Body pillows are pretty amazing. They support you while you sleep. They relieve your pain. They might even help you change your sleep position. However, if you don’t take care of them, they won’t last as long. To get the most out of your body pillow, you’ll need to wash it and take other action to maintain it. Let’s talk about what you need to do.
Steps for Washing Your Pillow
Check the Label
Before you wash your pillow, you’ll need to know the care instructions. New body pillows should come with a care label attached to the cover or pillow. They may also come with a set of care instructions if they don’t have a tag.
These care instructions will list whether or not the pillow can be washed at all (some are dry-clean only), as well as the best water temperature and dryer heat setting. Be sure you’re following the instructions carefully. If you don’t, you can ruin your pillow.
Wash the Pillow Alone and Uncovered
You should always wash your body pillow by itself, not only because many body pillows are way too big to go in the washer with other items, but also because the pillow may not get clean if it’s washed with other pieces.
Sheets, towels, and clothing items tend to wrap themselves around body pillows in the washer and dryer, impeding the wash cycle and the dry cycle and leaving your pillow either unclean or wet or both. So make sure you’re washing the pillow and all other items (including the cover) separately.
Dry On Low
Even if your care label says you can dry your pillow on medium heat, you should really avoid using this and higher settings. Heat can reduce the life expectancy of your pillow’s fabric casing and its filling. So always use the lowest setting that will get it dry, and never tumble dry a pillow that says not to do so.
Fluff the Pillow
Always fluff your pillow after washing and/or drying it. This helps get the filling back to its original loft and the pillow back to its original shape.
Other Ways to Maintain Your Pillow
Wash the Cover
Part of the reason pillows come with a removable cover is so you don’t have to wash them as much. This is especially true of body pillows, whose shape and length may make it impossible for you to use a case with them.
If your body pillow has a removable cover, you should wash it as often as you wash your sheets (once per week at least). That way, you can reduce the frequency with which you need to wash the pillow itself.
Shake It Off
Shaking your uncovered pillow can help redistribute the filling back through the pillow, allowing it to maintain its loft between washings. Shaking the pillow also removes built-up dust, pollen, and allergens. Just make sure you’re shaking it outside or in a ventilated area.
Spot Clean It
Spills happen, and there are plenty of other things that can stain your pillow’s cover (including makeup, skincare products, hair care products, and even just plain old body oils). If you find a small stain on your body pillow or its cover, there are a few things you can do to remove it.
Depending on the color and chemical composition of the stain, you can try things like baking soda, lemon juice, borax powder, liquid bluing, or hydrogen peroxide.
Fill Suitability for Washing
Some fills are fine to wash, while others are dry-clean only. Most body pillows will specify on their care label whether they’re machine-washable. However, if you somehow wind up with a body pillow with no instructions, here are some general rules.
Down is made of the soft, fluffy feathers that protect geese and ducks from cold water. Natural down is never machine-washable. Getting wet will cause the individual feathers of a down pillow to clump. Many down feathers will never un-clump again, and this can lead to lumpiness and loss of loft and flexibility. Down should only ever be dry-cleaned.
Fiberfill (also called microfiber, down alternative, or poly-fill) is a pillow stuffing made with synthetic fibers—polyester is the most common. Most of the time, synthetic fibers are machine washable, though it’s better if you know the composition of the fibers so you can be sure you can toss your body pillow in the washer and/or dryer.
Polyester fiber is generally washer-safe, but other fibers like nylon may not be. Always use the gentle cycle to be sure.
Latex is a foam made from the sap of the rubber tree. Latex is not machine-washable either, but you can hand-wash it in a bathtub with warm water and a mild detergent.
Pour a mix of soapy water over your pillow and squeeze it until it suds. Rinse the latex pillow with clean water and dry it in the sun or under a fan. Dry the pillow as fast as possible so it doesn’t develop mold.
Memory foam is a special type of polyurethane foam designed to both cushion and support the human body. Like down, memory foam pillows are not machine-washable.
Washing the pillow and throwing it in the dryer can ruin the structure of memory foam. Agitation in the washer and tumbling in the dryer can also rip the foam. Either dry clean your pillow or try hand washing it like you’d wash latex.
Sometimes pillows can come with natural fibers like buckwheat or cotton. Cotton pillows are typically machine washable, but buckwheat pillows cannot be tossed whole into the washing machine. You’ll need to transfer the buckwheat hulls to a bag or bucket before washing the pillow’s case and/or cover.
Make sure the cover’s dry before putting the hulls back into the pillow. Even the smallest amount of moisture can ruin buckwheat hulls.
Body Pillow Shapes
Rectangular pillows are just really long regular pillows. They’re typically around 54 inches long. These pillows are great for side sleepers who don’t roll around a lot and hot sleepers who don’t want to be fully wrapped in a pillow. They’re also good for stomach sleepers looking to train themselves to sleep on their sides.
C-shaped pillows wrap around your body and leave a gap in the side, either around your belly or your back. These pillows are between 50 and 70 inches long and are a good choice for side sleepers who prefer the fetal position. These pillows also make the best body pillows for pregnant women looking for comfortable belly support.
U-shaped pillows curve around your body like a horseshoe, leaving a gap at your feet. These pillows are normally well over 100 inches long from end to end. They’re a great option for back sleepers and side sleepers who like to be cradled in the back and front.
In addition to the three most common body pillow shapes listed above, you might also run across J-shaped pillows, L-shaped pillows, V-shaped pillows, or curly body pillows that are so flexible they don’t really have a shape.
How often should I clean my body pillow?
The answer to that question depends on how often you wash your pillow cover and how heavily you use it, but the general rule is you should clean your body pillow (and other pillows) every 3 to 6 months.
If you don’t wash your pillow cover all that often or you tend to sweat a lot while you sleep, you’ll need to wash your body pillow more frequently. If you take care of your cover or don’t use your body pillow every night, you can wash it less often.
What happens if you don’t clean your body pillow?
If you don’t clean your body pillow, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. The buildup of sweat and body oils offers organisms a medium for reproduction, and moisture accumulation makes it easy for mildew to get a foothold.
A dirty pillow can also exacerbate your allergies. Dust and pollen can accumulate inside your pillow if you don’t wash it—as can dust mites and other pests. Failing to wash your pillows, sheets, and other bedding can also put you at risk of bed bugs, especially if you like to travel a lot.
Do I need a high-capacity washer for my body pillow?
That depends on the size of your body pillow. You might be able to fit a standard-sized rectangular body pillow into a regular washing machine. However, U-shaped, C-shaped, and other body pillows are often much longer and wider than rectangular pillows. For these pillows, you may need to head out to the laundromat to find a high-capacity washer and dryer.
What kind of detergent should I use on my body pillow?
You’ll need a mild detergent for both your body pillow and its cover. Mild detergents don’t contain abrasives or enzymes—only surface-active agents. These detergents will remove dirt and oil without damaging your pillow or its cover.
In addition to avoiding harsh detergents, you should also avoid using hot water when you machine wash your pillow and high heat when you dry it. Always clean both your body pillow and body pillow cover on the coolest, gentlest setting.
How frequently do I have to replace my body pillow?
That depends on the fill. Latex lasts the longest—between 10 and 15 years, while synthetic fills like microfiber have the shortest life expectancy (as little as 6 months). Cotton will typically last around 1 to 2 years, memory foam will last 2 to 3 years, down will last between 5 and 10 years, and buckwheat pillows can be expected to last 10 years as long as you replace their filling on occasion.
Body pillows can be a boon for your sleep quality and the quality of your life. They offer support to your whole body and can last a long time, assuming you maintain them. To get the most out of your body pillow, make sure you’re cleaning it according to the care instructions, you wash the cover at least once a week, and you shake and fluff it enough to help it maintain its shape and loft.
Chris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at the University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.
After suffered from sleep disorders for years, Chris has been passionate about sleep health ever since. He wants to help others sleep better and wanted to make the world of sleep easy to understand for everyday people.