Woman on bed with pillows

How to wash down and feather pillows — and why you should.

Last Updated: March 8, 2021

Down and feather pillows are the pinnacle of luxury. We love them for their ultra-plush feel, fantastic support, and easy maintenance. With proper care, these pillows last more than three times as long as synthetic and foam alternatives. But do you know how to wash down and feather pillows? You will, after you read this helpful guide.

What are the differences between down and feather pillows?

Down and feather pillows are terms that are often used interchangeably. They aren’t one and the same, though, and knowing the difference is important when choosing which pillow you want to lay your head on each night.

Down pillows are made of feathers taken from the chest and underbelly of geese and ducks. These feathers don’t contain quills and are prized for their supreme softness. Down pillows have a longer lifespan than feather pillows and don’t compact as easily.

Feather pillows are a less-expensive alternative to down. Feathers from the back and wings of ducks and geese are used as fill and are typically mixed with some down to add extra softness. These feathers contain quills, so over time, you might find the occasional feather poking through. Go ahead and pull it out — it’s very satisfying.


Defend the ducks & guard the geese

Obviously, feather and down pillows aren’t vegan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean ducks and geese are harmed in the making of cozy bedding. Look for pillows with ethical-down certifications from the Responsible Down Standard or Global Traceable Down Standard to ensure your feather and down products are sourced humanely.

Treating stains on pillows

If you’re human, you’ve found stains on your pillows from drool, makeup, or hair product. But stains and that yellow discoloration we’ve all experienced isn’t anything to panic over — it’s totally normal and, better yet, easy to clean. To spot-treat stains, concoct a mixture of a little water and a few drops of mild laundry detergent, dip the corner of a microfiber cloth in the solution, and dab and gently rub at the stain until it’s gone. Rinse with another corner of the cloth dipped in clean water.

What are the most common stains on pillows?

Pillow stains most often come from a build-up of body oil, sweat, and body care products like face lotion, hair spray, and toothpaste.

Use this homemade formula to clean almost any stain on your pillow

Yellow muscle illustration

Too many soap suds make the down and feathers in your pillows stick together. This simple, low-sudsing formula freshens your pillows and gets rid of yellow stains without clumping.

What you’ll need (per 2 pillows):

  • 1 cup powdered laundry detergent
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1 cup non-chlorine bleach
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • What to do:

    Bring the water to a boil, and transfer it to a bucket or bowl that you won’t be eating out of. Mix in the laundry detergent, bleach, and Borax until dissolved.

    Put your pillows in the washer, and fill it so that the pillows are completely saturated. Add the cleaning solution, and allow the pillows to soak for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a soak option on your washer, use your bathtub. After the pillows have soaked, wash and dry as directed.


Forego the fabric softener

When you’re washing down pillows, skip the fabric softener, and don’t use detergents that contain it. Fabric softener coats the down and feathers in your pillows, compacting them and reducing their fluff.

How to wash down and feather pillows in the washing machine

Washing your down and feather pillows at home reinvigorates them and saves you a trip to the dry cleaner’s. Follow these steps to keep your pillows fluffy and soft.

Step 1: Remove the cover.

Most down and feather pillows come with a protective cover. Remove this cover and set it aside to be washed later.

Step 2: Balance things out.

Always wash two pillows at a time to keep your washing machine from getting out of balance on the spin cycle. If you don’t have two down pillows, use a poly-fill pillow, or toss in a blanket.

Step 3: Choose the right water temperature and cycle.

Wash your down pillows in cold water. If you use warm or hot water, some shrinkage might occur. Set the machine on the gentle cycle, which has lower spin speeds and a shorter wash cycle that help prevent your pillows from being exposed to unnecessary — and potentially harmful — agitation.

Step 4: Use a gentle detergent.

If possible, use a detergent that’s formulated for washing down. Otherwise, use a very small amount of mild, natural laundry detergent that’s free of fabric softeners and chemicals like bleach and synthetic fragrance.

Step 5: Run an extra rinse cycle.

Program your washer for a second rinse cycle to make sure your pillows are free of any lingering soap residue.

Can you dry down and feather pillows?

Washing machine illustration

Yes! Fluff your pillows after removing them from the washer, and toss them in the dryer with a few wool dryer balls to help fluff them up as they dry. Set the dryer temperature to the medium heat setting. Every 15 minutes, pull the pillows out, and give them a good-hearted beating, using your fingers to break up any clumps that have formed. Drying time depends on the size of your pillows — it could take a few cycles before your pillows are completely dry.

How often should you wash down and feather pillows?

Pillow cases absorb most of the sweat and oil we shed each night but over time, body oil builds up in our pillows, too. To keep your down and feather pillows clean and dander-free, wash them every six months. If you sweat a lot at night or often sleep with products on your face and in your hair, you might consider washing your pillows every three months instead.

When should you replace your pillows?

With annual washing, down and feather pillows will last five to ten years. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: Fold your pillow in half. If it springs back, you’re golden. If it stays folded, it’s probably time to go pillow shopping.

Getting the most out of your down and feather pillows means giving them the TLC they need to stay fluffy and supportive year after year. Try one of these gentle, natural cleansers for the best results.

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the transition to natural cleaning products, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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