Which Pillows Are Washable (And Which Are Not Washable?)

So you have a pillow that has turned dirty and funky. But just which kinds of pillows are washable and which cannot be washed?

The safest way to check if a pillow is washable is to look at its attached care instructions – It should clearly indicate if the pillow is washable, and also washing instructions.

Yes, it’s that simple. But there’s a lot more to the care instructions label, and what can be done 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. Here’s an example of a pillow that cannot be washed, but has a removable cover that can be cleaned. As for those symbols at the bottom, here’s what they mean 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 – A crossed triangle here means no bleach allowed.
  • Iron – A crossed iron symbol here means cannot be ironed.
  • Circle – A crossed circle here means cannot be dry cleaned.
  • Circle-in-Square – Drying instruction. One dot means low heat, two for medium heat, and 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, and 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 a 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, and 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, and 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, and let them do the washing instead. Spend some money, better than ruin the pillow entirely.



Washable Types of Pillows
Can be machine washed Cotton, wool, feather, down, bamboo, polyester, microbeads.
Hand wash or dry wash only Memory foam, latex, gel.
Cannot be washed (replace entirely) Buckwheat, innerspring, kapok.




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!