How to Wash Pillows Without Clumping: A Comprehensive Guide

Your pillows, once a source of comfort, have now become stained and potentially filled with allergens., but the idea of washing them brings fears of damage and clumping. Sleeping on unwashed pillows can harm your health, exposing you to bacteria and disrupting your sleep, while incorrectly washing pillows can further ruin their shape.

But there’s hope! This guide will show you how to effectively wash your pillows, keeping them fresh and fluffy. Soon, you’ll be equipped to ensure clean, comfortable sleep every night.

how to wash pillows without clumping

Why You Should Wash Your Pillows Regularly

Few things are as comforting as resting your head on a soft, clean pillow after a long day. But have you ever stopped to think about what’s lurking within the fibres of that pillow? From saliva stains to sweat, your pillows can accumulate a lot of unwanted substances over just a few months.

Dirt, Oils, and Saliva Stains

Every night, as you rest, your body sheds oils, skin cells, and even droplets of saliva. Over time, these can seep into your pillow, causing stains and creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

Allergens and Dust Mites

Pillows are a favourite home for dust mites, tiny creatures that feed on dead skin cells. For many, these mites can trigger allergic reactions, leading to sneezing, itching, and other discomforts. Additionally, other allergens like pollen can also find their way onto your pillows, especially if you like to sleep with the window open.

Enhancing Sleep Quality

A clean pillow doesn’t just benefit your health; it also enhances the quality of your sleep. Knowing that you’re resting on a hygienic surface can provide peace of mind, allowing for deeper, more restful sleep.

Preparation Before Washing

Getting your pillows ready for the wash is a very important step if you want to make sure they come out the washing machine without clumping. Understanding how clean is your pillow is the first step before diving into the washing process. Proper preparation is crucial to ensure not only a thorough cleaning but also to protect the integrity of your pillows. Here’s what you need to do:

Checking the Care Label

Every pillow comes with a care label that provides specific washing instructions. This label is your first point of reference. It will tell you whether the pillow should be hand washed or if it requires special care, like a top loading machine. Ignoring these instructions can lead to damaged or misshapen pillows.

Identifying the Material of the Pillow

Most pillows are made from different materials and they require different care. For instance:

  • Foam Pillows: These cannot be put in the washing machine as they’ll lose their shape. Instead, they can be spot-cleaned or hand-vacuumed.
  • Down and Feather Pillows: These can usually be machine washed but require gentle cycles and specific drying techniques to maintain their fluffiness.
  • Synthetic Pillows: These are typically the most durable and can be machine washed without much fuss. However, always refer to the care label.

Allergen-Proof Covers

If you’re prone to allergies, consider using allergen-proof covers on your pillows. These covers act as a barrier, preventing dust mites and other allergens from penetrating the pillow. Before washing, remove these covers and wash them separately.

Inspect for Damages

Before washing, give your pillows a quick once-over. Check for any tears, holes, or loose threads. If you find any, mend them first. Washing a damaged pillow can exacerbate the damage, leading to filling leakage and further deterioration.

Steps to Wash Pillows in the Washing Machine

  1. Setting up the machine: Use a gentle cycle for a thorough yet gentle wash, especially vital for delicate pillows like down or feather ones.
  2. Load two pillows: For balance and even cleaning, wash two standard-sized pillows together. Larger pillows might require separate washes.
  3. Detergent and wash cycle: Opt for a mild detergent. After the wash cycle, run an extra rinse cycle to ensure no detergent residues remain.
  4. Tennis balls and wool dryer balls: When drying, add tennis balls or wool dryer balls to the dryer. They help in fluffing the pillows and preventing clumps.
  5. Drying the pillows: Use a low heat setting in the dryer. Ensure pillows are fully dry to avoid mould. Alternatively, air dry and fluff occasionally.
  6. Check for dampness: Post drying, ensure no damp spots remain. If needed, run another drying cycle for completely dry pillows.

Drying Pillows Without Clumping

After you wash pillows, the next crucial step is ensuring they dry properly to retain their shape and comfort. Here’s how to achieve that:

Foam Pillows

These are delicate and should never be machine-dried. Instead, lay them flat in a well-ventilated area, turning occasionally to ensure even drying.

Down Pillow

While these can be machine-dried, it’s essential to use a gentle cycle to maintain their fluffiness. Adding a couple of tennis balls to the dryer can help prevent clumping.

Two Pillows at Once

When using a dryer, always dry two pillows together. This ensures even distribution of heat and reduces the chances of clumping.

Gentle Cycle for All

Regardless of the pillow type, always use a gentle cycle when machine drying. This reduces the risk of damage and helps maintain the pillow’s shape.

Air Drying

If you’re not using a machine to dry pillows, ensure they’re spread out in a breezy spot. Regularly fluff them to prevent any moisture build-up inside.

By following these steps, your pillows will not only be clean but also free from any clumps, ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep.

Hand Washing Pillows

For those without a washing machine or with pillows that can’t be machine washed, hand washing is a viable option. Here’s a brief guide:

  • Warm Water: Fill a basin with warm water and add a few drops of liquid detergent.
  • Gentle Wash: Immerse the pillow, gently agitating to remove dirt and stains.
  • Rinse Cycle: Rinse thoroughly in cold water until all detergent is washed out.
  • Air Dry: Allow the pillow to air dry, ensuring it’s fully dry to prevent mould.

When to Replace Pillows

Pillows don’t last forever. Over time, they can lose their shape, become lumpy, or harbour allergens, so here’s when to consider a replacement:

  • Fold Test: If your pillow doesn’t spring back after being folded in half, it’s time for a new one.
  • Visible Wear and Tear: Check for signs like lumps, tears, or persistent odours.
  • Allergies: If you wake up with allergies, it might be due to dust mites in old pillows. Consider replacing or using a pillow protector.


Maintaining clean and fresh pillows is essential for a good night’s sleep and overall health. Whether you choose to hand wash or machine wash pillows, always follow the care instructions and use the right laundry detergent. With regular washing and care, your pillows will remain comfortable and hygienic, ensuring restful nights ahead.