Pillow and Duvet Maintenance: The Undercover Guide

Over time your pillows and duvet inserts get dirty with body odors, sweat, dirt and bacteria. We don’t want that thought to keep you up at night, so here’s your guide to get them clean. 

For what it’s worth, pillows do have a finite lifetime and if you have a 10 yr old pillow you don’t need to waste your time cleaning it. Just get a new one.

First Things First: Before Washing

With so many different types of fillers, like cotton, synthetic/microfibre, memory foam, feather or down, it can be difficult to know how to care for them. 

  • Check the label for special care instructions. Not all pillows are machine washable and may require hand washing or dry cleaning. Don’t take a chance wrecking your pillows or duvets. Take it to a professional cleaner if needed.
  • Check the condition of your pillows and duvet. Fix any weak spots or holes by sewing them up.
  • Pretreat any stains on your washable pillows with Tide® Rescue or blue Dawn®.  If you need more help with stains, see our Protein Stain article or Food Stain article for some hacks. 

Notes of Caution: 

  • Many feather pillows cannot get wet because they can take ages to dry, and long periods of dampness can foster a perfect environment for mold growth. Throw them in the dryer at high heat (or the sanitize setting). Again, check your pillow’s care instructions to be safe.
  • Do not wash memory foam or fiberfill pillows in the machine as this can break their shape.
  • Be very careful about an unbalanced load. Pillows and duvets get very heavy once wet and could damage your machine during the spin cycle. 
  • Front loaders are preferred to top loaders for this task as the items might float at the top and not wash evenly. Additionally, the jerking action of the top loader agitator may cause damage to delicate pillows and duvets.

How to Wash 

The Dryer – The Quickest and Easiest Method

You may be surprised to hear that all you need is a dryer. While this method won’t treat any stains, most pillows and duvets can just be tossed in the dryer on a sanitize cycle. It will freshen them up and get rid of any dust mites. Using a dryer ball will further help to fluff them up.

Pro Tip: Pillows can also be put out in the sun to be sun bleached. This helps with bacteria growth and is an easy way to freshen them up.

Hand Wash 

If your pillows or duvets are not machine washable, here’s how we hand wash them:

  1. Fill a tub with lukewarm water and add a ¼ cup powdered Tide® and stir.
  2. Throw in your pillow(s) or duvet(s) and and gently swish around in the water. If heavily soiled, soak for up to 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse a few times with cold water until water is clear of grime and soap. Gently press out as much water as you can. Avoid wringing out water with delicate items. You could damage them.
  4. Let air dry by hanging up or laying flat to dry (out in the sun would be ideal) or toss in the dryer. Use dryer balls or clean tennis balls to break up any lumps as it dries.
Machine Washable Items

If you have machine washable pillows and duvets:

  1. Place duvet or pillows into the washing machine, doing your best to spread the load evenly. Add powdered Tide® (as recommended by the box for your load size).. 
  2. Set to a gentle wash at a low temperature. Run an extra rinse cycle to make sure all the detergent is removed.
  3. Move the items over to the dryer and tumble dry on cool or low heat settings. Use dryer balls or tennis balls to prevent clumping.  (Do not dry foam pillows in the dryer, they can melt)
  4. About every 30-45 minutes, pause the machine to take the pillows / duvet out. Give them a good shake and then return them to tumble dry some more.

Pro Tip: adding several dry towels in the dryer will help absorb moisture and shorten your drying time. 


If you have really filthy pillows or duvets that need a deeper clean you can strip them by using the instructions in our Laundry Stripping article. It would still be recommended to use lower water temperatures and add an extra rinse cycle in the washing machine.

Maintenance Schedule

Cover all your bases. Use good quality pillow protectors and duvet covers for easy replacing and washing. Your pillows and duvet inserts should be washed every 2-3 months, and your covers and sheets on a weekly basis. 

We have many more laundry tips! Head on over to our blog or purchase our Laundry Guide that has a ton more information.

  • Denise @GoCleanCo

Recent Posts

Thank you! A confirmation email will be sent to your email

Clean up your inbox.

Articles, videos and tips delivered to your inbox. Zero trash piling up in the corner.