How to get mildew smell out of pillows

Updated February 21, 2017

If your pillows were in a damp area and now smell like mould or mildew, you don't necessarily need to throw them away. Pillows that absorbed musty odours are often salvageable. If, however, you notice actual mould growth on the pillow surface, you may need to discard it. While mild mould growth can sometimes be removed, the mildewed pillows may pose a risk to your health if the mould is severe or has eaten through the fabric.

Check the pillow fabric for mould growth, which typically appears as green or black spots. Brush any spots away in an outdoor area to prevent the spores from spreading inside.

Clean lightly mildewed fabric surfaces by saturating the spot with lemon juice and sprinkling a thin layer of salt over it. Rub the mixture on the fabric, lay it in sunlight for about 12 hours or until it dries, and rinse it.

Launder feather or polyester pillows in the washing machine, using warm water, detergent and chlorine bleach. Use the extra rinse cycle. Wash foam pillows by hand with warm water and detergent.

Dry feather or polyester pillows at a moderate heat setting, or wring water from them by hand and hang them in the sun to dry. Dry foam pillows in your dryer with no heat or hang them to dry away from sunlight.


Check the care instructions on your pillows to ensure proper handling. Rub either damp salt or a cut lemon on the stain if you don't have salt and juice to combine. Wash two pillows in the machine instead of one. This balances the load. Put towels or clean tennis shoes in the dryer to speed drying time. Put tennis balls in the dryer to plump the pillows.


Exposure to mould can trigger asthma attacks, respiratory complaints and allergic reactions. Mold or mildew will continue to multiply if an article is not dried thoroughly. Test fabrics for colour fastness when using lemon juice or bleach. Lemon has a bleaching effect.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Water
  • Detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
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