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!

(By the way, washing your pillows is a MUST after someone in your home has been sick! Here are 9 other ways to disinfect your home after flu season!)

How to wash and whiten pillows in a washing machine

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How To Wash Pillows In The Washing Machine

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!

  • 10 minutes (time spent doing stuff)
  • 3 hours (time spent waiting around)
  • 3 hours 10 minutes (total project time)

Supplies

  • washing machine
  • large tub or laundry sink for soaking (if you have a front-loading machine)
  • 1 C laundry detergent (liquid or powder, doesn’t matter, I like Tide)
  • 1/2 C washing soda
  • 1 C dishwasher detergent (I like Cascade Complete)
  • 1 C bleach

Here’s a dirty pillow before I washed it.

How to wash and whiten pillows in a washing machine

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 and whiten pillows in a washing machine

Instructions

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 and whiten pillows in a washing machine

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 and whiten pillows in a washing machine

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 and whiten pillows in a washing machine

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!

How to wash and whiten pillows in a washing machine

And the covers are totally white again too!

How to wash and whiten pillows in a washing machine

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

How to wash and whiten pillows in a washing machine

Shop this project

Tide powder laundry detergent
Bleach
Washing soda
Cascade dishwashing powder
Jessi signature

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Debbie says

    7 years ago

    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

      6 years ago

      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

        6 years ago

        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.

        • Nicola says

          5 years ago

          in Canada we have extremely cold temperatures, and as much as the clothes can dry out in the cold dry climate we don’t wanna be out in it..
          In the US a lot of the urban places don’t and colder places either

      • Christy says

        4 years ago

        I live in Phoenix, Arizona, which is an extremely dry, hot desert climate. I own an electric dryer but haven’t used it in 10 years–except to put groceries on when I come in the back door! I hang everything, either on a rack in the house, or on the patio. I stopped using my dryer when I noticed that my electric bill jumped $5-10 *per use* not counting making the air conditioner cycle on. My pillows are soaking now, but I’ll lay them on the patio table to dry and turn them over in an hour.

  2. Allison says

    7 years ago

    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!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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…

      • Leticia says

        2 years ago

        Do you know how to Clean a Temperpedic Pillow?

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          8 months ago

          Tempurpedic pillows are a little tricky because you can’t get Tempurpedic material wet or it will ruin it. Your best bet is to remove the cover and wash that like normal, then sprinkle baking soda over the pillow itself and let it sit for a day. Don’t get it wet! After a day you can vacuum up any extra baking powder and that will help neutralize any odors and soak up any moisture.

  3. Kim says

    7 years ago

    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

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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!

  4. Phil Sale says

    7 years ago

    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.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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!

  5. Diane says

    7 years ago

    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!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      You’re so welcome Diane! Good luck with it, and let me know how it goes!

  6. Diane says

    7 years ago

    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

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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!

  7. kate Schuil says

    7 years ago

    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.
    Kate

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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

        6 years ago

        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

          6 years ago

          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!

  8. Lisa says

    7 years ago

    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 🙂

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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

        6 years ago

        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!

        • ellen says

          6 years ago

          Do you know OXI-CLEAN can be made by mixing peroxide, 1T baking soda, and 2t. Dawn (blue) adding water to fill spray bottle? Works great!

          • Jane says

            5 years ago

            How much peroxide?

          • Carol says

            2 years ago

            How much peroxide?

      • Tess says

        3 years ago

        I dont have hot water for my washing machine. Is it still ok to clean the washing machine without using hot water?

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          3 years ago

          You can try, but the heat from the water is what helps activate the cleaning ingredients in the detergents. Could you heat up water and add it to the washer for the soaking portion, and then just use the regular water for the actual wash cycle? It certainly won’t harm the washer in any way to wash it without hot water, but it just might not work as well.

  9. Julie says

    7 years ago

    Can this be used in a HE washing machine?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      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

        6 years ago

        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

    • Sue says

      3 years ago

      What a mess! I has to send my husband out for new pillows! Flooding even though I had it on a low water level, The pillows float so I stuck pins in them, almost got a hernia trying to “flip them. They will never rinse well & I have a large top loader. We had to fill the bath tub to try to get the soap out. They might have dried in a eek or so…& I’m not done yet!

      • Jo Sieber says

        2 years ago

        I am not suprised with all that detergant a full cup seems way to much

    • Gail Ogden says

      3 years ago

      Yes, but less detergent. I do this every 3 months.

  10. Jill Greenlaw says

    7 years ago

    I always wondered if you could was your pillows in your washer. Great step-by-step.

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