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A Guide To Washing Feather Pillows featured image

A Guide To Washing Feather Pillows

How to wash feather pillows and other pillow care instructions.

by David Smith

The first and foremost answer is, YOU DON'T. You should NOT wash feather pillows unless it's an emergency. The feathers inside of feather pillows have natural oils that wick away moisture, protecting them from becoming dry and brittle. Repeated washing will strip the protective coating from the feathers, making them more likely to break and grow sharp.

Another issue with washing and cleaning feather pillows is ensuring the pillow becomes completely dry. If the pillow is not completely dried after a wash, the humidity can remain trapped inside the pillow and cause molding. When possible, avoid washing your pillow - use a pillow protector to safeguard feather pillows from you natural body oils and the wear and tear of regular use.

Down & Feather Company is here to provide you with a thorough guide to safely washing your feather pillows. We work with only the finest Hungarian goose down and Hungarian feather filling and build our products from the ground up - from sourcing materials to manufacturing - making us experts on feather bed pillows and down pillow creation and care. Read below to see what to do when an emergency strikes and you have to wash your feather pillows.

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How to wash feather pillows when you have a true emergency
How to dry your feather pillow
Can Feather Pillows Be Washed?
When is it ok to wash a feather pillow?
What to do if there is a smell with your feather pillow
What if my pillow is turning yellow?

What’s the issue with detergent?
How to extend the life of your feather pillow

    How to wash feather pillows (again, emergencies only - cannot stress this enough)

    1. Take the pillow out of the pillowcase and protector
    2. Add the pillow to a front loading washing machine but do not use detergent
    3. Set the washer to ‘gentle cycle’ or ‘delicate.’
    4. Once complete, add to the dryer on a low heat
    5. Place a bath towel in the dryer
    6. Listen for the dry cycle to end
    7. Start a second dry cycle immediately
    8. Check to ensure the pillow is completely dry

    How to dry feather pillows.

    Drying is where things can go horribly wrong. You can't over-dry your pillow. But, if you don't get the pillow completely dry, meaning all the way through to its core and not just ‘to the touch' it will mold and mildew and it will be ruined.

    How will you know when it’s dry?

    You won’t. You just have to trust that two (2) maybe (3) fifty-minute dry cycles will do the trick.

    How will you know if it wasn’t dried completely?

    The feather filling will smell of mold and mildew very quickly.

    Before drying the pillow...

    * Is the pillow as dry as it possibly could be having just spun dry?

    * Now inspect the pillow for any loose threads.

    * Inspect the tags to see how well they have survived the washing.

    Let’s dry the pillow.

    * Set your dryer to low heat.

    * If you have a bath towel place that in the dryer as well. (Tennis balls WILL NOT WORK)

    * Ideally you would use two pillows to balance the dryer since tennis balls just aren't large enough in my opinion.

    * Listen for the dry cycle to end. (This is where things go horribly wrong!)

    NOTE: The pillow will not be completely dry after the first dry cycle. You need to understand that. Assume that it is not dry after the first cycle, and start the second drying cycle immediately. If you don’t start another dry cycle immediately, and the pillow sit in the dryer "wet," it will mold and mildew and ruin the pillow.

    Can Feather Pillows Be Washed?

    Yes. Washing down and feather pillows is relatively easy, but drying them is the difficult part. We do not recommend washing feather pillows other than in emergency situations due to the threat of harming your pillow’s feather composition and the possibility of trapped moisture causing mold.

    If you can avoid it, do not wash your feather pillow. Choose pillow protectors and pillow cases to safeguard your pillow instead and keep the natural body oils away from the feather filling.

    How often should I wash feather bed pillows?

    Once your feather pillows start losing their support you may need to wash them more frequently. However, the more you wash feather bed pillows the greater the chance you will create feather clumps leading to inconsistent support.

    When is it OK to wash your feather pillow?

    Only in emergencies! Otherwise, don't do it.

    It amazes me, as a designer and manufacturer of luxury down bedding, how many videos there are about ‘how to wash a feather pillow’. Even the venerable Martha Stewart has written a "how to" on this. If she knew what we know about feathers and what happens inside a pillow shell over continued use, she wouldn't recommend that you wash your pillow. In fact, she'd recommend that you throw it away after a certain amount of time of continued use before washing a feather pillow.

    With all of that said, let’s say you just purchased a brand new feather pillow. Finally, after months of searching, you find what you hope will be the answer to all your pillow needs. It’s magical. It solves your neck problems and fits perfectly into all those little nooks and crannies of your shoulder and neck that have been bothering you for years.

    Maybe you purchased a second feather pillow for your husband after how well the first feather pillow solved so many of your neck problems thinking it might help prevent your husband from snoring. This happens all the time.

    But then the unspeakable happens. The cat, urinates, on the pillow. You’ve had it less than a month. What can you do? By the way, this is considered an emergency.

    If your cat pees on your pillow, wash it, and do it quickly.

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    Does your feather pillow have a “smell” to it?

    Are you a Down & Feather Company customer who recently received a pillow and are worried about a smell coming from the product? If your pillow "smells" upon receiving it, email us immediately so that we can support you. Do NOT wash your pillow expecting that to fix the problem. Email so we can assist you as quickly as possible.

    What if my pillow is turning yellow?

    Pillows turn yellow when sweat, skin oils, and moisture remain on a pillow from sleeping on it at night. If you’re worried about a yellowing pillow, read more in our article ‘Why Do Pillows Turn Yellow?’ to learn the reasons a pillow may become yellow and how to prevent it. 

    What’s the issue with detergent?

    Feathers are pretty incredible. Nature created the feather to perform many functions, one of which, is to keep the water away from the down clusters that actually trap the air and keep the bird from freezing to death during the cold winter months. So nature added just a touch of natural oils to help feathers wick away the water in order to keep the bird dry.

    However, washing your feather pillow with detergent only a few times a year will strip away this microscopic oil with repeated washing. If you strip away the natural oils from the feathers will be brittle and break more easily while you sleep. When brittle feathers break they have a tendency to be very sharp increasing the number of feathers that will poke you.

    All of that to say, please don’t wash your feather pillow using detergent. Only if it’s an ‘emergency’ should you wash your pillow. And, if you must wash it, then wash it using water only and without detergent. Detergents are designed to dissolve oils, meaning they attack the protective coating for your pillow’s feathers. This can cause the aforementioned breakage and damage the “lift” of your pillow’s feathers, reducing the fluffiness of your pillow. 

    The exception to this rule is with My Green Fills, specifically designed to care for pillows, without adding unnecessary chemicals, and without destroying the integrity of the pillow. FINALLY!  

    What else can I do to extend the life of my luxury feather pillow?

    There are three (3) things that destroy a pillow, aside from cat urine, two of which you can manage.

    1) The first is compression. Compression cycles are what we would call you ‘sleeping’ on the pillow. Obviously, that issue is difficult to manage given that you purchased the pillow to be used for sleeping. But the next two can be managed with a simple pillow protector and pillowcase.

    2) Body Oil, everyone is different and everyone has different body chemistry. Some of us have oily hair while some of us have dry hair buy and oily scalp. Either way, these oils, over time, can make there way through to the pillow shell if not managed properly.

    3) Moisture. If you’re a night bather and don’t completely dry your hair the moisture from your hair will eventually contribute to the staining of your pillow eventually make its way to the feathers as well.

    Great, so what do you recommend?

    1) Always use a pillow protector (protectors have zippers)

    2) Always use a pillowcase.

    3) Night Bathers, make sure your hair is completely dry before going to be and maybe wait till morning to apply all of your lotions and moisturizers.

      As for the oils from your skin and hair, your best defense is the previously recommend pillow protectors and pillows cases.

      Feather pillows like to be fluffed. Not necessarily inside a dryer but by hand as part of your nighttime ritual. Once compressed, feather pillows typically do not return to their pillowy shape. However, fluffing your pillow can help ‘reorganize’ the feathers within the pillow allowing it to be more supportive once you return to bed.

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      How often should I replace my feather pillow?

      Technically, when it’s no longer supportive. If it no longer provides the support required to keep you comfortable while you sleep or if you awaken with neck pain or discomfort then it may be time to replace your feather pillow.

      How long should my feather pillow last?

      Assuming that you don’t wash it unnecessarily, it should last 7 - 10 years, but your mileage may vary. If you are a pillow scruncher or pillow folder your pillow will not last as long. Folding and scrunching your pillow breaks the quill shaft of the feather into smaller and smaller ‘bits’ that are sharp and can increase the number of times you are poked by your pillow.

      You should only wash your Feather pillows in an emergency.

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