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A comfortable pillow is essential to a good night's sleep, but over time even covered pillows can get dirty and pick up unpleasant stains and odors. While some people simply throw out their old pillows and buy new ones, regular washing can extend the life of your pillow and save you money. Most pillows are quick and easy to clean.

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Prepare your pillow

First, remove the pillowcase, sham, or other covering. Some pillows, particularly memory foam ones, may have a tightly fitting cover with a hidden zipper. Remove that and wash it separately for best results. Cases can interfere with drying and make it difficult for soap to saturate the pillow. Make sure to check the tag for any washing warnings.

Remove pillowcases and coverings cgering / Getty Images
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Washing your pillow by hand

You can wash any pillow by hand, but this method is essential for memory foam pillows. Though it takes a little longer than using a washing machine, cleaning by hand prevents damage and is gentler. You'll need a large sink or bucket. Start by filling it with enough warm water to cover your pillow or pillows.

Fill sink with warm water deepblue4you / Getty Images
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Add your soap and mix it up

Before you add your pillow, mix in your detergent. Liquid laundry detergent is generally the easiest to use, but you can also use powdered detergent, mixing until it is completely dissolved. Use no more than a tablespoon of detergent for each pillow you plan to wash.

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Lather up your pillow

Put your pillow into the sink or bucket, and make sure it is fully submerged. You may need to press it down until it is saturated. If you're washing a memory foam pillow, it may take a bit of work to make sure the water soaks through, and it will be very heavy. If the pillow is stained, scrub these areas with your hands or a brush.

Work soap and water into pillow SilviaJansen / Getty Images
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Rinse your pillow

Once you've worked the soap thoroughly into your pillow, it's time to rinse it out. Empty the sink of the sudsy water, then run the warm water again. Place the pillow under the running water and keep kneading it to flush out all the soap. The denser the pillow, the longer this step will take. Watch for when squeezing the pillow no longer creates soapy bubbles. Squeeze out as much water as possible.

Rinse pillow under running water deepblue4you / Getty Images
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Let it air dry

After you've washed out all the soap, you'll need to let your pillow dry completely before you use it again. To do this, place it on a clean surface that allows air to flow all around the pillow, such as the top of a drying rack. Remember to place a towel under the rack to catch drips. If you only have a solid surface, such as a table, flip the pillow regularly as it dries to ensure no side is without airflow for too long. Putting the pillows out in the sun will help them dry faster.

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Or use a washing machine

If you have cotton, polyester, or down pillows, you can save time by simply tossing them in the washing machine. Never do this with memory foam pillows, however, as the machine will damage the foam. When using this method, it's best to wash at least two pillows at a time so you can keep your load balanced. If you have a top load washer, place the pillows on opposite sides before closing the lid.

Wash pillows in washing machine Michael Robinson / Getty Images
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Use your regular detergent

Simply follow the instructions on your regular laundry detergent, as if you were washing a load of clothing. Most pillows can also be bleached if they're particularly soiled. If your pillow is a little smelly, consider adding a small amount of borax to leave it fresh.

Add laundry detergent and bleach Kameleon007 / Getty Images
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Pop your pillow into the dryer

Pillows made out of materials other than memory foam can also go in the dryer to save time. Again, use your regular settings. If you have a tennis ball lying around, put it inside a clean sock. Throw that in with your load to help cut down on static buildup and fluff up your pillow.

Put pillows and tennis ball in dryer georgeclerk / Getty Images
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Spot clean small messes

If you don't have time to give your pillow a full wash, you can spot clean problem areas. This is also a good option for decorative throw pillows, which often aren't supposed to be hand washed or put in the washing machine. To make your own spot cleaner, mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar in a spray bottle, then use that to wet the problem area. Scrub it using a cloth or toothbrush, then let it air dry.

Spot clean small stains FotoDuets / Getty Images

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