Our favorite bed pillows get a lot of use every night. We keep clean pillowcases on them and don’t think much about the pillow inside until it’s time to change the bed linens. Have you looked recently?
Yikes! The pristine white pillows have turned blotchy with disgusting yellowish-to-brownish stains. What on Earth? The most common response is to jam it into a clean pillowcase and hope to never have to look at that mess again!
What are those stains?
The culprit is sweat, the chemical composition of which varies from one person to the next. Now add drool, body oils, makeup and hair products transferred to the pillow from lying down with wet hair; all of these things discolor pillows over time. But why not the pillowcases? Because we launder them frequently. When did you last launder your pillows?
Some people sweat more than others, which can account for why your spouse’s pillow is far more stained than yours, or your teenage son’s pillow is more disgusting than, say, his little brother’s. Your face or head resting on that pillow hour after hour releases sweat, which travels easily through the pillowcase and into the pillow.
GET RID OF THE STAINS
Check to make sure the pillow tag says that it is washable. Most pillows can be safely washed. Do not attempt to wash memory foam pillows; instead, follow the manufacturer instructions for care and cleaning. Wash only one large (king-size) pillow or two smaller pillows at a time for the best results.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
—Soilove or your favorite laundry pretreatment stain remover.
—1 cup powdered laundry detergent (any will do, but I keep a box of Tide Ultra just for washing pillows).
—1 cup powdered Cascade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent.
—1 cup liquid chlorine bleach (or bleach substitute).
—1/2 cup Borax.
—1 cup white vinegar, for rinse cycle only.
Step 1. Treat the stains with Soilove and allow them to sit for about 20 minutes.
Step 2. Soak the pillows in hot water for at least one hour. If your machine has a soak function, use that. If not and it’s a top-loader, you can fill the washer with hot water and then stop the cycle to allow the pillow(s) to soak. If you have a front-loader with a soak option, use that. If none of these apply, find a big container like a storage bin or use the bathtub.
Step 3. Get the biggest cooking pot you can find. Fill it with tap water; set it on a burner to High; and bring it to full boil. Turn the burner off, and pour in the laundry detergent, Cascade dishwasher detergent and Borax. Stir gently until the products dissolve in the boiling water.
Step 4. Pour the contents of your hot caldron into the washer, storage bin or tub — wherever your pillows are soaking. Carefully add the liquid bleach. Make sure the pillows are fully saturated by turning them over or moving them around. You may need to use a broom handle or similar object to gently push them down, as they tend to float.
Step 5. Set the washing machine to the longest cycle available and select “extra rinse” if you have that option. For a front-loader, drain the water from your bin or tub and place the wet pillows into the washer. Run the hottest, longest cycle available with an extra rinse, adding the vinegar to the last rinse.
Step 6. Dry the pillows in the dryer on a regular cycle using wool dryer balls if you have them. If not, throw in a couple of tennis balls, each one tied into the toe of a sock — a reasonable substitute! For down pillows, use the air-only or fluff option. If the pillow is synthetic, use low heat.
I have prepared additional details and resources for this column at EverydayCheapskate.com/cleanpillow.