How do I care for my new pillow? The answer depends in part on what type of pillow it is.
For any pillow, you should start by putting a pillow cover on it. This allows you to remove and wash the cover as necessary without wearing out the pillow with each wash cycle. Zippered covers help keep dust mites out, too. Wash the pillow cover at least once a month, though it should be washed after an illness, too. By washing the pillow cover often instead of the pillow itself, you dramatically extend its life.
Synthetic Fill Pillows
Pillows filled with artificial fibers like polyester can be machine washed on gentle several times a year. If the pillow smells, you can add a cup of baking soda for general odors. Add a cup of white vinegar if it has a mold or mildew smell. Put two in the washer at the same time to help balance the load.
They can be put in the dryer on a gentle cycle unless the label says to avoid this. This means low heat. Take the pillow out of the dryer, break up any clumps, and if it is damp in any area, toss it in for one more round.
Feather or Down Filled Pillows
Fluff down or feather filled pillows daily to prevent dust from collecting and redistribute the filling so it doesn’t collapse into a low spot in the middle where your head rests. Air dry the pillow periodically to help prevent mold. Spot clean with mild detergent if the cover is stained.
Do not put a down-filled pillow in a washing machine with an agitator in the middle. This could damage the pillow. However, if you have a front-loading washing machine, you can wash it on a gentle cycle before putting it in the dryer on low heat. Dry cleaning of down-filled pillows is also an option.
Memory Foam / Latex Pillows
If you only need to freshen it up, you can sprinkle baking soda on its surface, let it sit for an hour and then vacuum it up with a small vacuum cleaner nozzle.
For spot cleaning, use one table spoon of gentle detergent mixed with water, dip a wash cloth in the mixture, and clean the one affected spot. Blot with clean water to remove the soap residue.
Never put memory foam or latex pillows in the washing machine; that guarantees it will become infested with mold. However, you can hand wash them. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water. Pour in a small amount of gentle detergent. Submerge the pillow, and squeeze it a few times so that the soapy water seeps in. After ten minutes, drain the soapy water. Squeeze out as much soapy water as possible from the pillow. Fill the tub or sink again. Then submerge the pillow and rinse out the soapy water. Drain the “clean” water.
The next step is letting the pillow dry. Don’t put it in the dryer, since this could damage it. Instead, leave it in a sunny area to air dry.