A simple guide to cleaning pillows

July 28, 2015

For allergy sufferers, pillows can be a source of problems. Dust, body oil, perspiration and dead skin particles gather on (and inside) pillows. Pillows also harbour dust mites — microscopic organisms to which many people are allergic. If you have goose down, dust and dirt act as abrasives and shorten the life of the down. So at least twice a year, give your pillows a good cleaning. Here’s how.

A simple guide to cleaning pillows

1. Fibre-filled pillows

  • Most can just be thrown into the washing machine.
  • While you should always follow the instructions on the pillow's care label, generally you can use the cold-water cycle for fibre-filled pillows and tumble dry them on low heat.
  • Or you can dry them on a clothesline.
  • Simply hang the pillow in the sun by one corner.
  • Make sure the pillow is completely dry before using.

2. Down and feather pillows

  • These ideally should be machine washed or dry-cleaned depending on the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Some people recommend dry-cleaning only, claiming that machine washing down and feathers reduces their natural resilience.
  • If you do decide to dry-clean your pillows, take them to a dry cleaner with experience in cleaning down filling.
  • If there are any lingering dry-cleaning solvent fumes, air the pillows until they are all gone.

3. To machine wash down pillows

  • Use a gentle cleanser, making sure that it is completely dissolved before immersing the pillow into the wash.
  • Don't wash more than two pillows at a time.
  • Tumble dry your down pillows on low to medium heat. And if you toss in a couple of clean tennis balls it will help fluff the feathers.
  • Be prepared to wait — it might take four or more hours to completely dry them.
  • To line dry, hang the pillow in the shade by one corner (not in the sun, as you would fibre-filled pillows, discussed above).
  • Direct sun can make the feathers sweat, which creates an odour.
  • Follow up a line drying by fluffing in a tumble-dryer on low heat.

4. Fluffy pillows

  • To fluff pillows tumble dry them on low heat for about 10 minutes. It's much easier than a complete washing, and it's an effective way to remove at least some dust and dried skin particles.
  • Do it twice a year, in between washings, to keep your pillows clean and non-allergenic.
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