeve Richmond, founder of home organizational company Maeve’s Method, previously told Well+Good that dish soap is great for removing oil-based stains. “Dish soap is designed to gently break down oils to help get things clean.”
You should wash your natural-fiber pillows on the delicate cycle in cold water, with a medium-to-low speed. Depending on your pillow-to-washer size ratio, you may need to wash one pillow a time so you don’t overload your machine. Dry them on low heat, low tumble cycle and repeat the drying cycle until all moisture is gone—if you remove them while still damp, you run the risk of mildew, warns Whiting. Pro tip: since pillows tend to clump when washed, Boyd says to add a couple of wool dryer balls or even tennis balls to help redistribute and fluff up feathers and filling.
Foam pillows can’t go in the washing machine, because the movement causes the foam to crumble, Boyd says. Instead, spot treat stains and then hand wash with cold water and detergent. They recommend their Wool & Cashmere Shampoo ($19). Once you’re done washing, absorb excess water by rolling the pillow up in a clean towel like a sleeping bag, then let it air dry.
A toxic-exposure expert spills her secrets on how to keep your home toxin-free:
While you’re at it, here’s how to clean your gloves, and how to know if you can ignore the “dry clean only” tag.
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