Whiten Yellowed Pillows Without Bleach

7 Materials
1 Hour

One thing that has always bugged me is how pillows tend to start yellowing over time. I always was slightly embarrassed when changing my sheets because I thought, “Ummmm I haven’t peed the bed since I was a small child, why in the world are my pillows yellow?! And they are in pillow cases!” After a little research, I discovered that all pillows yellow overtime because of body temperature (ya learn somethin’ new everyday, huh?!)—needless to say, I was very pleased to discover that it happens to everyone, not just me. Regardless, I usually buy new pillows every few years but some I just can’t part with (including this flat pillow that is the perfect fluff for Bo and his little head) so instead of being grossed out every time I changed his sheets, I decided to try washing the pillow as well in order to get the yellow out and it was surprisingly easy!

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whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
Bo's pillow (which we've had for a while...even before he was born), was looking a bit yucky before but I didn't want to throw it out because it was just flat enough for him.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach

whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
STEP 1: Soak pillow(s)
First, I started my washing machine by putting it on the hottest setting. You really want to use hot water for this cleaning project, however, I don’t have a “hot” setting so I put it on warm.

*I would really recommend using hot water because even though the majority of the yellowing came out of this pillow, I think the *hot* water would have made it all come out.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
While the wash was filling up, I placed my yellowed pillow in and poured in 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, ½ cup white vinegar, and approximately 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent (I used Arm&Hammer).
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
Here, I'm adding the vinegar...
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
...and finally the peroxide.
I made sure to swoosh the water around to mix all of the ingredients when I was submerging the pillow.
I let the water fill up until it stopped, then pushed the pillow down to where it was submerged in the water. I then let the pillow soak for about 30 minutes as I do not have a soak cycle on my machine. If you have a soak cycle, you can follow the step above and just program your machine to the soak cycle.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
STEP 2: Rinse pillow(s)
After I let the pillow soak, I closed the lid to let it go through the regular wash cycle. Once it got to the rinse cycle, I added 4-5 drops of essential oils and closed the lid again to let the machine continue with it’s rinse cycle. After the entire wash/rinse cycle was finished, I put my machine back on the rinse cycle again to ensure that all of the detergent had washed out of the pillow.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
STEP 3: Dry pillow(s)
To dry the pillow, I first added some essential oils to a few of my socks that no longer had mates.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
Then, I placed a tennis ball in each sock and threw them in the dryer with the pillow. These tennis balls (or wool dryer balls if you have them) should fluff up the pillow(s). I’ve read that you can also lay your pillow(s) out flat to dry in the sun on on top of your dryer. Since it’s ridiculously cold and rainy outside here in NY, I opted to throw mine in the dryer.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
*Note: Even though I added essential oils in the wash cycle, I wanted to ensure that even after the pillow was washed, it smelled more like essential oils and less like vinegar once it was dry and put on the bed.
whiten yellowed pillows without bleach
I was really impressed with how clean this pillow got just by adding a few extra ingredients to my wash cycle! I’m sure Bo will be happy to have it back and smelling nice.

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 50 questions
  • Sheila
    on Apr 17, 2019

    I assumed this was not a feather pillow. If it were how would you clean if case is yellowed or stained?

  • Phi34493934
    on Apr 17, 2019

    I'm sure this would work with du eys as well if you had a

    W machine

    big enough ?

  • Lainie
    on Apr 19, 2019

    Slightly frightened to use feather pillows in my washer. Can I take to the Laundromat and get the same results?

    • Jill Carpenter
      on Apr 23, 2019

      I have washed my feather pillows in my front loader and they were fine. Drying took forever but eventually they did. The tennis balls help keep things loose. No fabric softener because it tends to make the feathers clump. I can't afford new feather pillows as often as mine get grungy. The laundry mat would work too.

Join the conversation

3 of 133 comments
  • KarenLyman
    on Apr 18, 2019

    The reason why pillows yellow is due to your body oils seeping through the pillow case to soil the pillow. Most people wash their sheets and pillowcases often enough that they never have the opportunity to yellow from body oils. Not so with pillows. In order to prevent this, use a zippered hypoallergenic water proof pillow protector (oils will not pass through) and then cover that with a white zippered cotton pillow tick. Then just use your pillowcase over that. Wash your sheets as often as you normally would. Wash the pillow ticks at least twice a year - you will notice a little yellow on them but just add some bleach in the load and they will come out as bright white as new. It is so much easier to wash one load of pillow tics than so many separate load of pillows! I have had the same pillows for over 20 years. I have looked at them under the pillow protectors occasionally and they have absolutely no yellow and look the same as when I bought them.

  • Richie Robin
    on May 28, 2019

    Not a Question but here were i live we throw out pillows in the wash each 6 months to a year and just wash them. They come out lovely and clean and either hang them out to dry on the line or in the dryer with no added things to them. Just a regular wash program. If we dry on the line just fluff up and turn it around a few times so it dries evenly then in the dryer for a few minutes to fluff it. Would never need to use these other products at all.

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