Should You Wash New Pillows?

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You spend nearly a third of your life in bed with your face and head nestled deep against your pillow. That’s why it’s important to pick a pillow that supports your health. You’ll also want to keep your pillow in tip-top shape with regular washing. You may already know how important it is to wash your pillow once every three-six months. But what about brand-new pillows? Do you need to worry about washing a new pillow, or can you simply toss it on your bed and snuggle in for some deep sleep without laundering it first? Below we’ll share how to use and care for new pillows.

Should You Wash New Pillows Before Using Them?

When you bring a pillow home from the store, it may appear sparkling clean and ready to use. But what’s not visible is a whole lot of dirt, debris, dust, and chemicals that can accumulate in the factory as part of the manufacturing process. Your pillow may even be off-gassing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): man-made chemicals linked to adverse health effects.

Washing your new pillow before you use it can help reduce your exposure to allergens, dirt, dust, and chemicals so that you can sleep better.

clean pillow washer 2

How to Wash New Pillows

Washing your new pillow is easier than you might think. There’s a good chance you can toss your new pillow in a washing machine. Not all pillows can be machine washed, however; yours may require a spot clean, dry clean, or need to be hand-washed. Don’t worry: you won’t have to guess. Your new pillow comes with a care label telling you what materials it’s made from and how to clean your pillow.

How to Wash Pillows in a Washing Machine

The good news is that most pillows are machine washable. Materials like cotton, fiberfill, down, and down alternatives are typically able to go into your washing machine. To wash a pillow in a washing machine, follow these steps:

  • Check the label for specific care instructions, such as recommendations on water temperature, cycles, or detergent types.
  • Launder in your washing machine per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wash two pillows at a time to keep your washer balanced during the spin cycle.
  • Dry your pillow with a couple of wool dryer balls or tennis balls to prevent the materials from clumping together.

How to Spot Clean a Pillow

Some pillows, such as those made from natural latex, buckwheat, gels, or synthetic foams, can’t be washed in a machine.

If these pillows have a removable cover, you may be able to remove and wash the cover itself. If you can’t wash the cover, a surface-and-spot clean is just the ticket to removing allergens and irritants before they come into contact with your face.

First, vacuum the outside of your pillow to remove any loose dust, dirt, or debris that may have accumulated at the factory.

Then, spot-clean your pillow with a damp cloth dipped in water and a small amount of mild detergent. Since your pillow is new, you won’t need to treat any visible stains. Just wipe it down and dry it according to the care label instructions. Your pillow may need to air dry if it’s made of foam or latex.

biopedic body pillow spot clean

Cleaning Different Types of Pillows

The biggest factor in how you should clean your pillow is the materials that make up the filling and cover. Some materials can easily be washed and dried in a machine. However, machine washing could be disastrous for other materials. Some of the most commonly used pillow materials include:


Down is a fluffy, soft pillow material that comes from the underside of a goose or a duck. Unlike feathers that come from the back or wing of a bird, down doesn’t have a quill, so it’s incredibly soft and airy. Down pillows are usually washed in cold water on a gentle cycle and dried at medium heat.

Down Alternative

Down alternative is usually made from polyester or cotton fibers designed to mimic a down pillow’s soft, airy properties. Down alternative pillows are typically washed on medium heat on a gentle cycle with mild detergent and dried at low heat.

Memory Foam

Memory foam pillows are made from a synthetic material that starts off feeling firm, then softens and molds around your head from your body heat. Memory foam pillows are not typically machine-washable. They may have a removable, washable cover, and the pillow itself should be spot-cleaned as needed.


Natural latex pillows are made from the sap of the rubber tree. The pillow may be one solid piece or consist of shredded latex filling. Like memory foam, most natural latex pillows aren’t meant to be machine-washed. Look for one with a washable cover and spot-clean as needed.

An image of the Avocado Molded Latex Pillow with its cover pulled back to show the latex foam core.

How to Clean a Decorative Pillow

Decorative pillows are more aesthetically pleasing than functional, so your prettiest pillow may not be designed to survive a trip through the washing machine. You can still get a decorative pillow cleaned by following these steps:

  • Check the care label if you still have it. It will provide insight on your decorative pillow’s materials and washing instructions. If the tag is long-gone, use your best judgment and proceed as gently as possible to the next steps.
  • Spot-clean the pillow with a cloth, cold water, and mild detergent.
  • If the cover is removable, wash and dry it according to the instructions.


Do you need to wash new pillows before using them?

Yes, you should wash a new pillow before using it. New pillows can pick up dirt, dust, allergens, and chemicals from the manufacturing factory that can irritate your eyes, nose, and skin. Washing a pillow before you use it can reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants so you can sleep better.

Can you wash memory foam pillows?

No, memory foam pillows should not be machine-washed. Look for a memory foam pillow with a removable, washable cover or add a washable protector to it. Spot-clean as needed to remove stains and allergens.

Can you wash feather pillows?

Yes, feather pillows and down pillows can be washed. Consult the care label for instructions, but most feather pillows can be washed in cold water on a gentle cycle and then dried at medium heat.

Should you wash a body pillow?

Many body pillows can be washed, but you'll want to refer to the care label to learn more about the materials used in the filling and cover before you do so. One caveat to consider with a body pillow is whether its size will prohibit it from fitting into your washing machine. You may need to hand-wash it in a bathtub full of warm water and mild detergent or spot-clean if it doesn't fit inside your machine.

Melissa Zimmerman

Melissa Zimmerman is a writer with a passion for sleep and wellness. When she's not researching and writing about health and wellness, you can find her reading books and spending time with her son and dogs in her Northern California home. Connect with Melissa at