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How often should throw pillows be washed?

Throw pillows are a great way to add comfort, style, and personality to any living space. However, like most home furnishings, they require some maintenance to keep them looking and feeling their best. Here we’ll look at how often throw pillows should be washed and best practices for keeping them fresh.

How Often to Wash Throw Pillows

In general, most experts recommend washing throw pillow covers every 1-2 weeks. The pillow inserts can be washed every 2-3 months. However, the optimal washing frequency can vary based on the following factors:

  • Material – Pillows made from delicate fabrics like silk or velvet may only need washing every 2-3 months. More durable cottons and synthetics can be washed more often.
  • Use – Pillows in high-traffic areas like sofas or beds may need washing more frequently than accent pillows. Pillows used as back support should be washed regularly for hygiene.
  • Environment – Pillows in homes with pets or smokers may need more frequent washing to remove odors, dander, and smoke residue.
  • Weather – Hot, humid climates can cause pillows to become soiled and damp more quickly.
  • Personal Preference – Some people are more sensitive to odors and prefer washing pillows more often for freshness.

Pay attention to any visible soil or odors developing on the pillows. If they seem dirty or smelly before the recommended washing timeframe, go ahead and launder them. It’s better to wash them more often than needed rather than having them get overly dirty between washes.

Washing Pillow Covers

Follow these steps to properly wash pillow covers:

  1. Check the care label – This will indicate washing instructions like water temperature and if bleach can be used.
  2. Shake off any loose debris – Gently shake pillows outside before washing to remove dust, crumbs, etc.
  3. Use a pillowcase or lingerie bag – Placing covers in a bag will prevent damage during the wash cycle.
  4. Wash in cold or warm water – Hot water can cause fading. Use cold for bright or dark colors.
  5. Use a gentle detergent – Liquid detergents dissolve better than powder in cold water.
  6. Gentle wash cycle – Aggressive agitation can damage fabrics and cause pilling.
  7. Line dry or tumble dry on low – High heat drying can damage, shrink, or warp fabrics.

It’s best to wash pillow covers individually or with like colors to prevent bleeding or transfer of dyes onto lighter fabrics. Avoid overloading the washing machine, which can lead to wrinkling and uneven cleaning.

Washing Pillow Inserts

Pillow inserts should be washed less frequently than covers. Follow these steps when it’s time to clean them:

  1. Check the insert label – Look for any special washing instructions.
  2. Shake off debris – Gently shake inserts outside before washing.
  3. Use a large capacity machine – Allows items to move freely during the wash cycle.
  4. Wash two inserts at a time – Washing solo can create excess friction and damage.
  5. Use cold water – Hot water could damage or shrink the fill material.
  6. Gentle cycle – Aggressive agitation can destroy fill clumps and damage the insert.
  7. Extra rinse cycle – Removes all detergent residue that could irritate skin.
  8. Tumble dry low – Inserts take longer than covers to dry thoroughly.

It’s best to wash two inserts at a time to help balance the load. Make sure to run an extra rinse cycle to completely remove all traces of detergent.

How to Freshen Between Washes

To help pillows stay fresher longer between full launderings, you can occasionally use these quick cleaning methods:


Use a handheld vacuum with an upholstery attachment to remove dust, dander, and surface debris from pillow covers and inserts. This can be done as needed, even weekly.

Spot cleaning

Mix a mild laundry detergent with warm water and use a sponge or soft cloth to gently spot clean any visible stains on covers or inserts. Let air dry completely.

Fabric refreshing spray

Spray pillows lightly with an odor eliminating fabric refresher. Allow to dry fully before using or replacing covers.

Airing out

On sunny, breezy days, place pillow inserts outside to air out for a few hours. The sunlight and fresh air will help remove odors.


Place pillow inserts in a sealed plastic bag and freeze for 24-48 hours. Freezing can kill odor causing bacteria and allergens. Be sure inserts are fully dried before returning to covers.

Signs It’s Time to Wash

Here are some signs that pillows are due for a washing:

  • Visible stains or soiling
  • Strong musty or mildew smell
  • Noticeable odor even after airing out
  • Pet dander, hair, or allergen buildup
  • Accumulation of body oils, sweat, and skin cells
  • Greasy spots or reside
  • Wrinkled, clumped appearance

Don’t wait until pillows are heavily soiled to launder them. The sooner stains and odors are removed, the more likely the pillows will come fully clean and not retain any lingering smells.

Extending Time Between Washes

You can help keep pillows cleaner longer by doing the following:

  • Use pillow protectors – These create a barrier against oils, sweat, etc penetrating the pillow.
  • Rotate/flip pillows weekly – Distributes wear, oils, and dirt evenly.
  • Vacuum pillows frequently using the upholstery attachment.
  • Spot clean stains immediately to prevent setting in.
  • Spray with fabric refresher periodically.
  • Wash pillowcases 1-2 times per week.
  • Avoid eating or drinking on/near pillows.

When to Replace Pillows

Even with regular washing, pillows do wear out over time. Here are signs it’s time to replace them:

  • Thin, flat appearance that does not re-fluff
  • Lumpy, uneven filling
  • Staining that does not come clean
  • Strong, lingering odors
  • Visible deterioration like ripped seams

On average, pillows should be replaced every 1-2 years for optimal comfort and support. Down or feather pillows may start losing their loft sooner. Memory foam and poly-fill pillows can sometimes last closer to 2 years. Pay attention to any change in comfort, support, or appearance as a sign it’s time for a new pillow.


To keep throw pillows clean and inviting, most experts recommend washing the removable covers every 1-2 weeks and the inner pillow inserts every 2-3 months. However, always defer to the care instructions, inspect pillows regularly for visible soil or odors, and adjust the washing frequency as needed. Proper laundering, prompt spot cleaning, and periodic freshening can help extend the lifespan of pillows. Replace them promptly at the first signs of wear for best hygiene and comfort.