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How to Clean Bedroom Pillows – Removing Dirt, Spills and Stains

There are many different types of bedroom pillows, largely in terms of the stuffing or filling that is used to make them. While they all have their pros and cons, ranging from support to price, some are also easier to clean than others.

But before you learn how to clean bedroom pillows, you need to know the difference between the various fillings.

The Most Common Pillow Fillings

Some pillows are made with natural down and/or feathers, while others are made with synthetic fillings, including various types of foam. The most expensive type of filling is goose down, taken from the breasts of the bird after it has been slaughtered for food. The cheapest type is polyester foam chips, which is quite a common although not particularly comfortable synthetic filling.

The most common pillow fillings are:

  • goose down,
  • duck down,
  • feathers, which might come from geese, ducks or chickens,
  • down and feather combinations,
  • man-made polyester fiber manufactured under a variety of brand names,
  • latex foam, and
  • ordinary polyester foam.
  • Wear and Tear on Pillows

All pillows are made with an outer casing, usually cotton or a poly-cotton blend. This is intended to protect the filling, but it is impossible to keep it pristine over time. Even with the customary pillow case, the outside fabric that makes the pillow case discolors and can become stained.

It stands to reason: some people bath or shower at night, before they go to bed; others wash in the morning. This fact alone means that you may not be scrubbed and clean when you go to bed. Relatively few people wash their hair every day (apart from which it isn’t a good idea), which means that oils and other dirt will inevitably rub off on pillow cases and may seep through to the pillow itself, even if an additional “under-slip” or pillow protector is used. We all sweat to some degree, and this will also affect the pillow and discolor the casing.

In addition to natural oils and fluids, there is always the danger that things will be spilt on pillows (like tea or coffee). But there are steps that you can take to ensure that pillows last as long as possible, and stay as clean as possible. Then, if they do become grubby, or someone has an accident of some sort, there are steps that you can take to actually wash or clean the pillow.

Taking Care of Pillows

Some pillows are easier to take care of than others. Similarly, some are easier to clean than others. Perhaps ironically down pillows, which are not very easy to clean, are in fact exceptionally easy to maintain.

Any pillows that have a down or feather filling (or a combination of down and feathers) should be aired outside from time to time, preferably in diffused sunlight. As these pillows get older, they lose the ability to trap air – which is what makes them so beautifully firm. You can revive them to a certain extent by putting the pillow in a clothes dryer at a very low temperature for about 10 minutes, together with a tennis ball.
Down and feather pillows should preferably not be washed as soap and water that will tend to dissolve the natural oils that are in the feathers.
Polyester-filled pillows don’t need any particular maintenance, which is why they are the most common choice for accommodation establishments including hotels.
Latex and other foam pillows don’t need any special care either. Just try to keep them as clean as possible.

Cleaning Bedroom Pillows

Accidents do happen, and pillows do become dirty over time. So what steps can you take to clean them?

It is sometimes possible to sponge a pillow clean, without immersing it in water. This is usually the ideal option, but unfortunately it is not always possible. So first be sure what sort of pillow filling you are dealing with, and take action as quickly as possible.

Having said that down and feather pillows should not be washed, if something has been spilt on the pillow (or pillows) you will have three basic choices; take immediate action yourself, take the pillow to a professional cleaning service, or discard the pillow. It really is as simple as that.

Depending on what the spill is, mix up a warm, soapy solution in water and then squeeze this gently through the pillow. Then repeat the process about three times with fresh water and no washing soap. If you have a washing machine, spin dry for a couple of minutes then hang the pillow up in the fresh air by two corners. While the pillow is drying, you will need to shake it now and then to distribute the feathers.

Polyester-filled – and polyester foam-filled – pillows are washable, although there may be specific washing instructions on the label. Most should not be sent to a dry cleaner, and unless the manufacturer’s care instruction state otherwise, don’t try and tumble dry them. The heat might damage the polyester.
Latex pillows can also be washed, although you shouldn’t take the latex out of the casing because it deteriorates if it is exposed to sunlight. You also should not put latex into a washing machine. Instead hand-wash it in warm soapy water and don’t try to twist it or wring it out. Rinse well when you have got it clean and then gently put pressure on the pillow to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. It helps if you do this with a dry towel over the pillow. If the towel becomes saturated, use another dry towel. Then put the pillow somewhere to air dry; avoid a sunny spot.

Having learnt some of the tricks of how to clean bedroom pillows, here’s one more tip. Unless the pillow is totally messed, you can always unstitch a seam and remove the stuffing. Then wash the casing and when it is dry, replace the filling. If any of the filling is damaged, discard it and add new stuffing before re-stitching the seam. It should then be as good as new.

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