How Can Feather Pillows Be Kept Clean?

Updated February 21, 2017

Feather pillows need to be kept clean because dead skin, fungus, dust mites and oils build up inside them over time. Dirty pillows can irritate people with allergies and decrease the life of the bedding. But feather pillows are delicate and can be hard to clean without damaging them. They are made from duck or goose feathers, which naturally are water resistant, and detergent is easily trapped within the pillow if it's not rinsed correctly. Feather pillow manufacturers recommend washing them every six months to keep them clean.

Pillowcases and Protectors

Always protect pillows by covering them with two pillowcases. This keeps them clean for longer. Pillowcases capture body oil, saliva and dust, keeping them from being absorbed into the pillows. It's important to wash the pillowcases every week and replace them when they become old. There also are specially designed pillow protectors with polyester filling, making them thicker than pillowcases and increasing the barrier between the pillowcase and pillow. These should be washed with your pillow cases.

Surface Cleaning

Surface cleaning refreshes feather pillows between washes. This doesn't clean the feathers but can remove dirt and debris from the cotton ticking (the fabric that holds the feathers inside). Clean the pillow with a damp sponge and refresh it using fabric spray.


Some feather pillows are unsuitable for washing machines but can be hand washed. This method of cleaning is advisable for older pillows that have weak seams or loose feathers easily. Ensure there are no tears in the pillows before washing. Submerge them in warm water and add a small amount of washing detergent. Squeeze out the air and let the pillows soak for two hours. Empty the water from the sink and rinse the pillows in fresh water. Hang them outside and fluff every 20 minutes until dry.

Washing Machines

Most feather pillows can be washed on a delicate cycle in a front-loading washing machine (these are usually gentler than top-loading ones). It's best to wash them in pairs because this balances the drum. Inspect the pillows and repair any holes or tears they may have. Soak the pillows first, either in the sink or in the machine if it has a soak cycle. Use a small amount of detergent and keep an eye on the machine as it washes. Perform a second rinse to ensure all the detergent has been washed out. Place them in the dryer on a low setting. Add a clean sneaker or a pair or dryer balls, which plump the pillows and moves the feathers around, keeping them from drying in clumps. Stop the dryer and plump the pillows by hand every 20 minutes. Remove pillows as soon as they are dry.

Specialist Cleaning

Some feather pillows are only suitable for dry cleaning; this will be noted on the care label. Dry cleaners have machines that remove dirt and other particles from the feathers and kill bacteria using ultraviolet light. This method requires the feathers to be removed from their case and restuffed inside a new one.

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About the Author

Charlotte Hills began writing in 2007. She is a published children's novelist and a freelance home, garden and craft writer. Her work has been published in "You Magazine" and "Hampshire Life." Hills has a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Bath Spa University.