Can You Wash Memory Foam Pillows? How to Get Rid of Stains and Odors

Memory foam can be washed, but these synthetic pillows require special treatment.

Memory foam pillows, like any other kind of pillow, should be cleaned regularly. But can they be washed? The answer is yes—and no.

Due to the construction of memory foam, exposing it to the agitation of a washer and dryer will cause the foam to break apart. So yes, you can wash a memory foam pillow, but no, you cannot do so in the washing machine.

However, a vacuum cleaner can be used to clean a memory foam pillow quickly and with ease. There are also methods for stain removal, as well as for deep cleaning, that are safe for memory foam pillows. In this article, we'll cover three methods for cleaning a memory foam pillow, as well as under which circumstances and how often to perform each type of cleaning.

room shot of bedroom with blue patterned wallpaper and headboard
Annie Schlechter

Deodorizing and Eliminating Allergens from Memory Foam Pillows

When cleaning pillows, the main goal is to eliminate buildup that causes odors and allergies and affects a pillow's loft. Washing is one way to do this, but another way is to use your vacuum—fitted with the upholstery attachment—to remove dust, dust mites, body soils, pet dander, and other small particles. When it comes to cleaning memory foam pillows, vacuuming is the go-to method.

Sprinkle the pillow with baking soda and allow it to sit for one hour prior to vacuuming to help neutralize odors. However, this step is only needed as necessary. Vacuuming a memory foam pillow should be done regularly, every 1-3 months, to keep the pillow free of allergens and smelling fresh.

How to Spot-Treat Stains on Memory Foam Pillows

Spot treating, also called spot cleaning, is the term for treating a specific stain on a specific area, in contrast to washing, which refers to removing overall soil. Perform this on an as-needed basis, every 1-3 months, as part of regular maintenance or as part of deeper cleaning.

What You'll Need

  • Stain treatment product and/or liquid laundry detergent
  • Light-colored cloth
  • Laundry brush (optional)

Step 1: Identify the Stain

Remove pillowcases and protectors and, if possible, identify the stain that needs to be removed. Pillows typically are stained with body soils, like sweat, saliva, or blood; those are protein stains, and they are best treated with an enzymatic stain remover. If you are unsure of the nature of the stains, liquid laundry detergent can be used as an all-purpose stain remover for spot treatment.

Step 2: Apply Stain Remover

Apply a small amount of the stain remover to a damp, light-colored cloth, rather than directly onto the pillow. Using a white or light-colored cloth prevents dye transfer. Removing very deep stains might require a laundry brush.

Step 3: Dab the Stain

Use the cloth to dab the stain remover onto the stain. Blot the stain until it's gone, reapplying the stain treatment to the cloth as necessary. Take care not to scrub the stain, which can grind it deeper into the fibers or cause it to spread.

Step 4: Rinse the Stain Remover

After removing the stain, rinse the cloth well and gently dab the area with clean water to remove residue from the stain remover.

Step 5: Dry Completely

Allow the pillow to dry completely before putting a pillowcase on and returning it to the bed.

How to Deep Clean a Memory Foam Pillow

Before deep cleaning a memory foam pillow, check the care label for specific instructions. Typically, memory foam will need to be hand-washed, as machine washing can cause it to break apart. However, memory foam commonly has hypoallergenic properties that stave off the presence of mildew, dust mites, and other allergens and it does not need to be deep cleaned as often as other types of pillow fill. Experts recommend deep cleaning a memory foam pillow every 6-12 months.

What You'll Need

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Stain treatment product (optional)
  • Clean, dry towels

Step 1: Fill a Large Basin with Water and Detergent

Identify a space large enough to fully submerge the pillow in water, such as the bathtub, kitchen or utility sink, or a large bucket. Fill the basin with lukewarm water and 1 Tbsp. detergent. Resist the urge to use more detergent than is necessary, which will make rinsing the pillow difficult and time-consuming.

Step 2: Submerge the Pillow

Remove pillowcases or coverings and apply a stain treatment to the pillow if one is needed to remove specific stains, such as blood. Then, submerge the pillow in the detergent solution. Use your hands to gently massage the pillow while submerged, allowing the detergent solution to circulate through the pillow's fibers.

Step 3: Agitate the Pillow

Once the pillow is thoroughly saturated, lift it out of the basin and squeeze out the soapy water. Return it to the basin and massage it again. Repeat 2-3 times.

Step 4: Rinse the Pillow

Rinse the pillow thoroughly with clean water. If you washed your pillow in the tub or sink, rinse it under the faucet. While rinsing, gently squeeze the pillow to extrude sudsy water. Rinse the pillow until the water coming out of it runs clear.

Step 5: Dry the Pillow

In the basin, press down on the pillow to extrude water, then place it on a clean, dry towel. Place another towel on top of the pillow, and bear down to squeeze out more water. Lay the pillow flat to air dry; if possible, air dry the pillow outdoors in the sun. The pillow should be completely dry before putting the pillowcase or protector back on and returning it to the bed.

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