Can Pillows Be Washed – Which Ones Can & Can’t

So you have a pillow that has turned rather dirty and funky. But to wash or not to wash, that is the million-dollar question. Will washing damage or even destroy the pillow?

Most pillows can either be hand or machine washed. But always check the attached care instructions on the pillow, it should clearly state the washing instructions or if it cannot be washed at all.

Yes, it’s that simple, just check with the care instructions label. But how does it look like, and how do we read it? What if the pillow does not have one? Read on for more!




Most reputable brands will have one of these care instructions labels attached to the pillow somewhere. Don’t think it needs a lot of explanation, this is an example of a pillow that cannot be hand or machine washed. As for those symbols at the bottom, it is the wash instructions for the removable cover. Here’s what it means from left to right:

  • Washing Tub – Machine washable, below 40 degrees Celcius. Yes, take note. This is Celcius, not Fahrenheit. You may want to be extra careful with the temperature unit if you live in the US and have an imported pillow. If this is a hand, hand wash instead. If it has a cross, it is not washable.
  • Triangle – Bleach. A cross here means no bleach.
  • Iron – Can be ironed. A cross here means cannot be ironed.
  • Circle – Dry cleaning. A cross here means cannot be dry cleaned.
  • Circle-in-Square – Drying instruction. One dot means low heat, two for medium heat, three for high heat. Of course, no dots mean tumble dry only.

If you want to know more about the instruction symbols, I have left a link to a full reference list at the bottom of this guide.




So what if the pillow does not have an attached care instructions label? Here is a generic list of pillows that can be machine washed, and how to wash them.

  • Cotton, Wool – Probably the easiest to care for. Use cold or warm water, wash at a slow spin speed. A gentle detergent will do, a little bit of non-chlorine bleach is also OK to remove the yellowing. Fabric softeners are not recommended, dry at low or medium heat.
  • Feather, Down, Down Alternative, Bamboo, Polyester – These need a little more care. Cold or warm water, wash at slow spin speed. Only use light detergent, no bleach, no softeners. Dry with low heat. Feather and down pillows need to be fluffed, throw a few dryer balls into the dryer, or manually “beat the pillow up” afterward.
  • Microbeads – Somewhat of a hassle, but still washable nonetheless. The whole idea is to wash the microbead pillow inside a pillowcase, to prevent damage and the beads from spilling out. Pretty much the same care instructions as above – Cold or warm water, slow spin, use light detergent only. Dry with low heat.




Next, these pillows will likely tear inside a washing machine, so hand washes only.

  • Memory Foam & Latex – Prepare a tub of warm water, add some light detergent. Let the pillow soak in the tub for a good 15-30 minutes. Then gently squeeze a few times to get the gunk out of the pillow, you may want to change the water if it gets too dirty. To dry the pillow, simply hand wring, then put some baking soda on top. Let the baking soda absorb the moisture, then vacuum clean.
  • Gel Pillow – Gel pillows are different from the “traditional normal pillow”, spot cleaning only. That is, wet a piece of cloth with soapy water, manually clean the dirty spots on the pillow. Then use the same old baking soda trick to dry the pillow – Or just let it sit to dry naturally.



Finally, these are the types of pillows that cannot be washed, for rather obvious reasons.

  • Buckwheat – The fillings of this pillow are made from natural buckwheat hulls. They get completely ruined when put into the washing machine or when submerged in water. Cleaning a buckwheat pillow is a little more interesting – Empty the hulls out into a container, then wash the pillowcase itself. If the hulls are flattened or smell funny, “replacements” can always be purchased in bulk.
  • Innerspring – Captain Obvious to the rescue! Innerspring pillows are loaded with springs. Wash them, and they will rust very quickly. The pillow will most likely be destroyed in a washing machine anyway. A quick wipe down using a moist cloth, a sprinkle of baking soda, and vacuum off after 15-30 minutes should do the magic.
  • Kapok – Kapok is a fluffy fiber that is grown on a… Kapok tree. While it resembles cotton, most manufacturers don’t recommend washing a kapok pillow. The natural fiber will most likely tear and clog up the entire washing machine. So if a kapok pillow gets too dirty, the only choice is to buy a new one.




If you are unsure which type of pillow you have, or worried that you may damage your favorite pillow while trying to wash it – The best move is to let the professionals do the job. Send the pillow to a laundry service, let them do the washing instead. Spend some money, better than ruin the pillow entirely.



Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this short guide. I hope it has helped to answer your doubts, to better maintain your pillows. Good luck and have better nights of sleep!