How to Wash Throw Pillows

Throw pillows can add a fun pop of color and texture to any space. However, like any textile in your home, throw pillows can get dirty over time. Learning how to properly wash them is key to keeping throw pillows looking fresh and new. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to wash throw pillows of any material using common household methods.

Supplies Needed

Washing throw pillows doesn’t require any special equipment. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:

  • Mild Detergent – Look for a gentle laundry detergent, free of dyes and fragrances. Baby shampoo also works well for hand washing delicate fabrics.
  • Washcloths – Have a few clean washcloths on hand to spot clean stains before washing. White cloths make it easiest to see if a stain has been removed.
  • Gentle laundry bag – A mesh bag will keep pillows contained and prevent damage during machine washing. Look for one large enough to fit multiple pillows at once.
  • Vinegar – For pillows prone to holding odors, vinegar helps remove stubborn smells. White vinegar works best.
  • Baking Soda – Baking soda boosts stain-fighting and freshening power. It’s gentle enough for most fabrics.
  • Drying rack – After washing, lay pillows flat to dry on a rack to prevent misshaping.

Preparing Throw Pillows for Washing

Before washing, take a few steps to prepare delicate throw pillows:

Check the Care Label

The care label is your guide to how the pillow should be cleaned. Follow all instructions for fiber content, washing methods, and drying.

Shake Off Dust and Debris

Gently shake pillows outdoors or over a trash bag to remove loose dirt, dust, crumbs, and pet hair. This prevents particles from getting trapped in the fibers.

Spot Clean Stains

Use a damp white washcloth to dab stains before washing. Avoid rubbing, which can further set the stain. For tough stains, spray with amix of vinegar and water.

Zip Up and Close

Check zippers, buttons, and closures to ensure they are secure. Delicate trim and embellishments should be tied up or wrapped with fabric to prevent snagging.

Check the Fill Material

The filling determines whether pillows should be machine washed or hand washed. Most down, fiberfill, and foam pillows can go in the washing machine.

How to Wash Throw Pillow Covers

The outer fabric cover can be removed and machine washed for most throw pillows. Here’s how to clean the covers properly:

Remove the Cover

Unzip or unbutton the closure and remove the cover from the inner pillow form. Shake it gently or lightly vacuum to remove loose particles.

Pretreat Stains

Use a clean, white washcloth dampened with water to blot any visible stains. For tough stains, try dabbing with a vinegar and water solution.

Wash on Gentle Cycle

Place covers in a mesh laundry bag and zip it closed. Wash on the gentle cycle using cool water and a mild detergent. Avoid using fabric softener.

Reshape and Air Dry

Remove covers promptly after washing so they don’t sit in the machine. Gently reshape the fabric and lay flat on a drying rack to air dry.

Check for Shrinkage

If the cover has shrunk slightly, gently stretch and reshape the fabric while still damp. Covers may need resizing after repeated washing.

Once completely dry, place the cover back on its pillow form for a freshly laundered look.

How to Clean Down and Fiberfill Pillows

The most common throw pillow fillings—down and polyester fiberfill—can be washed at home with some special care. Here is the best way to clean these delicate materials:

Check the Label

Read the label to confirm the filling is machine washable. Down and fiberfill that is 100% cotton or polyester is washable.

Use a Gentle Cycle

Machine wash pillows separately on the delicate or gentle cycle using cool water. Hot water can damage or shrink the fibers.

Detergent and Vinegar

Use a very small amount of mild liquid detergent. For extra freshening power, add 1⁄2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Extra Rinse Cycle

Be sure to run an extra rinse cycle after washing to remove all leftover detergent that could irritate skin.

No Heat Drying

Tumble dry low or line dry pillows completely before putting covers back on. Avoid using any heat, which could scorch feathers.

Fluff Regularly

As needed, fluff and reshape pillows over time to maintain even fill distribution and maximum fluffiness.

With some simple precautions, most down and polyfill pillows can be freshened up with regular machine washing.

How to Hand Wash Decorative Throw Pillows

Many decorative throw pillows with delicate embellishments, fabrics, and trim need a very gentle approach. Here’s how to hand wash decorative throw pillows:

Check Labels

Confirm the pillow does not specify “dry clean only.” Most decorative pillows can be carefully hand washed at home.

Use a Bathtub

Fill a bathtub with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent. The tub provides a large surface area for gently agitating the pillows.

Submerge and Agitate

Fully submerge pillows in the soapy water and lightly push and squeeze to release dirt. Avoid scrubbing, wringing, or twisting.

Drain and Rinse

Drain the dirty water and refill the tub with cool clean water to rinse away all soap residues. Repeat rinse if needed.

Roll and Press

Do not wring pillows to remove water. Instead, gently roll pillows in a clean towel to absorb moisture. Then, press gently between towels.

Lay Flat to Dry

Smooth and shape pillows back to their original form. Lay flat on a towel away from direct sunlight and heat to fully air dry.

With a gentle approach, most decorative throw pillows can be hand washed successfully. Check the label first and take care not to damage delicate materials.

How to Remove Odors and Stains from Throw Pillows

Stains and funky odors can make throw pillows less enjoyable to have around. Here are some handy methods for removing common pillow problems:

For food or grease stains: Pretreat stains with a dab of dish soap and warm water before washing. Dish soap cuts through greasy foods like cooking oils or sauces.

For sweat or body oil stains: Rub the stain gently with a paste of baking soda and water before washing. The baking soda will help lift oils and perspiration from fabric.

For red wine stains: Immediately blot with white wine or club soda, then rinse with cool water before washing. The carbonation will help lift the red wine pigment.

For ink or makeup stains: Dab with rubbing alcohol and rinse with water prior to washing. Avoid scrubbing which can set the stain.

For musty, moldy odors: Wash pillows with 1/2 cup baking soda added to the detergent. Baking soda eliminates unpleasant organic odors.

For smoke odors: Add 1 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove stale smoke smells that tend to linger.

For pet odors: Use an enzyme cleaner formulated for pet stains and odors to lift urine, feces, or sweat smells before washing.

With a few simple stain removal and odor elimination tricks, throw pillows can stay fresh and clean smelling for years to come.

How to Dry Throw Pillows Quickly

It’s frustrating waiting for freshly washed throw pillows to dry, especially when you want to use them right away. Here are some tips for speeding up the drying process:

  • Leave pillows in the dryer after the cycle ends. The residual heat will continue evaporating moisture for faster drying.
  • Add a couple clean tennis balls to the dryer load. They will bounce around and loft the pillows for better airflow.
  • For foam or fiberfill pillows, squeeze and press pillows while in the dryer to release moisture. Just avoid wringing.
  • Use the highest heat setting suitable for the fabric. Higher heat means faster evaporation. Refer to the care instructions.
  • Place pillows in a warm sunny spot to utilize the sun’s energy after taking them out of the dryer or off the line.
  • Lay pillows inside a vehicle parked in the sun. The greenhouse effect speeds evaporation even more. Just don’t leave them there unattended!
  • Use a fan directed at one side of the pillow to keep air circulating through the fibers.
  • Add new, dry towels to the dryer to absorb leftover moisture from damp pillows. The towels act as added drying surfaces.

With a few simple tricks, you can shave noticeable time off the drying process for freshly washed throw pillows.

Storing Throw Pillows Seasonally

If throw pillows are not being used for certain seasons or periods of time, proper storage is key to keeping them in great shape. Here are some storage tips:

  • Store pillows in breathable cotton pillowcases or bags, avoiding plastic which could trap moisture and mildew.
  • Wash and fully dry pillows before storing to prevent dust mites, mold growth, and odors.
  • Fluff and reshape pillows before storage so they hold their loft and form.
  • Lay pillows flat, not stacked or crushed, to prevent permanent creases or misshaping.
  • Keep stored pillows in a cool, dry place away from heat, humidity, and direct sunlight which could damage fibers.
  • To prevent yellowing from fluorescent light exposure, keep pillows covered or away from sunlight when in storage.
  • Use cedar blocks or sachets in storage containers to guard against insects which can damage natural fibers like wool or silk.
  • Every few months, remove pillows from storage, fluff, and air them out to redistribute fill and prevent odor buildup.

With proper seasonal storage, throw pillows will stay fresh and ready to use when pulled back out and fluffed up.

Common Questions About Washing Throw Pillows

Can you put all throw pillows in the washing machine?

No, not all throw pillows are suitable for regular machine washing. Delicate fabrics like silk, wool, or velvet, and embellishments like beading or sequins, often require special handling like dry cleaning or hand washing.

How often should you wash throw pillows?

Most throw pillows only need washing every 2-3 months, or when visibly soiled. Frequently washing causes premature wear. Use spot cleaning in between full washes.

Should you wash throw pillow covers separately from pillows?

Yes, washing the covers and inner pillow forms separately is recommended. It allows you to target stains on the covers while thoroughly washing and drying the interior pillow fill.

How do you dry a wet pillow quickly?

Using high heat or the air fluff setting in the dryer speeds drying time. You can also place damp pillows in a warm sunny spot or inside a hot parked car to utilize free solar power.

What’s the best way to freshen throw pillows between washes?

Spot clean stained or sweaty areas with an upholstery cleaner, then let air dry. You can also place pillows outside on a breezy day or lightly dust with baking soda and vacuum to remove odors between full washes.

How can you fix a clumpy down or fiberfill pillow?

To restore loft and redistribute filling, toss pillows in the dryer with some clean tennis balls for 10-15 minutes on low heat. The balls will gently break up any clumping in the fill material.


Caring properly for throw pillows helps them retain their comfort, vibrancy, and appeal over many years of use. By customizing your washing technique to the pillow material and construction, even decorative throw pillows can be kept clean and fresh smelling at home. Proper storage, prompt stain treatment, and re-fluffing clumped fills will also lengthen the life of these fun and functional textiles.

With this comprehensive guide, you can keep throw pillows looking their very best with simple, convenient at-home methods. By following fabric care labels, using gentle cycles, air drying thoroughly, and taking steps to prevent stains and odors, throw pillows will stay plump, cozy, and ready to accent your home decor.