Can You Wash Throw Pillows in the Washing Machine?

Decorative throw pillows put the finishing touches on any home. However, like most soft surfaces they are dust and allergen traps. Every three to four months you should be cleaning your throw pillows.

Most throw pillows can be put in the washing machine and also the dryer provided you use gentle settings. For those that cannot be machine washed, spot treatments and hand-washing are the way to go.

You can look at the pillow’s tag to identify which is which. If your pillow does not have a tag, the material it is made from will give a clue.

Can You Wash Throw Pillows with Removable Covers?

Washing throw pillows that have removable covers is easy – simply take off the cover and wash it. You do not need to wash the actual pillow in most cases, since it is protected from dust by the cover. The exception is when you get the pillow soiled itself, such as with a big spill. In this case you can put the pillow into the washer separately from the cover using the method for washing pillows without removable covers.

How to Wash Throw Pillow Covers

The interior of the pillowcase usually has a tag with care instructions including washing cycle and temperature. If it does not, I usually ere on the side of caution and washing it in cold water on a gentle cycle. Most pillow covers can by put in the dryer, or you can hang dry them in a well-ventilated area.

Washing Throw Pillows with Non-removable Covers

If your throw pillows do not have removeable covers, then they need to be cleaned as an entire unit. Despite this, they can sometimes still be washed. When washing entire pillows, keep in mind that you need to balance the load in the washer. If too much of the washer’s contents is on one side, then it could put undue stress on the tumbling mechanisms and break the machine. Your pillow is not heavy now, but it will be when soaked. To avoid unbalanced loads, try to wash pillows in sets of two.

Washing Throw Pillows with Non-removable Covers

How to Wash Throw Pillows

If your throw pillows have a tag, follow those instructions. These instructions are personalized for that product and should supersede my advice. If it does not have a tag, then this is usually a good general procedure:

  1. Take the throw pillows and place them into the washer. Do not wash more pillows at once than can fit in your machine – usually washing machines work best when the drum is halfway full of clothes or less. If you have a top loading washer, make sure to evenly distribute the weight of the pillows to prevent undue stress on your machine.
  2. Next, use a small amount of color safe detergent (and fabric softener if you like). Using less than normal will prevent soap buildup in the stuffing of the pillows.
  3. Turn the washer settings to cold water and the most delicate cycle. You want to achieve cleanliness with as little heat and agitation as possible.
  4. Let the cycle run all the way through. I like to keep an ear out to make sure the washing machine does not become unbalanced during the washing process.
  5. Dry the pillows in a dryer (see below) or allow to airdry in a well-ventilated area. To keep the pillows from getting lumpy, fluff them when they are halfway dry.

How to Clean Throw Pillows That Cannot Be Machine Washed

Some throw pillows cannot be machine washed. These will have a tag on them somewhere saying so. Usually pillows made from silk, rayon, or feathers are not machine washable. If your pillows cannot be machine washed, you can use a wet sponge and a good upholstery cleaner to clean them.

  1. First, wet the sponge with cold water.
  2. Then apply a bit of upholstery cleaner to the pillow.
  3. Using the sponge, work the soap into the dirty area thoroughly. Repeat until all the dirt is out of the fabric.
  4. Allow the pillow to air dry in a well-ventilated area.

Handwashing Throw Pillows

In severe cases, spot cleaning may not be enough, in which case you may need to hand wash the throw pillows. When handwashing pillows, it is always best to do them one at a time to reduce the amount of time each one spends submerged.

  1. Fill a tub or sink with cold water.
  2. Add a small amount of detergent.
  3. Swish your hand in the water until the detergent bubbles.
  4. Submerge the pillow completely in the soapy water. Rub the stain gently with your fingers or a sponge until it disappears.
  5. Move the pillow back and forth to push water through the entire structure.
  6. Drain the tub.
  7. Press the soaked pillow in the empty tub to remove excess water.
  8. Fluff the pillow and leave in a well-ventilated area to air dry.

Putting Throw Pillows in the Dryer

Most machine washable throw pillows can also be put in the dryer. Drying them this way limits how long they are wet and helps prevent bacteria and mold growth. For the best results, use a low heat low tumbler dryer setting. To help prevent the pillows from becoming lumpy you can dry them with dryer balls and fluff them midway through the drying cycle.

Final Thoughts

While it can at first be intimidating, maintaining decorative throw pillows is not that difficult. Many pillows have removable covers, which can be washed to keep them looking fresh and new. For those without removeable covers, most can be washed as a whole unit. Just make sure to keep that water cold!

A few pillows do not fall into either of these categories and must always be washed by hand. These usually say hand wash only on the tag or are made of a fabric that you would not normally machine wash like rayon, silk, or down feathers. To help keep your throw pillows soft and fluffy through multiple washes, fluff them when they are halfway dry.