Before You Replace Pillows, Give Them A Tumble

When your head has seemingly smashed all the life out of your bed pillow, rendering it a flat, misshapen mat, it may not yet be time to buy a new one. Washing it and tossing it into the dryer can give a pillow a new lease on life, fluffing it up like new.

Top Tips For Girls recommends tossing a pair of tennis balls along with the pillow into the dryer and letting it run for 15 minutes. Sometimes the process will leave your pillow lumpy and unusable, so only try it if you’re about to get rid of it and don’t care what becomes of it.

If you’d rather avoid the dryer, you can crush your pillow from its sides every morning after you use it in an effort to keep it fluffed up.

How to keep pillows fluffy and comfy [Top Tips For Girls]


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  1. Cat says:

    Thank you, Philouise. But I don’t think this would work out too well with my feather pillows.

    • GrayMatter says:

      Actually, it will. Use no heat; tennis shoes (Clean) work well.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      Hint, remove feathers from bird prior to tossing in dryer.

      • BrownLeopard says:

        How else am I supposed to get that baked-chicken-like-mom-used-to-make taste?

        • Daniel Svoboda says:

          Nom nom nom nom nom…

        • BackInBlack says:

          I wonder if that would really work? There is an old recipe by the late gourmet cooking show dude David Wade for fish made in a dishwasher (seriously… Google it… unless you read the article on Google privacy), and I’ve heard of people cooking stuff on their engine block as they drive. Chicken a la Kenmore, here we come! Yummahhhh.

    • webweazel says:

      We had strictly feather pillows when I was growing up and washed each about every year or so. They lasted a loooonnnnng time. We also had a 30-year old featherbed mattress topper which we had to wash in the front-loader at the laundromat once a year. Kept it in perfect shape over all those years. My in-laws use feather pillows, too. One thing to remember is to only wash (any) pillows if you put them into zippered pillow cases. The in-laws forgot, and remembered the hard way after a $200 repair bill when a feather pillow exploded in the washer and clogged up various parts.

      Wash on the delicate cycle, put in the dryer on medium heat, also delicate cycle, with tennis balls as noted here or a pair of clean canvas shoes. Do not dry to FULLY dry. Make sure there is the slightest bit of remaining dampness to it. Remove the pillow cover temporarily. Fluff and lay out the pillow to air dry for a day or so, fluff it again and turn it once in a while while it’s air drying, then re-cover and put back into use.

  2. aleck says:

    A lot depends on the stuffing in the pillow.

    You are not supposed to wash a down pillow, but I have done it and it worked out ok. Just make sure the case on it is in good shape. One of them ripped and my washer turned into a giant bird nest.

    • PaulR says:

      Er, the instructions that came with my down pillow included washing instructions. In a machine. A horizontal washer.

      The only difference from regular laundry instructions was the addition of something to pound the pillows (like sneakers, a softball, etc), and the suggestion to perform the final spin twice to extract as much water as possible.

      Drying: low heat.

      It worked well.

  3. Unstable says:

    Who would have thought that pillows can be washed?!!!!! My mind is completely blown

    Thanks Phil!

  4. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    “Top Tips For Girls recommends tossing a pair of tennis balls along with the pillow into the dryer and letting it run for 15 minutes”

    Is that what the kids are calling it nowadays?

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      I think part of it involves straddling the machine.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    tips for girls?

    I find these offensive. who said guys can’t fluff?

  6. Hoss says:

    Phil must get Google alerts on Top 10, Top 5 and now Top Tips… Tough job.

    Oops, here’s one for Top 3 Brain Surgeon Mistakes…

  7. Nighthawke says:

    IF your dryer is big enough for them. If your dryer is one of the shallow drum models, you might have to go spend a few coins at the laundromat to use one of their large commercial units. And while you are at it there, you might as well air the rest of your cushions and pillows out too..

    But I’d forgo the use of tennis balls in those dryers or the management might freak out a bit.

    • Hoss says:

      Not big enough? Maybe try one at a time?

      • Nighthawke says:

        My pillows are queen sized, and nearly fold into a “v” when I load them into a dryer, leaving a flat spot in the middle of them, making it a futile and wasteful effort. The commercial drums are three foot in depth can accommodate all but the body pillows.

  8. Gman says:

    Yah you know what, i’ll stick with a lumpy unfluffed pillow. I don’t want to know what kind of damage a few tennis balls bouncing around will do to my dryer.

    Now I happily await the next Phil article: “Top 5 tips on how to use a blanket”

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      I was waiting for the “Top 5 tips on how to cool a warm beverage with ice”

      • Conformist138 says:

        Considering many of these lists appear to be written by middle class hobby bloggers, one of those tips would likely involve buying a brand new fridge with high-speed ice maker. Then later when you need to save money, you can follow even more tips and sell the needlessly fancy item.

    • Rachacha says:

      Tennis balls will not do any damage. I always heard that you could place a pair of sneakers in the dryer when drying pillows. My mom had an inexpensive pair of shoes like this that she kept just for “fluffing” things in the dryer***5********WF38404*M050&subCatTabId=cat1200611&subCatId=&productId=5-171930&catId=cat610203

      • BackInBlack says:

        Oops. That’s exactly what I was going to say. Tennis balls and sneakers don’t hurt a thing, and help fluff wet pillows and comforters. But they sure make a lot of noise. Guess I should say tennis balls make a lot of RACKET! I’m a guy and I knew all of this already. But thank goodness they wrote this article for you silly girls who never wash or clean anything.

        How about an article on how laundry detergent can help get clothes cleaner in the washer? Maybe one about how a cotton cloth with a lemony anti-static spray can actually remove dust from furniture tops!

  9. cameronl says:

    My feather pillows are pushing 20 years and I’ve never found them to be “a flat, misshapen mat.” I just fluffem’ up before bed and it’s good sleepin’!

  10. mysty says:

    I have to say this actually works. The pillow will never be like new, but it does help. I find the three tennis ball method works best when drying the pillows (or a large fluffy comforter). It makes a hell of a racket, but it keeps the filling from all ending up on one side.

    • ginnel says:

      I use tennis balls in every load I dry. Last week I used them to dry pillows and comforters in a commercial dryer at the laundromat. Works really well, but I got a few stares when the first ball jumped out when I opened the dryer. I think people were wondering why this strange person was drying their tennis balls..

  11. impatientgirl says:

    I dont do down pillows just standard. I’ve washed them before and dear god they turn into a lumpy mess. I would not recommend it.

  12. do-it-myself says:

    Lumpy if I do, Lumpy if I don’t. I’m too afraid to wash my pillows because each time I do, it’s never good. Pillows are the one thing I need new every year.

  13. Kahlidan says:

    I’ve read the best way to test a pillow to see if it’s still usable is to fold it in half-if it stays that way, it needs to be replaced. If it springs back at least partially, it still has some life left.

    • backbroken says:

      The way I determine if I need a new pillow is to put my head on it. If it’s no longer comfortable, I need to replace it.

      Then again, I’m a simple guy.

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      Seems to me you could use that test with just about anything…bread, paper, cats.

  14. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    Side note: Do not try either method to fluff up a baby. Woo what a mess…

    • Gman says:

      or your significant other. Mine especially does not like me trying to fluff her with the crushing method before I go to bed.

  15. mszabo says:

    Personally I LIKE that ‘flat misshapen mat’, It took me a good 5+ years to break in my pillow and I’ve probably used it for at least 15 years now. Fold it in half/3rds for reading and often in half for sleeping with my arm between the two halves. Try that with one of those brand new pillows.

    • smhatter says:

      I feel exactly the same way. I have an old king size pillow that is maybe 3 inches tall. The thing was my dad’s, and he decided it had gone too flat. I love the thing. I sleep with one arm under it (and my head). If I use a newer fluffy pillow, it hurts my neck. I do have newer pillows, but I use them when I want to prop myself up to read or watch T.V.

  16. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    So now Phil is giving us instructions on how to become fluffers?

  17. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Has Phil been replaced with Heloise?

  18. Mambru says:

    Damn what’s the hate with Phil?

  19. gman863 says:

    Hint: If you wash pillows in a standard top-load washing machine, wash them in pairs.

    Putting in just one pillow will cause the washing machine to become grossly unbalanced in the spin cycle, either triggering the off-balance load sensor or possibly damaging the washing machine.

  20. BackInBlack says:

    This “fluff” piece (couldn’t resist a good pun) is as useless as the crap Yahoo has on their front page of ‘news’ every day.

  21. clickable says:

    Didn’t read all the other comments, apologize if this was said:
    (1) Absolutely go ahead and wash the pillows! Also, other down objects, as long as the casing they are in is washable. Also, feather pillows. Do not fear the “dry clean only” label! Do it the right way and you’ll wonder why everyone thinks you can’t wash down pillows and blankets.
    (2) Gentle cycle, no bleach, coolest water temp. When the pillows are wet, you will likely see that they are mottled with gray. Don’t worry. This is not an unexpected stain. The down in the pillows is that color, more or less, and when the pillow’s casing is wet it becomes a little transparent and looks somewhat gray. It will disappear when the pillow is dry.
    (3) When you dry them, stick a tennis ball or an absolutely pristine (preferably brand new) white sneaker or something similar into the dryer, which will beat around the down as it dries and get back its fluffiness. Same principle as when you “fluff up” a pillow by beating on it.
    (4) After it went through the dryer 3 or 4 times, let it go 3 or 4 more and maybe a few more than that. The more environmentally-friendly option is to let them go through the dryer two or three times, then put them in a protected, warm spot or in sunshine for a long, long, long time. Like a few days or a week. Don’t take shortcuts. The potential problem is that if they are not thoroughly bone-dry, they can develop mildew, and since it will be in the core of the pillow, it will take a while till you notice. And, of course, once they are mildewed, you can throw them out. Drying extremely thoroughly will prevent this problem.

    You might think they are dry at some point after two or three dryer cycles. At that stage, double the time to dry them, i.e., if they went through three cycles, do three cycles more. It’s likely that they could feel fairly dry to the touch but still be somewhat damp deep down where you can’t readily feel it. So when you think they’re dry, repeat the drying sequence and then still add some time in the sunshine. Getting them perfectly, utterly, totally bone-dry is the key to doing this successfully.

    Just last week, I washed two pillows and a queen-size comforter, and they look like they just came from the store. It really, really, really renewed the pillows to their original robust fluffiness.

    Washing down pillows and blankets doesn’t have to be done very often especially if you are using pillow protectors and duvet covers to keep the down items clean. Not very often = maybe even once every five or seven years, or even every decade. This is true especially for large quilts, but if your pillows aren’t as fluffy as they used to be, don’t hesitate to wash them and don’t forget that you need to dry them thoroughly to prevent mildew.

    Next tutorial, how to wash fine Persian rugs by hanging them on a clothesline and rubbing them with snow. Yes, really. Although, to be honest, that’s probably a job best left to the pros.

  22. Captain Packrat says:

    You actually should replace your pillows every so often. Hair, body oil and skin cells make your pillow a haven for bacteria and dust mites. Cheap polyfill pillows should be replaced every year or two, feather pillows every 5 to 10 years. You can increase the life of your pillows by using a waterproof protector.

    I tend to really smoosh up my pillows every night, so I always buy feather pillows. They are more expensive, but they can be refluffed very easily.