How To Wash Pillows In The Washing Machine!

I was changing our sheets the other day, and I noticed that our pillows were a bit dirty. So I wondered “Can you wash pillows in the washing machine?” Turns out, you definitely can! So if you have some pillows that need a good cleaning, today’s post will show you how to wash pillows in the washer!

Did you know you can wash & whiten pillows in your washing machine?! This tutorial shows you how, and they come out bright white, like new!

A quick search returned this tutorial, so I tried it out. Her recipe calls for Borax, which I’m not a huge fan of (remember my borax free homemade laundry detergent?), so I substituted washing soda instead; it works great!

I started out by washing the two pillows and pillow covers that were on our bed, and they came out so bright white and clean that I went ahead and washed all the rest of the pillows in the house that day! I can’t believe how easy it is to wash pillows in the washing machine, and the extra soaps really helped! The combination of laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, washing soda, and bleach took out all the yellow sweat spots and our pillows look brand new again!

How To Wash Pillows In The Washing Machine

Here’s what you need to get your pillows clean and white again! (affiliate links below to the products I use and recommend)

Here’s a dirty pillow before I washed it.

How To Wash Pillows In Washer

Ugh! See the yellow spots in the bottom corner? And it’s a little hard to tell, but the whole pillow is just kinda dingy and yellow! And here are the removable pillow covers that came off of our bedroom pillows.

How To Wash Pillows In Washer-5

Start by checking the tags on your pillows to make sure they can be washed in the washing machine. Most pillows can, regardless of whether they’re down or synthetic, but a few can’t.

If your pillows have removable pillow covers on them, take them off. You can throw the pillow covers in the washing machine with your pillows, but make sure they’re separate so the pillows get nice and clean as well!

Set your washing machine to the longest cycle (preferably one with two rinses) and fill it with hot water, as hot as you can get it! As the machine is filling, add the detergents, bleach, and washing soda.

By the way, if you have a front loading washing machine, you probably can’t fill the washer and then add the pillows later. So instead, just fill a large tub or a laundry sink with hot water and do the soaking piece in there. Then transfer the pillows over to the washing machine and continue following the instructions in this post.

How To Wash Pillows In Washer-4

I manually turned the agitator a few times to make sure all of the detergent was dissolved.

Once your detergent is dissolved, add your pillows! I washed two at a time to make sure the washer was balanced during the spin cycle at the end. Stick them in as far as they’ll go, but don’t worry if they aren’t completely covered.

How To Wash Pillows In Washer-8

Turn the machine on and let it agitate for a few minutes, then flip the pillows upside down so that the top edge is in the water. Once the pillows are flipped, leave the lid open so the machine doesn’t start running, and let the pillows soak for an hour or two. Then start the machine again and let it run through its full cycle.

Once the pillows are washed, it’s time to dry them! And luckily, you can do that in your dryer! Just toss the pillows in, and add a few dryer balls to help them dry thoroughly. I put a few clean tennis balls inside some of JM’s clean socks and threw those in, and they worked great!

How To Wash Pillows In Washer-9

If your pillows are synthetic, set your dryer to the low heat setting; if your pillows are feather or down, just use the tumble dry (no heat) option.

Once your dryer is done, pull out your pillows and pillow covers and admire how clean they are!!! Look, all the yellow spots in the bottom corner are gone, and the whole pillow is ten shades whiter than it was before!

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And the covers are totally white again too!

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And now you know how to wash pillows in the washing machine!

Here’s the before and after, just look at that difference!

Did you know you can wash & whiten pillows in your washing machine?! This tutorial shows you how, and they come out bright white, like new!

Did you know you can whiten pillow covers in your washing machine?! This tutorial shows you how, and they come out bright white, like new!

Bright white and clean again!

If you liked this project, check out these other cleaning tips!


I link up at these awesome parties!

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Hi, I'm Jessi! Welcome to Practically Functional, a blog about real projects that real people can actually do! You don't have to be a pro in order to craft or do DIY projects; Practically Functional is full of projects for everyday life that anyone can do, regardless of skill or experience! Whether you're looking for fun crafts, DIY projects both big and small, gardening advice, cleaning tips, or quick and easy recipes, you'll find them here! Follow the step by step instructions in every tutorial, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions! Make sure you subscribe to free weekly emails so you don't miss a single tutorial!

Latest posts by Jessi Wohlwend (see all)


    • says

      Good question Julie! Our machine is not HE, but perhaps if you cut the amounts down (maybe in half?) it might work. I don’t know for sure though! And make sure you have it set on two rinse cycles, or manually run it through a second rinse cycle, just in case you do get a lot of bubbles!

      • ellen says

        I washed my down pillows a few years ago in my front loading washer. Just took covers off, washed those with other whites. Washed pillows 2 @ a time with reg. laundry soap and bleach. Then dried them in the drier as usual. They were beautiful. One MAJOR problem. Feathers got into drier insides so I had a repair bill!! Think I’ll try again but this time I am going to leave the covers on. Maybe the pillows won’t be quite so bright but hopefully I can contain the feathers! LOL

  1. Lisa says

    Hey Jessi :)
    I’ve never dared to put anything in the washing machine that doesn’t “move around” inside of the machine. I guess that’s why you run it through a second rince cycle and have the detergent dissolved beforehand?
    I guess dishwasher detergent and bleach are ok for things that are already white (or should be) but is there not any risk of some of it somehow remaining somewhere in there and be bad for your next load(s)? Maybe I am stressing over nothing, but hey, I’ll rather ask and learn :)

    • says

      No worries Lisa, I totally understand freaking out about it! I was pretty skeptical before I tried it, but it worked great and I’ve washed 8 pillows that way so far! You definitely want to make sure the detergent is well dissolved before loading up the machine, because exactly like you said, the pillows don’t move around to help agitate the water. And the second rinse cycle is because the pillows are pretty dense and you want to make sure all that soap is out of there before you put your head on them to sleep again.

      And I’ve run a dark load immediately after washing the pillows and it all was fine. I think the second rinse really helps clear out all that stuff. And only the bleach is harmful to darks, the dishwasher detergent isn’t. In fact, I’m going to put up a second post about it at some point, but I use this exact recipe (minus the bleach) for washing anything that is grungy or has old grease or sweat stains. My husbands undershirts have horrible armpit stains and a weird greasy build up in the middle of his chest, and I followed these exact steps except that I removed the bleach (some of his shirts are gray or black), and after letting the washer agitate for a few minutes, I turned it off and let the shirts soak for a few hours before starting the washer back up and letting it run through the full cycle.

      If you’re worried about it, just skip the bleach; the pillows should still get pretty clean! Or leave the bleach in and once the pillows are done, just toss a few buckets of water down the insides of the machine to help rinse it clean. But I really think it will be fine without those steps; it has been for me!

      • Vicki R Dunbar says

        I’ve been washing pillows by essentially this method for years. I use OxiClean at double the recommended strenth (depending on how dirty the pillow covering is).That and detergent s eem to do the job most of the time. If they’re really soiled I have added cascade in addition to detergent and oxy. Soaking in hot, hot water is essential for stained cases. When drying, LAY the pillows into the dryer with the dryer balls. I take mine out when almost dry, reshape as necessary and lay outside (when it’s warm) to finish drying.

        Cascade is also wonderful for whitening synthetic clothing, as is Dawn…but Dawn must be applied full strength. I use the kitchen sink (don’t have a laundry sink) Mix about 1/4-1/3 Cascade per 2-3 inches of HOT HOT water in the sink. Soak 3-4+ hrs. (ovenight is good). Wash as usual. Dawn is better for spots. Dampen the clothing object. Squirt it on the spot full strength and let it set for several hours. I’ve been amazed at what this will take out!

  2. kate Schuil says

    Hi Jessi,
    This looks like a fun thing to try. what is washing soda – is it bicarb of soda? I have just looked at my pillows (which seriously need washing) and the label says hand wash, and do not bleach. What recipe would you suggest for my pillows? Can I soak in the detergent plus washing soda and then scrub by hand? The yellow stains from head grease are not a sight to behold! If i find some pillows which don’t say hand wash – would this work in a front loader or does it have to be a top loader?
    Thanks for your help on this one.

    • says

      Washing soda is sodium carbonate I believe; there’s a link to the stuff I bought in the ingredients list above if you want to see what it looks like.

      And yeah, since your pillows say hand wash, I wouldn’t actually run them through the washer, but I think you can use this same recipe. And you can definitely do the soaking part, and that’s a HUGE piece of it! I would let them soak for about an hour either in your washer, or in a large tub or laundry sink if you have it (make sure it’s clean first!). You’ll see a lot of the head grease comes out in the water just from soaking! Then just hand wash them and you should be fine.

      And if you find some pillows that you can machine wash, you can follow these steps exactly if you have a top loading machine. Or if you have a front loading machine, just do the soaking part in a large tub or in your laundry sink and then put the pillows in the front loader along with all of the ingredients and run them through the longest cycle with a double rinse, just like normal.

      Good luck!

      • Catherine says

        If you mix up the ingredients while your front load washer is loading, then stop your machine & pour it into the washer, let it wash to mix with the water, stop & put your pillow(s) in – wash for 15 minutes & stop or use your soak cycle. It will take up more of your time but it is doable!
        maybe there will be some clothing to iron while you do this. :-)
        This does work & your pillows will thank you!

        • Kelli says

          I don’t understand how you would do this in a front loader. When you pour the mixture into the washer are you pouring it into the detergent thing on top? Or just opening the front door and pouring it in? Also, after the mix is all mixed into the water, the washer is presumably full of water, so at that point how would you open it up to put the pillows in? Thanks for any advice!

  3. Diane says

    Hi Jessi! I’m lovin’ your blog so much! Thanks for the step by step instructions and the great photos! My questions are: I don’t have any tennis balls so what could I use instead? Also, could I use the liquid dishwasher detergent rather than the powder? Thanks so much. I’ve been leaving my pillows outside in the sun, which deodorizes them nicely, but they still look like you-know-what!! Thanks, Jessi

    • says

      Hey Diane! The point of the tennis balls is to bounce around in the dryer with your pillows and help keep the feathers from clumping together as it drys. But if you don’t have any, there are other things you can use instead! I’ve heard of people using a clean gym shoe (make sure it’s clean), a couple of clean t-shirts tied up into a ball, or a small stuffed animal that doesn’t have any plastic parts. Just make sure it’s something with a little weight to it that can bounce around in the dryer with your pillow! Or, you can wash them this way to get them clean, and then just air dry them like you have been doing; that will work great too!

      As far as detergent goes, it’s fine to use liquid or powder for both the laundry detergent and the dishwashing detergent! Since you’re letting the water fill up and mixing in all the soaps before you add the pillows, it’s totally fine either way!

  4. Diane says

    Hey back, Jessi! Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly! I will find one of your recommendations and jump in with both feet! I will be back with my results, but I’m feeling very confident so far!! You’re the best, Jesst and thanks!

  5. Phil Sale says

    I was getting excited until I saw the part about using very hot water, here in Colombia very few people have a hot water supply, washing everything including themselves in cold water, I have to admit to having installed hot water showers, but that is it! I get fed up of throwing pillows away when they look grungy, but still have life in them.

    • says

      The hot water just helps draw out the grease from the pillows, and helps the detergent dissolve more quickly. If you have a way of heating water (like on a stove), you can do that, or you can use cold water too! It just might not work quite as well on the grease, but the hot water is definitely not “required”, just recommended!

  6. Kim says

    Love this idea, but can you do this in front loading machines that use HE cleaners? I had to buy a new washer and it is from loading
    Thanks so much

    • says

      Yep you can Kim! Just cut the recipe in half for a HE washer, and if it’s front loading, you can soak the pillows in a large tub or laundry sink for a while, then move them over to the machine for a wash cycle just like normal!

  7. Allison says

    Hi! I want to try this method but the only times I’ve ever cleaned pillows they’ve come out sort of lumpy, even with tennis balls in the dryer. Did you find them to be lumpy or did the fibers stay mostly in shape? Thanks!

    • says

      Bummer! With the tennis balls in the dryer, my pillows came out totally intact. They weren’t lumpy or anything! I wonder what’s happening with your pillows, because the tennis balls should definitely be helping to keep them from getting lumpy…

  8. Debbie says

    I’ve been washing my pillows for years. I like some of your tips. I have been using regular HE detergent in my HE machine on regular cycle. I like to hang mine outside on a sunny day, and get that sunshine smell! Reminds me of my mom hanging sheets outside to dry, back in the day.

    • Jacqui Bath says

      I’ve never understood why Americans dry everything in the dryer. Here in New Zealand we dry almost everything most of the year outside in the sunshine, and only use the dryer in winter, on rainy days or to fluff up towels. Even my SIL in Florida and my MIL in Texas use the dryer almost all the time, even though they have so much sunshine. It’s so much more energy efficient, better for dampness inside the house, better for the environment, healthier with the sunshine killing all kinds of bacteria, and everything smells SO much better!

      • LILY IN NYC says

        To use your phrasing, “I’ve never understood” how people can be so narrow-minded. Some of us live in urban environments – I’d love to see you try to hang your clothes outside where I live.

  9. Joan Smith says

    Great instructions, but I use only homemade (with borax) laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent. Would I use maybe 2 tblsp of each and add extra washing soda? Are there other things I should add?


    • says

      You can skip the bleach and just use laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, and washing soda; that will work fine! For the laundry detergent, use twice the amount you would for a normal load, and use the amounts listed in this post for the dishwashing detergent and washing soda. The bleach just adds a little extra whitenening power, but it’s definitely not required!

    • says

      I don’t have any experience washing latex pillows, but a quick Google search turned up results that seem to say you shouldn’t machine wash or dry your latex pillows! I think latex pillows are a little more delicate, so I’d be careful washing them. Except for the bleach, these ingredients are mostly gentle, but I’d do some more research specifically for latex pillows first, just to be careful. So sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  10. Julie says

    Thanks Jessi for your reply. Looks like I’ll be doing a bit of research before I wash them. Thanks for taking the time to try and help me out.

  11. Lucy says

    To help keep my pillow protectors clean I try to wash mine at least 2x a month, so I won’t have to wash my pillows. If the protectors seem to be getting a bit yellow I rub baby shampoo full strength into the offending areas. Then I wash like I normally do. Shampoo has been formulated to break down body oils and that’s why it works. Once in awhile I will use bleach for unbleachables with a regular cycle after the baby shampoo soak. Pillows should really be replaced every two years anyway. Got ring around the collar? Baby shampoo will help with that too.

  12. bajarosie says

    A really great tip for helping to fluff up those flat pillows, couch cushions etc is to put them outside in the sunshine for a couple of hours. This helps to remove any excess moisture. I read the tip in one of those old quick hints books and couldn’t believe how well it worked. I took a feather pillows and synthetic pillow and put them outside to test and i swear the pillow grew in height 3 inches. Plus the UV rays help kill smelly bacteria!!!

  13. Sandra Padgett says

    Can pillows be washed in washers that have no agitator, the high efficiency ones? The manual with our washer doesn’t say whether I can or not. Anyone tried it yet?

  14. Liz says

    I tried to wash my pillow, but it just floats on top of the water! Any suggestions? It can’t getting clean while floating.
    I’m extremely frustrated.

    • says

      Did you soak the pillow first? Also, any chance you have two pillows you can wash at the same time? Soaking the pillows helps fill them with water so they don’t float, and if you clean two at once it helps balance out the load so as the machine tumbles, at least one pillow is in the water at all times.

  15. Sharon Savage says

    I get what Allison was saying because my pillows have always come out of the washer lumpy, so I began to sort of pin the insides in place with several over-sized safety pins to prevent clumps. So it’s likely that I wasn’t soaking them first? I think I just assumed they’d get soaked in the process and it was the spin cycle shifting the contents even with two pillows. I’ll try it again your way!

  16. Sherry says

    FYI This also is a great way to whiten my husband’s t-shirts & his white hankies (which I know not too many people use any more)! Also, if you don’t have any tennis balls around for use in drying pillows, use a clean tennis shoe. A bit more noisy, but it works!

  17. Helen says

    You can also do this by prespraying pillows with baking soda diluted in hydrogen peroxide. I use peroxide/baking soda to spray on my mattress to get rid of my husband’s greasy stains (gross, I know!). Then throw the pillows in the wash w/ regular laundry soap.

    • says

      That’s what the tennis balls in the dryer are for! They bounce around and help break up the clumps as the pillows dry. Or if you’re planning to air dry your pillows, just smack them a bit with your hands or a tennis racket or something to help break up the clumps while they dry.

  18. cathy says

    To clean pillows, including down, I just use a little scoop of oxiclean with laundry detergent in the washer. If you wash down, be sure to dry it immediately and thoroughly so it won’t clump.

  19. Alexandra says

    Great tips for washing pillows as I have always ended up throwing them out. I have pillow protectors and wash them more regularly now. Can a feather pillow be washed in the same way?

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