This Tip For Washing Yellowed Pillows Works Shockingly Well

by Jillee
6 Materials
50 Minutes

Don't toss out those discolored old pillows—rescue them with this simple whitening method.

Inevitably, sweat and natural oils from your body get absorbed into your pillow while you sleep, causing discoloration and attracting dust and dirt that worsen the problem. But knowing why your pillows don’t look like they used to doesn’t make them any less unpleasant to look at.

A few years ago I found myself mourning the discolored state of my own pillows, and had accepted that I probably needed to replace them. But I figured I might as well poke around online to see what I could find out about cleaning discolored pillows before I chucked them in the trash.

That’s when I came across the following whitening procedure and decided to give it a try. The results were so impressive that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! So that’s what I’m doing today; I’m taking to my virtual rooftop to share exactly how to rescue those yellowed pillows.

I know you’ll be as impressed with the results as I was! :-)

How To Wash And Whiten Yellowed Pillows

You’ll need:


First, check the tag on your pillow to confirm that it’s washable. (Most feather down and synthetic pillows can be safely washed.) Remove the pillowcase and pillow protector, if present.

Step 1 – Soak The Pillows In Hot Water

The first step in the cleaning process is to soak your dirty pillows in hot water to give the cleaning ingredients a head start on dissolving those tough stains. (If you have a top-loading washing machine, you can do the soak right in your washer. For those with front-loading washers, or if your top-loader doesn’t have a soak function, you can do the soak in a separate container or your bathtub.)

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil on your stovetop. Stir the laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and borax into the boiling water, and stir until the powdered ingredients dissolve. (You could also pour the water into a bucket and then add the dry ingredients if you don’t want to mix cleaning ingredients inside a cooking pot.)

Once the powders have dissolved into the water, pour the water into your washer (or whatever you’re using to soak the pillows in), then add the bleach. Then let the pillows soak in the solution for at least 30 minutes, flipping the pillows over about half-way through the soak time to make sure that they’re getting saturated on both sides.

Step 2 – Wash The Pillows

Following the soak, run the pillows through a full wash cycle in your washing machine. (Select the additional or second rinse option, if your washer has one.)

Step 3 – Dry The Pillows

Finally, all that’s left to do is dry your pillows. If you have down pillows, put them into your dryer on the “fluff” or “air” setting. Synthetic pillows can be dried on low heat. Add a couple of tennis balls or wool dryer balls to the dryer to help fluff the pillows as they dry.

This is the “before and after” of our Production Manager Brittany’s pillows, who offered them up as test subjects so we could shoot these photos. After following the steps above, her pillows went from looking grimy to just like new (and the difference was even more dramatic in person!)

Give it a try for yourself, and see what you think!

FAQs About Whitening Old Pillows

Does this work for memory foam pillows?

Generally speaking yes, but be sure to check the tags on yours. Keep in mind that memory foam will take much longer to dry, so be sure to give it plenty of time in the dryer on a low heat setting. If you want to dry it outside, make sure there is a nice breeze to provide plenty of opportunity for all that dense memory foam to air out.

Does this work for down feather pillows?

Definitely. Follow the same advice above for your down feather pillows—plenty of drying time on low heat. It’s best to put them in your dryer with a few dryer balls to help prevent the feathers from clumping as they dry. (Believe me, you don’t want to end up with a pillow full of hot, soggy clumps of feathers.

Do you wash your pillows in your washer?

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Frequently asked questions
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3 of 7 questions
  • Shuganne Shuganne on Mar 08, 2022

    I have really hard water (like 75 grains of hardness, if that makes sense to you) and my light colored clothes and my whites all turn a sad beige. Would this work for me? What is it about dishwasher detergent that is so much better? Or, should I be adding borax to all my laundry?

  • Debbie Cook Rowe Debbie Cook Rowe on Feb 16, 2023

    Does this process work for latex foam pillows? They have yellowed in spite of having zippered pillow covers on them. The pillows have tiny holes throughout.

  • LaVonne LaVonne on Feb 17, 2023

    I do not buy powder detergent. Will liquid work as well?

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4 of 7 comments
  • Lovesunique Lovesunique on Mar 05, 2022

    I may try because of the added dishwasher powder. I always use pillowcase covers because it's easier to take those off rather than washing the pillow. However, body oils do seep past the cover. I've washed two standard sized pillows at a time in my top loader. My current pillows are from My Pillow and I will tell you that it is true that these pillows wash up beautifully and they stay fluffed right out of the dryer!

    • See 1 previous
    • Lovesunique Lovesunique on Feb 20, 2023

      Gary! I've washed mine three times and not even a seam has split. If you contact the company I bet they will make good on the product.

  • Cla77749873 Cla77749873 on Feb 09, 2024

    Ty so much for this tip, I will be trying this the next time I change the linens!