How To Rescue Your Old Yellowed Pillows


Over time, those fluffy new pillows can attract dirt and dust, becoming discolored and unattractive. Don’t toss out those ugly pillows, rescue them instead!

It’s just a reality of life: over time sweat and natural oils from your body will seep into your pillow while you sleep, attracting dust, dirt, and other nasty elements. However, that doesn’t change the fact that discolored and yellowed pillows are not very attractive! A few years ago I was mourning the state of our pillows, and had accepted that I probably needed to go out and buy some new ones. But I thought I may as well see if I could find any info online about washing pillows before I chucked them in the trash.

During my research, I discovered the following process and decided to give it a try. The results were so impressive that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! So that’s what I’m doing today; I’m taking to my virtual rooftop to share the secret to saving your dirty, yellowed pillows. I know you’ll be as impressed with the results as I was! 🙂

How To Wash and Whiten Yellowed Pillows

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup powdered laundry detergent
  • 1 cup powdered dishwasher detergent
  • 1 cup bleach (or bleach alternative)
  • 1/2 cup borax


First, check the tag on your pillow to confirm that it’s washable. Most feather down and synthetic pillows can be safely washed!Remove the pillow case and pillow protector, if present.

Step 1 – Hot Water Soak

The first step in the cleaning process is to soak your dirty pillows in hot water. This will give the cleaning ingredients a head-start on dissolving those tough stains! (If you have a top-loading washing machine, you can do the soak right in your washer. For those with front-loading washers, or if your top-loader doesn’t have a soak function, you can do the soak in a separate container or in your bathtub.)

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil on your stovetop. Stir the laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and borax into the boiling water, and stir until the powdered ingredients dissolve. You could also pour the water into a bucket and then add the dry ingredients, if you don’t want to mix cleaning ingredients inside a cooking pot.

When the dry ingredients have dissolved into the water, pour the water into the washer (or wherever you’re soaking your pillows) along with the bleach. Then let the pillows soak in the water for about 30 minutes. You should also flip the pillows over about half-way through the soak, to make sure that they’re getting fully saturated.

Step 2 – Machine Wash

Following the soak, run the pillows through a full wash cycle in your washing machine. Select the 2nd rinse option, if possible.

Step 3 – Dry

Finally, all that’s left to do is dry your pillows. If you have down pillows, put them into your dryer on the “fluff” or “air” setting. Synthetic pillows can be dried on low heat. Add a couple of tennis balls or homemade dryer balls to the dryer to help fluff the pillows as they dry.

Our Production Manager Brittany offered to test out this method on a couple of her dirtied pillows. Check out that “before and after!” The pillows went from grungy and grimy to looking brand new, and the difference was even more dramatic in person. Give it a try for yourself, and see what you think!

Does this work for memory foam pillows?
Typically yes, but be sure to check the tags. Memory foam will take much longer to dry, though, so be sure to give it plenty of time in the dryer on a lower heat setting than you might otherwise use. If you want to dry outside, make sure there is a nice breeze to provide plenty of opportunity for the super-dense memory foam to air out.

Is this ok for down feather pillows?
Definitely. Follow the advice above for down feather pillows – be sure to allow plenty of time on a fluff of air setting, but be sure to machine dry since the dryer balls will help keep the feathers from clumping as they dry (believe me, you won’t like the result of wet, clumpy feathers marinating at high temperatures…)