Dear Home Ec 101,
I have two boys and a husband, and their pillows usually only last a year. I get the heebie-jeebies when I start noticing stains. I think they occasionally drool in their sleep, have sweaty heads, and the preschooler is prone to midnight nose bleeds….ew. (My pillow is pristine, of course.) When the pillows get nasty I just throw them out and buy new ones. It seems so wasteful! Is this what I’m supposed to do, or is there some secret method for washing pillows? I hate spending money on new pillows, and often put off buying new ones longer than I’d like because of the expense. Yet, every time I’ve tried to wash one I’ve ended up with a sodden, lumpy mess that takes days to dry and never really re-forms into a pillow anyone is willing to sleep on. I’ve tried using tennis balls in the dryer, but it’s never seemed to work for me. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.
(By the way, we use Primaloft pillows.)
Our landfill is filled with pillows.
But of course your pillow is pristine, it’s certainly not full of oils from your head, drool, sweat or dust mites. OK, I’m full of it, pillows are veritable sponges for all the icky stuff that is part of being human.
How To Prevent Pillows From Getting Dirty
To help keep pillows from becoming dirty in the first place, invest in zippered pillow protectors. There are ones specifically marketed as allergy barriers and can be a real blessing for those with allergies. Additionally, changing pillowcases every few days will help prevent the pillow from absorbing oil and moisture. People with oily skin, hello teens, I’m talking to you, may find this helps with breakouts.
How To Wash A Pillow
Always follow label directions, but typically, foam pillows should be hand washed in the tub or a large sink, with a mild detergent. Take care to rinse thoroughly.
Pillows typically are never quite the same after washing, as you have noticed. They also take a long time to dry. Foam pillows should air dry, while down and synthetic down pillows should be fluffed in the dryer, with the tennis ball trick you mentioned.
When To Buy A New Pillow
Pillows should be replaced when they are lumpy, have to be fluffed for support, or when they no longer spring back after being folded in half. Typically this is somewhere between 6 months and 2 years depending on the quality. Old pillows make great pet bedding, give your local animal shelter a call to see if they can use some.
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