How to Freshen Up and Clean Your Memory Foam Pillow

Memory foam is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to bacteria and dust mites, but still needs to be cleaned periodically.

By Teri Olcott


Your bed pillow gets a lot of use, but it’s probably one of the least-cleaned items in your home. A memory foam pillow does not get as dirty as a feather-filled or polyester pillow, but it still needs regular cleaning to ensure your head is resting on a clean surface. Sweat, saliva, and dead skin cells will find their way into the foam of the pillow. You should give your memory foam pillow a good cleaning or freshening up at least twice a year to keep it clean and to provide a healthy sleeping environment.




What is Memory Foam?

Designed in the 1960s for NASA aircraft seats, memory foam is sometimes referred to as "viscoelastic" polyurethane foam, or low-resilience polyurethane foam (LRPu), and it’s very soft and absorbent. The appeal of memory foam is that it molds itself to the body or body part in response to pressure and heat. It then returns to its original shape once the pressure is gone. Aside from being comfortable, memory foam is hypoallergenic, resistant to bacteria, and repels dust mites and bedbugs. Today, memory foam is very popular in pillows, mattress toppers, and mattresses.




But like any item that gets frequent use, keeping memory foam clean is important for the longevity of the item and the health of the user.


Just a Little Dirty?

If your pillow seems fairly clean, you may just need to give it a good freshening up. To clean your memory foam pillow, first remove it from the pillowcase and the pillow protector. Toss the pillowcase and protector in the wash.




Place the pillow on a towel and sprinkle it with baking soda. Smear the baking soda around with your hand to make sure the pillow is covered. Let the baking soda sit on the pillow for at least an hour. The natural deodorizing properties of baking soda will remove odors from the pillow.




Then vacuum up the baking soda using the upholstery brush attachment on your vacuum. This will leave the pillow smelling fresh, and also remove any dust or hair that might be on the pillow. Flip the pillow over and repeat the process on the other side.




Then put the pillow back in its clean pillow protector and a clean pillowcase and enjoy a good night’s sleep on your fresh-smelling deodorized pillow.


Lightly Clean the Pillow

If your pillow has a few stains or just seems a little dirty, you can do a light cleaning of the surface.




Put some gentle laundry detergent (the kind made for silk and wool) in a bowl of warm water. Dip a clean cloth into the water and very gently rub the stain from the outside toward the center of the pillow. Use a clean area on the cloth to complete remove the stain and not just push it into the foam. Once the stain is gone, wipe down the pillow with clean water to remove any soap. Let the pillow air dry completely before putting it back in its cover. Don’t put a memory foam pillow in a dryer. Even on low heat, the tumbling action of the dryer can damage the pillow.


Deep Clean the Pillow

If your memory foam pillow is very dirty or has never been cleaned, you might want to give it a very thorough cleaning. Do not put a memory foam pillow in a washer. The movement of the washer can cause the water-saturated foam to tear.


Fill a sink or bathtub with lukewarm water and add a very small amount of gentle laundry detergent. Swish the water around to mix the detergent. Place the pillow in the water and gently press down to submerge the pillow. Memory foam is rather sponge-like and will absorb much of the water. Carefully knead the pillow to move the water throughout the foam.




Rinse the pillow with clear water several times to remove all the detergent. Push down on the pillow to squeeze out as much water as possible. Do not wring the pillow. This can tear and damage the material.




Do not put a wet or dry memory foam pillow in a dryer. High heat can melt the foam and the tumbling action can tear the pillow.


Place the pillow on a towel on a flat surface and allow it to air dry. If you can put the pillow outside, that will speed up the drying time. Depending on the thickness of the foam, it can take up to 24 hours for a memory pillow to completely dry. If this is your only sleeping pillow, you will want to wash it early in the morning to give it enough time to dry.




Memory foam pillows come in all shapes and sizes. Some people love them and wouldn’t sleep on anything else. If you’re one of those people, clean your pillow at least twice a year. Your pillow and your head will thank you.




Images used with permission, courtesy of Teri Olcott and

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