Can You Wash Memory Foam Pillows? [Bamboo vs. Gel Memory Foam]

Nobody wants a stained, stinky pillow, but that’s exactly what happens after extended use. A nice memory foam pillow can remain comfortable and supportive for years and years. However keeping it clean is a big battle, and I’ve certainly been very tempted to throw away a pillow or two rather than deal with it. But, memory foam pillows are not moldy Tupperware, and they are worth saving.

Putting a memory foam pillow in the washer or dryer is a sure way to destroy the pillow, and quickly. However, the pillows can be spot-treated by hand or deep-cleaned by submersion in water, like in a bathtub.

Ideally, wash the cover at least once a month to keep the pillow in good condition. Keep the pillowcase and the manufacturer’s pillowcase on the memory foam insert to prevent wear and tear.

There is no need to throw away expensive memory foam pillows; instead, follow the tips in this article to keep them nice and clean.

How to Wash Memory Foam Pillows?

Memory foam pillows have a couple of recommended washing techniques. Following them is important to extend the life of the pillow.

Do You Put Pillowcases on Memory Foam Pillows?

First, and most importantly, keep the removable cover that comes on the pillows in place at all times. It is the best defense against stains and smells. 

The cover itself can be washed in hot water in the washing machine and then dried in the dryer. Put this chore in your regular washing schedule to keep the cover looking fresh and new. 

Try not to procrastinate when the cover is dry. Nights of exposing the pillow itself to skin oils slowly and surely contribute to the staining of the pillow. 

How to Spot-Treat the Pillow?

Accidents happen, especially to those of us who enjoy a glass of wine or snack in bed now and then. If a stain-causing substance penetrates the pillowcase and pillow cover, spot treating is the easiest way to deal with it. 

For best results, tackle the stain with this method while it is fresh and before it dries.

Toss the cover in the washing machine, and then prepare a mixture of diluted fabric detergent. Whatever type you would normally use on that type of stain is fine. 

Using a clean white cloth, blot the stain from the outside moving in. Flip to a clean portion of the washcloth with each blot to prevent transferring the stain.

After blotting as much of the stain as possible, go over the treated area with another clean white cloth soaked in water. This helps lift the remaining detergent residue.

Allow the pillow to air dry before replacing the cover or pillowcase.

How to Deep Clean a Memory Foam Pillow?

For a more pervasive spill, or if the pillow has become overall gross, a deep clean is in order. This can be time-consuming, so it is best to have a backup pillow on hand for the night that you do the clean.

Create a diluted solution of your preferred laundry detergent and water. Pour the mixture over the pillow and work through. Alternatively, fill a clean bathtub or sink with water and detergent, and press the pillow into water. Squeeze to work through.

If there are any stains or particularly dirty spots, gently scrub at them with a soft toothbrush or white cloth. When you are satisfied with the cleanliness of the pillow, it is time to rinse it out.

The easiest way to rinse the pillow is to hold it under a running sink or bath tap. Squeeze the pillow to ensure the water runs clear. 

Finally, squeeze the pillow to remove the excess water. Do not wring the pillow; wringing can break the foam. Lay the pillow flat to dry. It may take a full day before it completely dries.

Can You Wash Bamboo Memory Foam Pillows?

Bamboo memory foam pillows actually refer to the fabric fibers of the cover. The core of the pillow is still memory foam and should be cared for as described above.

The fabric cover is made with bamboo fibers and can usually be washed and dried in machines. 

How to Wash Gel Memory Foam Pillows?

Gel memory foam pillows have a memory foam core that is enhanced by the injection of tiny gel beads. The gel beads provide extra comfort and help keep the pillow cool. 

Gel memory foam pillows need to be hand-washed just like regular memory foam pillows. 

How to Wash Gel Memory Foam Pillows

How Often Should You Wash Memory Foam Pillows?

Pillow manufacturers recommend that the zippered pillow cover be washed at least once a month. The pillow itself should be deep cleaned once every two months. 

Spot treat the pillow as needed for stains

Regularly using the pillowcase and pillow cover will help reduce the need to wash the pillow.

How to Get Yellow Pillows White Again?

If the memory foam pillow’s cover becomes stained and yellow, there are a couple of different options for addressing it. Do make sure that you follow any care instructions on the label.

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One option is to add 1/2 cup of oxygen or chlorine bleach to the bleach dispenser of the washing machine. Do not apply chlorine bleach directly to the fabric; it can cause uneven discoloration.

Another choice is to add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle when machine washing using your preferred detergent. The acidity of vinegar acts as a natural fabric brightener.

Can You Put Memory Foam Pillows in the Washing Machine?

Washing machines easily destroy the structure of memory foam pillows. The foam will break, leaving the pillow uncomfortable and unusable.

Even washing machines without an agitator wreck foam pillows. The spin cycle actually puts the most wear on the pillows and damages the foam.

Can Memory Foam Pillows Be Washed in Machines with Hand-Wash Cycles?

Some newer machines come with a special handwash cycle. This means the cycle is shorter and gentler. However, pillow manufacturers do not recommend machine washing, even on an extra gentle cycle.

Can You Put Memory Foam Pillows in the Dryer?

Memory foam pillows should always be laid out and allowed to air dry. Both the high heat and the violent spinning of the dryer can damage the foam and cause it to break.

If a freshly washed pillow needs a little help to fully dry, use a hairdryer on the cool setting. Propping the pillow up in front of an oscillating fan should also speed up the dry time without damaging the foam.

The Risks of Dirty Memory Foam Pillows

The clean freaks among us may be reeling at the lack of vigorous washing of memory foam pillows. Remember, the pillow cover and case provide two separate layers of protection to keep oils, dust, and everything else off the pillow. 

Hospitals use plastic covers to both protect the pillow and to create a solid barrier between any mold, bacteria, or allergens and the patient. 

Can Memory Foam Pillows Grow Mold?

Mold grows in warm moist environments. Memory foam pillows that get wet or are in high-humidity areas become prime breeding ground for mold. A World Health Organization study found that 10 to 50 percent of homes worldwide have environments damp enough to grow mold.

Aspergillus fumigatus is the type of mold most commonly found on pillows. The spores are pervasive in our day-to-day life, and we commonly breathe them in when out and about. 

Long-term exposure to this mold can cause chronic lung conditions, aggravate allergic sinusitis, and trigger asthma. Fortunately, memory foam pillows are less likely than regular pillows to grow mold, but it can still happen.

Some memory foam pillows claim to be antimicrobial without identifying how exactly the pillow prevents mold and bacteria.

Can Memory Foam Pillows Cause Allergies?

The primary source of allergens from pillows is caused by dust mite feces. Dust mites are actually one of the most common allergens and are a trigger for rhinitis, asthma. About 5 to 35 percent of humans are allergic to dust mites. 

Dust mites are less prevalent in memory foam pillows because the dense foam is much harder for mites to penetrate. However, memory foam is not dust mite-proof. 

The baking soda method described below can also vacuum up any dust mites on the pillow.

How Do I Get Sweat Smell Out of Memory Foam Pillow?

Sleeping on a fresh pillow just feels good, but a smelly pillow can make the whole bedroom smell musty.  

Despite the best of intentions in keeping the pillow free of stains and debris, they can still get sweaty. People who go to bed after working out or those who sweat in their sleep will likely notice the smell of sweat in the pillow fairly quickly. 

Fortunately, the kitchen staple baking soda comes in handy here as well. Remove and wash the pillow cover in the washing machine.

Sprinkle a layer of baking soda over both sides of the pillow, and then allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Use the upholstery attachment of a vacuum cleaner to vacuum up the baking soda. 

If this does not work, allow the pillow to sit out in the sun on a hot day for several hours. The UV rays can kill the bacteria that cause odors.

Final Verdict

Memory foam pillows require more gentle care than regular stuffed pillows. Remember to never put them in the washer or dryer or otherwise expose them to high heat.

Prevention is the best way to maintain the cleanliness of a memory foam pillow. Be sure to keep the manufacturer’s cover and a pillowcase in place any time the pillow is used. 

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