How to Wash Down Pillows

Washing your down or feather pillows is easy. On top of that, it is good for them and brings them back to life.

By Sheryl Grassie

Are your down pillows getting flat, stained, or stale smelling? Washing them will take care of that, and it is a simple thing to do. In contrast to synthetic pillows, which can get lumpy or misshapen with washing, down pillows benefit from a good cleaning, and removing dust mites and bacteria adds new vitality to your pillow.

In this guide, you’ll get a step-by-step guide on the best way to wash your down and feather pillows for a clean, good night’s sleep.

How to Wash Down Pillows

Step 1: Read the Care Instructions

The pillow’s label will tell you things like whether or not it needs to be dry cleaned. Most down pillows can be washed at home even if the label recommends dry cleaning

One advantage to professional cleaning, however, is that many dry cleaners can add feathers upon request. So, instead of replacing that expensive down pillow, you can add loft, and have it cleaned for a fraction of the cost. If the item is machine washable then follow any label directions to ensure the best outcome.

Step 2: Prepare Two Pillows for Washing

We refer to pillows in the plural, because it is hard to wash just one and keep the washing machine balanced. Plan to wash two at a time. 

If it has been a while since you last washed them, your pillows may have yellowing, stains, small holes, or splitting seams that can be taken care of before washing. Spot clean stains with natural ingredients like vinegar, or baking soda and water that are friendly to the feathers.  If the entire pillow appears yellowed, you can pre-soak before washing to reduce the discoloration or even consider having the feathers transferred to a new permanent case.

Pillow with a yellow stain

Step 3: Assess the Size of Your Washer

Most residential washers can wash two pillows with no problem. If you have a small European washer, you may need to use a laundromat for a larger size machine. Another option is to hand wash your pillows by soaking them in the tub or a large laundry sink.

It is also best to use a front-loading washer as opposed to a top loading machine. A front-load washer tends not to have an agitator so it is more gentle on your pillows.

Step 4: Choose a Mild Laundry Detergent

To keep the feathers intact, use a natural, mild detergent. Harsh soap, although it will kill bacteria, can break down the feathers and shorten the life of the pillow. We recommend not using fabric softener as the weight of the liquid can make your pillow less fluffy. You can also add some bleach if you noticed yellowing on your pillows from sweat or body oils.

Step 5: Put on Gentle Cycle

Wash your pillows on a delicate cycle to help preserve both feathers and fabric. Feathers don’t do well with more intense agitation and will last longer if kept intact.

Step 6: Choose the Right Temperature

To preserve your pillows, cool to warm water is what is recommended. If you have allergies and need to do a more intense irradiation of dust mites and bacteria you can use hot water, 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 degrees Celsius, to kill any bugs, but it will hasten the life of the pillow. You could also opt for a cooler wash and then set the dryer to a higher heat.

Step 7: Do an Extra Rinse and Spin on High

It is very important to get out all of the suds. You don’t want to leave residue on the pillows or inside with the feathers that could weigh it down or erode the contents. A clean pillow is the goal, and since they are rather thick, a double rinse cycle is recommended. 

Then, set the spin cycle on high to get as much excess water out as possible. Although it is easy to wash a down pillow, drying can take some effort and leaving any moisture in the pillow can cause problems like the growth of bacteria, mildew, and mold. If handwashing, rinse thoroughly multiple times, and squeeze out—don’t ring out—as much water as possible.

Washing Pillows

How to Dry Down Pillows

Step 1: Choose a Medium Temperature

As with wash temperature, dryer temperature will cause wear on your pillows and low heat is recommended. Because of the thickness, drying on a low heat setting can be very slow. 

Some people opt to dry partially in the dryer and line dry for several hours after. Then you can throw your pillows back in the dryer for a short hot drying cycle to get at any deeply buried moisture.

Dryer

Step 2: Use Dryer Balls

Down feathers are prone to clumping in the washing machine and make drying difficult. To help break them up, add clean tennis balls or dryer balls to push apart feathers while drying. Dryer balls can be purchased online and come in felted wool varieties as well as plastic. Some look very much like a spiky dog toy and they are very effective.

Step 3: Pull Out and Fluff

In addition to the dryer balls, it helps to take your pillows out and fluff by hand. This helps to redistribute the feathers and ensures a more in depth drying. Pillows can take hours to get completely dry, so try to hand fluff once or twice during the drying process

In warm dry weather, you can choose to line dry your pillows, but they will need fluffing on a more frequent basis. It is crucial that pillows be completely dry with no residual moisture, before you sleep on them again.

How Often Should You Be Washing Your Pillows? 

The most common answer is twice a year or every six months. That could mean two to four times a year depending on the type of climate you live in, the point being to get on a regular schedule that is easy to remember.

Other considerations include sweating, drooling, and allergies. If you have night sweats or drool, it might be a good idea to advance your wash schedule. As well, if you have allergies or breathing problems, killing dust mites and bacteria on a more frequent basis can help. 

Using a pillowcase or a pillow protector can cut down on the number of times you need to wash your pillows. A pillow cover can even help lengthen the life of your pillow.

Also, if your pillow isn’t giving you the support it once did, a good wash and fluff can bring it back to its original shape, and as a bonus, it can actually improve your sleep. Whether you wash your pillow regularly, or occasionally, it is a good thing to do for many reasons and the steps are pretty clear-cut.


Summary

Washing feather pillows is good for them. Duck and goose down comes from birds that are made to get wet. It takes but a few simple steps and your pillows can smell fresh and feel like new again. Killing must mites and bacteria will reduce allergy symptoms and a fluffed-up pillow will better support your head for a sounder sleep.


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