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Hand Washing Pillows: Refreshing and Revitalizing Your Sleep

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

preparing a pillow to be hand washed

Pillows play a crucial role in ensuring a comfortable and restful sleep. Over time, pillows accumulate dust, sweat, and other impurities that can impact their cleanliness. Hand washing your pillows is an effective way to clean your pillows and extend their lifespan.

In this guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of washing standard pillows by hand. Please note, if you have a memory foam pillow, do not use this method. Read our guide on 'how to wash memory foam pillows' instead.

By following this guide, you will learn the correct method of how to hand wash your pillows, including feather pillows.

How To Hand Wash Your Pillows: A Summary

To hand wash your pillows (not including memory foam pillows) fill a basin such as your bathtub with warm water mixed with a mild detergent. Submerse the pillow and gently agitate the pillow with your hands to remove the grease and oils stuck in it's fibres. For spot stains, use a soft brush to agitate more vigorously, then leave to air dry.

For a full summary, see below:

Hand Washing Feather Pillows

Most of the below applies to feather pillows with a few extra considerations. Make sure there are no tears in the pillow before starting, if you spot one fix it beforehand. Be more gentle when squeezing the pillows dry as you can damage the feather pillow more easily that standard ones.

Drying your pillow will take more time as well, allow the pillow to dry fully before putting a protector on as feathers will trap moisture which can lead to mould and mildew.

If the pillows have developed a slight odour, sprinkle them with baking soda and leave it overnight. Then, vacuum the baking soda away to leave a fresh smelling pillow. This will also help to absorb that moisture that contributed to the smell.

Assessing Your Pillows

Before embarking on the hand washing process, it's important to assess your pillows to determine if they are suitable for hand washing. Most down, feather, synthetic, and memory foam pillows can be hand washed, while some more delicate pillows may require professional cleaning.

Preparing for Hand Washing

  • Removing Pillowcases and Protectors: Start by removing any pillowcases, covers, or protectors from your pillows. These can typically be washed separately according to their care instructions.

  • Spot Cleaning: Inspect your pillows for stains or spots. Spot clean these areas using a mild detergent and a clean cloth or sponge. Gently blot the stains without rubbing to avoid damaging the pillow's material.

  • What you need: Make sure you own a large enough basin such as a sink or bathtub, mild detergent, soft bristled brush for spot stains, warm water and gloves would make the agitation process more effective too.

Hand Washing Techniques

hand washing a pillow in a basin
  1. Filling the Basin or Sink: Fill a clean basin or sink with lukewarm water. The water should be sufficient to submerge the pillow fully. You can wash 2 halves of the pillow separately if you have no other option.

  2. Selecting the Detergent: Choose a mild laundry detergent suitable for delicate fabrics. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they may damage the pillow's filling or cover. If some stains haven't been lifted then you will want to buy a spot stain remover.

  3. Submerging the Pillow: Place one pillow at a time into the water, ensuring it is fully submerged. Gently press down on the pillow to allow the water and detergent to penetrate.

  4. Gentle Agitation: Use your hands to gently agitate the pillow in the soapy water. Focus on areas that need attention, such as stains or odours. Be careful not to twist or wring the pillow, as this can damage its structure.

  5. Rinsing the Pillow: Drain the soapy water and refill the basin with clean water. Submerge the pillow and gently squeeze or press it to remove any remaining detergent.

  6. Removing Excess Water: Carefully lift the pillow from the water and gently squeeze out excess water. Avoid twisting or wringing the pillow, as this can cause damage.

Drying the Pillows

air drying a pillow after hand washing
  1. Absorbing Moisture: Place a clean towel on a flat surface and lay the washed pillow on top. Roll up the towel and gently press down to absorb excess moisture from the pillow.

  2. Air Drying: Find a well-ventilated area where you can lay the pillow flat to air dry. Ensure that both sides of the pillow are exposed to air. Rotate the pillow periodically to aid in even drying.

  3. Fluffing and Shaping: Once the pillow is completely dry, fluff it gently by hand to restore its loft and shape. If necessary, knead or manipulate the pillow to redistribute the filling.

Additional Tips and Considerations

  • Washing frequency: It is generally recommended to wash pillows every 3 to 6 months, or as needed, to maintain their cleanliness and freshness.

  • Pillow Protection: Consider using pillow protectors or covers to shield your pillows from stains, dust, and allergens. These can be easily removed and washed separately.

  • Delicate Pillow Types: Some pillows, such as silk or decorative pillows with delicate embellishments, may require professional cleaning. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions or consult a professional cleaner for guidance.

  • Sunlight and Fresh Air: Whenever possible, expose your freshly washed pillows to sunlight and fresh air. This helps eliminate any lingering odours and enhances their freshness.


Hand washing your pillows is a simple yet effective way to maintain their cleanliness, freshness, and comfort. This method is less likely to damage your pillows like a machine wash could and you can control the flow of water much better.

By following the step-by-step techniques outlined in this guide, you can successfully revitalize your pillows and promote a restful sleep environment.

Remember to assess the pillow's care instructions, spot clean as needed, use gentle agitation during washing, and ensure thorough drying.

With proper care and maintenance, your pillows will continue to provide the support and comfort you need for a rejuvenating sleep experience.

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