I read somewhere that ideally we should replace pillows and cushions every 2 years. And here I am, with pillows I have inherited from my ancestors – I mean, they are really old, though not that old, but you see what I mean. The least I can do is clean them, every now and then.
As far as I know, Dust mites are the enemies inside these things – pillows and square cushions become filled with these tiny micro-organisms after some time, and they cause so many problems – like asthma and allergies which lead to skin irritations, cold, sneezing, headaches, etc. But you need to have spiderman vision to see these tiny insects – they are invisible to the eye, but constantly in attack mode. To escape from these attacks, you have to remove them by proper cleaning, periodically.
Other issues are stains and mildew – the dust, old skin from your body, natural body oil, creams and hair oils used, sweat etc mixes with moisture and creates stains and even mold. Those cause even more horrors.
So if you want to steer clear of these problems either replace the pillows or clean them.
Protect your cushions
The first thing you can do is to protect the cushions, and pillows from dust and moisture. To prevent dust build-up, you can do what my ever-careful, mother-in-law does – cover the pillows with multiple covers (pillow shells) This way the unwashable outer cover of the pillow doesnot get dirty and the pillow fill also doesnot get dirty.
She uses as many as 3 covers inside the final covering to prevent the dust mite attack. I can die trying to be like her and still never be, so I never try. But I still have enough sense to have one extra covering inside. This way I do not have to clean the pillows/cushions inside as frequently.
Use a dehumidifier in bedrooms to prevent mildew growth in pillows, especially if you live in a place with high humidity.
How to clean pillows and cushions
Your pillows and cushions may be filled with feathers, cotton or polyfill/fiberfill or foam rubber. Whatever the filling, the pillows should be cleaned every 6 months or so. The pillow cases/cushion covers are to be cleaned every now and then, just as frequently as you would clean your bedsheets.
If it is filled with polyfill or even foam rubber, you can wash them and dry them thoroughly for an easy clean, in the washing machine. You can use shampoo or mild detergent to wash the cushions/pillows and a dash of vinegar or disinfectant liquid for a more thorough clean. Use cold water and a gentle cycle and put not more than 2 pillows in the machine tub. You can keep one or two old tennis balls along with pillows so that the polyfill remain fluffy (and do not get clumped together).
Dry in the machine itself with a very low heat setting and then lay flat on a rack to dry thoroughly in the sun to remove the last trace of moisture. Shake and fluff the pillows to bring them back to the fluffy form.
Pillows filled with feathers can also be washed but this depends on what the manufacturer specifies in the care label of your particular pillow. Some may be washed at home, some needs professional cleaning – there are shops which will do a good job of refreshing your feather pillow. They will use a dry heat process to sanitise the pillow properly – no more bed bugs, dust mites and dead skin cells.
If you are washing your feather filled at home the filling needs to be taken out of its cover and then put into a fabric bag of sorts and then clean it. The outer cover can be cleaned seperately or replaced by another pillow shell. The pillow shell needs to be made of a densely woven high thread count fabric through which small parts from the feather would not pass through.
How to clean unwashable Pillows
(Other than giving for dry-cleaning)
If you have a very thick pillow and you are not sure of drying it very easily after washing it, clean only the surface. You can do the cleaning with a liquid detergent solution and a sponge. You can mix the liquid detergent in water and make a sudsy solution by briskly whisking it. Use these suds to spot clean your pillow and mattress surface. Use another wet sponge to clean off the suds. Pat and dry with a clean towel. Then use another dampened clean cloth to take out the remaining soap suds. Dry again with a dry towel.
Do not soak the pillow or cushion at any point in time. Moisture, if left on these things can cause more damage than the dust. Air dry (preferably in sunlight) or use a blow dryer to dry the surface.
Updated on October 23, 2022 by Sarina Tariq