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How to Wash and Care for Throw Pillows

Cleaning a throw pillow at home.

Throw pillows do a fine job of jazzing up your living space. They are relatively cheap, provide a decorative aesthetic and serve a functional purpose when you need to rest your head.

Since the living room (where most throw pillows reside) is a space where many go to relax, it’s essential to keep those pillows fresh and clean. We wanted to know how to properly care for throw pillows, so we reached out to Tide Scientist Darenton Randall to learn more.

How Often Should You Wash Throw Pillows

Two throw pillows on a couch

Decorative throw pillows might look nice in your living room, but how often you wash them will depend on how often they are used and where they are located. If we’re talking about throw pillows that live in a spare room where no one goes in, you can probably get away with cleaning them every couple of months.

However, if your throw pillows are in a room where people sleep, eat and generally hang out often, you’ll probably want to wash them more often. Randall recommends generally washing them every three to six months to remove unpleasant odors.

We were worried about wear and tear from overwashing pillows, so we asked about that too. Randall let us know that “wear, tear, and early replacement is more often caused by mishandling your pillow rather than overwashing.” He also said, “odor and mildew can cause early replacement. That is why it is important to use a high-quality detergent.”

Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy 10x Duty Laundry Detergent

Extra-strength laundry detergent perfect for attacking invisible stains!

Randall explained that certain factors like pillow encounters and pets in the home would mean more washing. “The average person excretes up to one liter of sweat per day as
well as 60 grams of dead skin, salt, and sebum,” he told us.

If that doesn’t make you want to wash them more often, then consider the food stains and pet hair on top of all that dead skin and sweat. I think it’s time we wash our pillows, yeah?

Can You Wash Throw Pillows in the Washing Machine?

Throw pillows on a washing machine

With so many cleaning products available on the market, we wondered what the safest approach for washing pillows would be and whether or not it’s safe to use a washing machine to get the job done.

Randall laid out all the steps to keep your throw pillows clean and fresh, and you’ll be glad to know your washing machine is often a great place to get the job done.

Like most products, he explained to check care labels to ensure they are safe for the washing machine and the dryer. He even provided us with a handy guide on how to read laundry symbols on the care labels. Before washing your pillows, inspect them and check that there are no holes along the seams. Any weak or torn seams should be mended before cleaning the pillows.

Randall told LifeSavvy to choose a delicate wash and spin cycle and add detergent formulated to remove invisible stains that your pillows may have.

Tide Hygienic Heavy Duty 10X Power Pods

The innovative laundry capsule!

“Submerge items when the washer is half full and balance the load by adding a few same-colored towels,” said Randall. “If using a top-loading washer, stop the washer occasionally to press air from the pillows and submerge them if needed. If using a front-loading washer, there is no need to submerge the items; just use a gentle/delicate cycle.”

Once the cycle ends, you can run your pillows through another gentle rinse cycle to ensure the detergent is removed more thoroughly. To dry, Randall recommends setting the dryer to a very low heat setting and tumble dry for a few hours until they are completely dry. You can help speed up the process by adding a few dry towels.

How to Spot Clean A Throw Pillow

Spot cleaning a throw pillow on the couch.

Sometimes the care label on a throw pillow will indicate that it should be spot cleaned instead of machine-washed. If that is the case, Randall first let us know to follow the labels instructions on how to spot clean.

If there are no instructions, he recommends brushing off stains as much as possible, then applying a small amount of detergent to the affected area. Randall told LifeSavvy, “After gently blotting the stain with a clean, white cloth, let the pillow out to dry.”

To ensure the stain disappears, work your towel into a gentle lather to allow the suds to work their magic. If pet hair is the number one issue, you can use a lint roller or an upholstery vacuum to tackle all that loose fur.

Mr. SIGA Microfiber Towels

Great for spot cleaning!

Spot cleaning is a quick and convenient solution for pillows made with delicate fabrics that shouldn’t be machined wash. If you notice minor stains on the surface, grab your detergent and microfiber towel for the best results.

How to Keep Throw Pillows Clean

Using a lint roller to remove hair from a throw pillow.

Luckily, there are a few other ways to clean those throw pillows without washing them so often. One of the easiest ways to keep them fresh is by using the sun! Every few months, hang your pillows outside to help free them from moisture and let the wind and sun work their natural magic.

We asked Randall about throw pillow protectors and whether or not they can help keep pillows fresh and clean. He told LifeSavvy that pillow protectors with a zippered closing can be used as “an extra layer of protection to the pillow against grease, body soils, hair, and dirt.”

Utopia Bedding Pillow Protector

Great for keeping your pillow fresh and clean!

These protectors can be placed over the pillow and under the pillow cover. Consider changing your throw pillow covers every season or at least once a year to provide new pop of color in your home and for a chance to wash the former set of covers in the meantime.

Cleaning throw pillows is easy and should be done at least a few times a year. Plus, knowing they can be washed in the washing machine makes the job worth your time and effort.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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