washed pillows on a bed

How to wash pillows and when to replace them

A washed, fresh pillow will give you more than a good night’s sleep: it provides a clean place to rest your head and helps stop the spread of dust and bacteria1, keeping your bedtime routine germ-free. And if you think this only includes washing your pillowcases, then think again. Along with your bedding, you should be regularly cleaning your pillows, duvet and mattress too in order to keep your entire bed odour and bug free. Pillows in particular are important to keep clean. They should be washed at minimum, two to four times a year, averaging out at once every four months2.This will not only keep your bed bacteria free but will also make them last longer.

How to wash pillows

Instructions on how to wash your pillows can differ depending on the type of filling, such as whether they contain feather and down, microfibre, or foam3. Luckily, many types of pillows are machine washable and washing them is a quick and easy process. Fillings including down, cotton and synthetic materials can simply be thrown into a drum for a quick cycle to give them the refresh they need. However, there is a level of caution to be had. Certain types of padding, such as foam, may have different washing instructions and require hand washing only or even dry cleaning4. The best place to start in understanding the type of filling you have is by checking out the washing instructions on the pillow label. If machine washable is given the green light, before chucking them in for a spin, take care to check for any tears or broken seams that may unravel whilst in the wash. It’s also advised to wash at least two pillows at once to help balance the load and ensure a well rounded clean5. Once the wash is finished, remember to allow your pillows to dry completely before putting them back on your bed as this will prevent mould6. You can either tumble dry for speed or leave in an airing cupboard over a few days to thoroughly dry out. If tumble drying, check the pillow label first.

When you should replace pillows

There will come a time when you need to replace your pillows, despite taking regular care of them. The main role for your pillow is to keep your head and spine aligned, supporting your neck to ensure a decent night’s sleep7. Once this function is gone, your pillow is not much use anymore. It’s advised to replace your pillows from six months to every two years8. However, most sleep experts recommend the fold test in order to check the effectiveness of your pillow. This involves folding your pillow in half. If it doesn’t spring back or loses its shape, then it’s time to look at buying new9.

Other factors to look out for are strange odours of mould or mildew even after a wash that might indicate leftover bacteria in the fibres.

Remember to help lengthen the life of your pillows, make sure you’re regularly washing them every four to six months and allowing them to air dry before their next use.

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Last updated: 7 April 2020

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