How To Remove Odor From Pillows (Without Washing)

So you want to remove the funky stinky odor from a pillow, but without washing it? Maybe because the pillow cannot be machine and hand-washed, or it wasn’t too dirty to begin with.

To remove odors from a pillow without washing, we can sprinkle some baking soda on it. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then vacuum it off. Flip the pillow and repeat on the other side. It is also best to put the pillow in a sunny well-ventilated spot, and let nature do its “cleaning”. Lastly, spray some anti-bacteria pillow mist if you like to further freshen it.

That covers the issue in a quick manner, but the stink is commonly caused by bacteria and mold. If we don’t address the root of the problem, the stink will return no matter how many times we refresh the pillow. Read on for more!




Why Stink? No Wash Cleaning The End



Before we get into the “cleaning methods”, let us quickly walk through where the stink is potentially coming from – Dousing the pillow in fresheners is not going to help much, addressing the root of the problem does.



If your pillow has a sour vinegary smell (maybe even yellow stains), the most common culprit is sweat. Yes, everyone sweats, and the pillow accumulates most of it. But why is it that some don’t stink as much, while some have that funky sour smell? Well, sweat itself does not smell that much actually.

The sour smell comes from bacteria breaking down the contents of the sweat. In other words, it is what the person ate, and/or influence by the lifestyle. Eat less sulfur-rich foods such as onion, garlic, red meats, and shrimp. Keep the stress level in check, and take a relaxing shower before bed. That should somewhat help to lessen the “sourness”.



The pillow smells like rotten eggs or rancid food. Eww. The common causes for this are pretty obvious. Either rotten bits of food are stuck in the pillow, someone has not been eating right, or the pillow has been left in a badly ventilated room while soaking wet with sweat.

  • Food bits – Does someone have the bad habit of eating on the bed? Didn’t wash up properly before bed? Didn’t brush the teeth and/or drool on the pillow? Either way, no more eating on the bed. It’s not healthy, and it’s unhygienic. Also, remember to brush the teeth before sleeping.
  • Stinky sweat – Stinky sweat is usually a sign of dehydration and/or a bad diet (urine is dark yellow or brown). A lot of gunk is stuck in the body and cannot be “released naturally”, thus, the horrid smell in the sweat.
  • Bad ventilation – The pillow is left in a stale and dank room, it’s a paradise for bacteria growth. Better do something to improve the ventilation, and get some sunlight inside.

As a future prevention measure, we can also add another layer of a pillow protector and change it regularly. While this will not 100% remove the smell, it does protect the pillow and keep it fresh slightly longer.




Well, it’s the “old and stale” smell. This is a common indicator of the presence of mildew and mold, usually after keeping the pillow in storage for a long time. Just bring the pillow out to somewhere sunny, and let it air.



The pillow smells like an oily kitchen that has not been washed for months. Guess you can already tell where the oil is coming from, yes, it’s the human once again. This is especially common for people with oily hair and/or skin.

The only prevention measure is to keep the oil secretion down – Use an oil control facial wash and toner. Use a “scalp treatment” shampoo and conditional for oily hair.




Now that we have gone through some of the possible culprits causing the stink, let us now get into the various ways and methods to possibly remove the odor from the pillow. Without washing the pillow.



Yes, there’s no need to throw that pillow into a washing machine. There is another neat gadget is called a “spot cleaner”, and it is basically the sophisticated cousin of the vacuum cleaner; A spot cleaner is a combination of a vacuum cleaner and a steam cleaner.

While spot cleaners are mostly used for carpets, they are also commonly used for sofas, car seats, mattresses, and pillows. I think the video explains itself, spot cleaners are amazingly efficient in pulling out gunk from fabrics.

P.S. A little bit of common sense here. Spot cleaners use steam (100+ Celsius or 212+ Fahrenheit), it will be wise to not use it on latex and polyester pillows. Also, take out the thin pillowcase before the vacuum destroys it.



It’s not a secret, baking soda is one of the most common household remedies for odors, and it is well-known for being a “natural deodorizer”. Just sprinkle some baking soda on the pillow, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes to do its own thing. Lastly, vacuum it off, flip the pillow, and repeat the same on the other side.




Plenty of sun and air are your best friends after you have cleaned the pillow. Don’t need to do much once again. Just let the pillow sit in the sun, let nature do its own “anti-bacteria”.



After the pillow is clean, you may want to use a little bit of anti-bacteria pillow spray (or mist). There are plenty of brands to choose from off the shelves, or you can DIY one yourself using Witch Hazel and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. This will help to keep the pillow fresh a little longer.



If the odor “returns quickly” even after cleaning, then it may be a deeper issue. The pillow may simply be “too old”, and the fillings are “too corrupted” to clean properly. When it comes to this, it’s time to accept reality and get a new pillow.

P.S. If the new pillow suffers the same “stinky fate” quickly, then it may be a health issue instead. Please seek medical help in this case.




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