When it comes to household items you’re forgetting to clean, pillows probably top the list. (Check out even more little things you probably don’t clean often enough.)
But if you don’t toss your pillows in the washing machine every few weeks, you could be making a HUGE mistake. Besides being just plain gross, unclean pillows could wreak havoc on your health. Pillows are home to plenty of things you don’t want to think about—not to mention sleep on!—including dirt, dust, dead skin cells, and little critters like spiders and dust mites. (If you wake up sneezing, it could be a sign it’s time to replace your pillows.)
Experts say you should clean pillow covers every three weeks and pillows themselves every three months. But if you can’t remember the last time you tossed your pillows in the washing machine, don’t worry! It’s no hassle to get them spick-and-span ASAP.
Although you should check the label to be sure, most down and synthetic pillows can be machine-washed and dried using low heat, Donna Smallin Kuper, author of Cleaning Plain and Simple, told Better Homes & Gardens. Cleaning experts also recommend using a fragrance-free soap that will rinse without residue. To keep your machine balanced, toss at least two pillows in at a time—but be careful not to stuff in too many at once if you want a good clean. Then, put the machine’s setting at its top heat, since killing all those germs and creepy crawlies requires a water temperature of 140 degrees or higher.
Once you remove your pillows from the washing machine, make sure to dry them completely; dampness can invite the dreaded mildew, bacteria, and dust mites back. Try an extra spin cycle in your washing machine to remove as much moisture as possible. And to get some extra fluff, dry your pillows with dryer balls or a tennis ball in a sock. (Here’s how to get those perfectly fluffy hotel pillows at home.)
Sound like too much work? You’re not alone—but we have some brilliant cleaning shortcuts lazy people will appreciate. Use removable pillow protectors to increase the time between full-on washes. And drying your pillows on your dryer’s “air fluff” mode every few months is a quick and easy way to get rid of dust. Throw in a vinegar-dampened washcloth to wipe out any lingering mildew and mold, and you’ll be rocking fresh pillows every day of the week.