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How do you refresh pillows?

Having fresh, fluffy pillows can make all the difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. But pillows lose their loft and compress over time from repeated use. Knowing how to refresh your pillows is key to keeping them comfortable and supportive.

Why Do Pillows Need Refreshing?

There are a few reasons why pillows lose their fluff and need refreshing:

  • Repeated compression – Every time you lay your head on a pillow, the filling becomes compressed. Over time, the pillow cannot re-fluff and regain its original shape.
  • Oil and dirt buildup – Skin oils, hair products, and dirt that transfer to the pillowcase also get absorbed into the pillow over time.
  • Moisture – Humidity and sweat can make pillows feel damp and heavy.
  • Dust mites – These microscopic bugs feed on dead skin cells and debris in pillows.

A flattened, dirty pillow does not only feel uncomfortable, but it also fails to provide adequate support for your head and neck. Refreshing your pillows helps remove built-up gunk and helps restore their loft.

How Often Should You Refresh Your Pillows?

Most pillows should be refreshed every 6 months to 1 year for optimal comfort and support. Here are some signs it’s time to refresh your pillow:

  • Your pillow feels flat, lumpy, or uneven
  • You can feel the filling shifting or balling up inside the pillowcase
  • Your pillow has an odd odor or smells musty
  • You wake up with neck pain or headaches

Certain types of pillows may need refreshing more often:

Pillow Type How Often to Refresh
Down or feather pillows Every 3-6 months
Memory foam pillows Every 12-18 months
Latex pillows Every 18-24 months
Microfiber or polyester pillows Every 6-12 months

Methods to Refresh Pillows

Here are some simple, effective ways to breathe new life into tired pillows:

1. Fluff and Redistribute Filling

For pillows with loose fills like down or feathers, you can manually redistribute and fluff up the filling:

  • Remove pillow cases and massage the filling around to break up lumps.
  • Vigorously shake and squeeze the pillow to redistribute the fill and plump it back up.
  • Use your hands to fluff and add loft to flattened sections.
  • Allow the re-fluffed pillow to fully air out before recovering.

2. Wash Removable Pillow Covers

Pillow protectors and covers should be washed regularly to remove oils, sweat, and dirt:

  • Check the care label and wash covers in the warmest water recommended.
  • Use a mild detergent without added fragrance or dyes.
  • Add 1⁄2 cup of baking soda to help disinfect and deodorize.
  • Add white vinegar during the rinse cycle to remove soap residue.
  • Tumble dry on low heat or air dry.

3. Spot Clean Pillows

For pillows that cannot go in the wash, spot clean stained or soiled areas:

  • Mix warm water and a few drops of mild laundry detergent. Use a soft cloth dipped in the solution to dab away stains.
  • Avoid scrubbing or soaking the pillow. Blot gently and allow spot to fully dry.
  • For tough odors, use white vinegar or lemon juice diluted in water. Blot with a clean cloth.
  • Allow pillow to air out before recovering to prevent mildew.

4. Sanitize and Freshen with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a simple but effective way to sanitize and deodorize pillows:

  • Liberally sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface of the pillow.
  • Gently pat and rub the baking soda in using your hands.
  • Allow the baking soda to sit for at least an hour before vacuuming it off.
  • The baking soda will help absorb odors and neutralize odor-causing bacteria.

5. Fluff Pillows in the Dryer

The heat and tumbling action of a clothes dryer can help fluff up pillows:

  • Place pillows in the dryer by themselves. Add a couple tennis balls if needed.
  • Use the air fluff or no heat cycle to tumble pillows for 20-30 minutes.
  • The tumbling will help pillows regain their loft and bounce back.
  • Remove immediately and allow to cool before recovering.

6. Freshen with Essential Oils

Essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil not only make pillows smell fresh but also have antibacterial properties to sanitize them. There are a couple ways to use essential oils:

  • Lightly mist pillows with a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of your chosen essential oil.
  • Add a couple drops of the essential oil onto a cotton ball or pad. Place inside pillow cases.

Avoid applying oils directly onto pillows as it may stain or damage the filling. Always test oils on a small hidden area first.

When to Replace Pillows

While refreshing extends the life of pillows, they do eventually need replacing. Here are some signs it’s time to toss out that tired, old pillow:

  • Your pillow is over 2 years old
  • It has an very persistent, bad odor even after cleaning
  • You see visible yellow stains or mildew
  • The filling is visibly clumping or shifting around
  • Pillow cannot regain its loft and density even after fluffing

Ideally, most pillows should be replaced every 1-2 years for best comfort and support.

Tips for Keeping Pillows Fresh

Here are some helpful tips to keep your pillows cleaner and fresher for longer between deep cleanings:

  • Use a pillow protector to create a barrier against oils, sweat, and dirt.
  • Wash pillow cases 1-2 times per week.
  • Flip and rotate pillows regularly to evenly distribute wear.
  • Allow pillows to air out and fully dry after washing.
  • Store pillows in a cool, dry place.
  • Vacuum pillow surfaces frequently using an upholstery attachment.
  • Spritz down pillows periodically with an essential oil spray.


It’s amazing what a difference fresh, fluffy pillows can make when it comes to getting your best night’s sleep. Be sure to refresh limp, lumpy pillows every 6-12 months using these simple tricks. Proper care and maintenance will keep your pillows clean, comfy and supportive for many years to come. But don’t hesitate to replace them once they are past their prime. Your rest will thank you!