Brand-new pillows are definitely one of life’s little luxuries! There’s nothing quite the same as laying your head on a perfect, new pillow and drifting off to dreamland.
This is true no matter what kind of pillow you prefer. When it comes to pillows and preferences, you have a lot to choose from.
Down: Down is often considered the most luxurious pillow type. It’s made from the underbelly feathers of ducks and geese, and it makes a very warm and cozy pillow filling.
They are all natural and they are quite durable, but they aren’t very supportive. Some down pillows are made with cores of foam or latex, or with regular feathers mixed in for more support.
Down pillows with fill power of 600 or greater are recommended. The fill power is the amount of down per cubic inch.
Feathers: Down is the underbelly feathers from ducks and geese, and all the other feathers are just “feathers.” They make supportive, durable pillow filling; however, they are not very soft.
Feathers also tend to clump together and sometimes even poke through the pillow cover, so the pillows need to be fluffed regularly. Sometimes they are mixed with down for added softness.
Kapok: Kapok is the fluff from the seed pods of the rainforest Ceiba tree. As a pillow fill, it feels very similar to down.
Since Kapok is plant-based, it is a good choice for those who want the feel of down but are allergic or do not want to use animal products. These pillows are flammable, which is a serious drawback, and they are also expensive.
Wool: Wool is another natural material used to fill pillows. It is very soft, fluffy, and breathable, so it makes a very nice pillow.
Wool pillows can be 100% sheep’s wool or they can be blended with other pillow fills. Wool pillows are relatively costly, and they need to be dry-cleaned.
Buckwheat: Buckwheat hulls are a natural plant-based pillow fill. They are supportive and squishy, so they contour nicely to the head and neck when you lie down.
Buckwheat hulls can be noisy when they rub against each other. They have also been known to mold or even sprout if the pillow gets wet and stays wet.
Cotton: Cotton is a breathable, soft, natural pillow filling but it does not easily contour to the head and neck. It does tend to go flat over time, and it collects sweat and other buildup.
Latex: Latex foam is breathable, soft, and supportive, and it provides relief to pressure points. Natural latex is environmentally friendly and biodegradable.
You can get latex pillows in a solid, poured block or with shreds of latex stuffed into a pillow cover. Shredded latex contours more easily and block latex is more supportive.
Latex is resistant to mold, mildew, and dust mites so your pillow will stay clean. It is also relatively costly.
Memory Foam: As a pillow fill, memory foam is supportive and responsive. It contours to the head and neck, and relieves pain at pressure points.
Memory foam pillows are available in a solid block or as shredded memory foam stuffed into a pillow cover. Shredded foam pillows are more moldable but do require fluffing.
Microbeads: Microbeads, which are unexpanded polystyrene (EPS) beads, feel squishy and contour to the head and neck. They are breathable and cooling, and they generally provide very good support.
If a pillow cover should tear, microbeads all over the bedroom are a nightmare to collect and clean up, so it is often recommended to double up on zippered pillow protector covers when using microbead pillows.
Innerspring: Innerspring pillows are constructed the same way that innerspring mattresses are, with a steel spring inner layer and a foam or poly fill outer layer, so they are extremely supportive with good airflow. They are also extremely expensive.
Down Alternative: Down alternative is made from microfiber material, and it is designed to mimic the feel of down. It is not quite as luxuriously soft and fluffy, but it is considerably less costly.
Microfiber down alternatives are also hypoallergenic, so people who cannot use feather pillows can still get close to the same feel with down.
Your New Pillow
If you buy your new pillow from a reputable retailer, it’s still in a sealed package, and it smells fresh, so you probably don’t need to wash it. Pillows are clean when they leave the factory and as long as they stay sealed, they do not need to be washed before the first use.
However, it is possible that the pillow may have some chemical smells from the factory, and memory foam pillows may need to off-gas. You don’t want to lie down on a stinky pillow, of course, but you don’t necessarily need to launder the pillows to improve their scent.
If you are able to put the pillow out in the sunshine for a few hours, the UV rays from the sun will eliminate any lingering odors. As a bonus, sun is a natural disinfectant as well so you’ll be able to feel confident that your new pillow is safe and healthy for you to sleep on.
You should be aware that you don’t have to look for bright, strong sunbeams. The brighter, the better, of course, but as long as it’s not pitch black or pouring down rain, there’s enough sun to freshen up your pillow.
It is probably a good idea to wash any pillow protectors, pillow covers, or pillow cases that come with your new pillow. This is what you will be laying your head on, and factory-fresh fabric is often treated with chemicals to prevent wrinkling and keep it looking brand-new.
This looks great on the store shelf but doesn’t feel so great in your bed. Launder these fabric items as you would regularly do.
If you still feel as if you need to wash your new pillow, read on to learn the best ways to do this.
There are lots of different kinds of pillows, so there are lots of different ways to wash them. If the manufacturer has included specific instructions on how to clean the pillow, you should of course adhere to them.
However, if they have not provided any guidance and you want to wash your new pillow – or an existing pillow, for that matter – there are some general guidelines to follow.
Foam or latex pillows: Neither block nor shredded foam pillows can go in the washing machine or the dryer, and they should not be dry-cleaned either. You can wash foam pillows in the bathtub (or any tub or vessel that the pillow fits in).
Fill the bathtub with warm water and mild detergent. Submerge the pillow, let it soak for a few minutes, and then squeeze the soapy water out.
Repeat this a few times, and then rinse with clean water until it runs clear. Squeeze as much water as possible out of the pillow, and let it air-dry (in the sun, if at all possible).
Feather/cotton/synthetic fiber pillows: If your pillow is machine-washable, and most but not all of these pillows are, you can wash them with your regular detergent. Do not overstuff the machine; you should usually not wash more than two pillows at a time.
Use the bulky or large items setting if your washing machine has that. Otherwise, use the gentle cycle with warm water.
Run an extra rinse cycle after the washing machine has finished. You want to make sure that you get all of the detergent out of the pillows.
Dry the pillows in the dryer. Feather pillows should be dried without any heat, and synthetic or cotton pillows can usually tolerate low to medium heat.
For feather pillows, you can toss a couple of clean tennis balls into the dryer with the pillows. This will help break up clumps and keep them nice and fluffy.
Make sure that the pillows are completely dry before you put the cases on and put them on your bed. We recommend sitting them outside in the sun for a few hours.
Buckwheat or microbead pillows: Empty the buckwheat hulls or microbeads out of the pillow. This is another reason to double up on pillow protectors for microbead pillows, since you can just remove the outer protector.
For the buckwheat hulls, spread them on a cookie sheet and set them in the sun for a few hours. This will disinfect and freshen them.
Wash the pillow cover or pillow protector, restuff it, and you’re good to go!
Wool, innerspring, or gel pillows: These cannot be laundered, so you’re going to have to rely on the power of sun and fresh air to freshen up these pillows. You can usually wash the pillow cover or protector, though.
Cleaning Your Pillows
Now that you know how to clean your pillows, you should make sure that you do this regularly. Keeping your pillows clean is much more pleasant for you and it can even prolong the life of your pillows.
It is recommended that you clean your pillows two to four times per year, and you should probably launder the pillow covers or pillow protectors more frequently than that.