How to fluff pillows – 3 key ways to get them looking like new

Tired of waking with a lumpy pillow? Our guide on how to fluff your pillows will get yours sorted in no time

Two thick, fluffed pillows in a modern bed
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There’s nothing cozier than lying your head down on a cool, squishy pillow. No wants  to sleep on a lumpy, deflated surface, so fluffing can restore your pillow to its best. 

It seems like this is pretty straightforward - just give your pillows a quick plump and you're done. However, we've found a couple of methods that go the extra mile for the fluffiest, softest pillows imaginable. 

After speaking to the experts, there's some techniques that are well worth considering. There's the classic method by hand, but it's also worth considering putting your pillows in the dryer with a tennis ball, or airing them outdoors.

I'll show you the ins and outs below, as well as what to do if no amount of fluffing is revitalising your pillows. 

Does it really matter?

Striped wall bedroom with central four poster bed

(Image credit: Rayman Boozer)

Sure, it's not the end of the world if you pillow isn't fluffed up, but it can make a difference in your comfort. It can also make your pillows last longer, too. Rick Rome, CEO and founder of WashClub, says that ‘Properly fluffing your pillows can help restore their shape, maintain their comfort, and prolong their lifespan, ensuring a cozy and supportive sleep experience'. 

Besides, there's actually different fluffing methods depending on your pillow type. Rick adds that 'down, feather, memory foam, and synthetic-filled pillows may require different methods. Always refer to the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for specific guidance on fluffing your pillows'. 

A headshot of WashClub CEO Rick Rome
Rick Rome

Rick Rome is a former Morgan Stanley trader who launched WashClub, a wash & fold and delivery dry cleaner in Manhattan. Wash Club provides eco-friendly washing, folding, dry cleaning, and commercial laundry services to New York City, diligently serving the residents and businesses of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

1. Fluff your pillows by hand

The fastest way is the most obvious. Christian Heiser, Senior Content manager at Saatva, says that ‘the simplest way to fluff a pillow is by hand, following a few simple steps. Grab the pillow on both  short sides, hold it in the air, and quickly compress and decompress it. Do this several more times, continuing for about 30 seconds.' 

The next step is to rotate the pillow and knead it along the long sides. 'Put your pillow down and simply knead it a little bit as if it were a ball of dough, says Christina. 'Rotate the pillow 90 degrees, grabbing it now on the longer sides, and repeat this process for 30 more seconds to evenly redistribute the fluff'. The point of this is that it breaks up any lumps of filling and puffs up the pillow with air. 

Chrstina Hesser Saatva mattress expert headshot
Christina Heiser

Christina Heiser is the in-house bedding expert and senior content manager at luxury mattress brand Saatva. She is passionate about health, wellness, beauty, nutrition, and fitness and is well-versed in helping others find their most satisfactory sleep. 

2. Dryer and tennis ball method

laundry room with bench seat under window

(Image credit: Eric Piasecki / Otto)

If the classic fluffing method isn't working for you, there are other options you can try. A more unconventional technique is uses a tennis ball (like these tennis balls at Walmart) and a dryer. You don't need to wash your pillows - in fact, it works better if your pillow is totally dry. The idea is that the ball tumbles around the dryer with the pillow, beating out any lumps and fluffing it up. 

You can also buy hard dryer balls like these at Amazon that are specifically designed to break up lumps and aerate your laundry as it dries, making the whole process faster. However, you don't need them - a tennis ball will do the same job.

In fact, Christina says you don't even need a tennis ball. 'If you don’t have a tennis ball, you can just use a piece of clothing rolled into a ball and stuffed into a tube sock, a stuffed animal, or virtually anything that’s the same size as a tennis ball.’

However, whatever you do, keep the dryer temperature as low as possible, as high heat can damage some pillow fillings. Memory foam in particular should not be treated with high heat. You won't need a full cycle, either, so keep an eye on your pillow and take it out after a few seconds. 

3. Hang it outside

How to organize a laundry room, with a pulley drying rack, wooden clothes rail and stone countertop in a neutral and white scheme.

(Image credit: Future / Alicia Taylor)

A low-maintenance technique to fluff your pillows is simply to hang them up outside in the sun. It sounds like this wouldn't do anything, but it can be incredibly effective. The breeze flowing around and through your pillow will slowly fluff them back up, and the air will be fresher than if you just fluff the pillows up in a stuffy bedroom. 

Moreover, the sun is great for keeping your pillows hygienic. UV radiation is a fantastic natural anti-bacterial, banishing odors, and this sunlight will even soften the fabric of your pillows. If you don't have a clothesline, you can just sit them on top of a drying rack like this at Amazon

This method will make your pillows feel incredibly soft, fluffy, and fresh. However, there's a few drawbacks. This method needs a sunny day, and it will take a few hours. You'll need to remember to rotate the pillows every so often too to so that they fluff evenly. What's more, some HOAs have rules against drying laundry outside on clotheslines or drying racks. Even though you don't need to wash the pillow for this method, you might be risking a fine. 

It could be time to replace your pillows

If you can't stand fluffing, there are some other options, too. Some pillow types don't need fluffing at all. Silk-filled pillows never need to be fluffed, and they retain their shape. Just think - silk pillowcases are soft, antimicrobial, and lightweight. A pillow filled with silk takes all of these qualities to the next level. However, if silk pillowcases are expensive, starting at $70, the price tag for silk pillows is wince-inducing. These silk pillows from Gingerlily start at $350, so you might want to consider some other options. 

For example, ergonomic memory foam pillows like Sleep Number's True Temp have layers of foam rather than loose filling, so don't need to be fluffed at all. However, these pillows can be pretty heavy and tricky to clean, and memory foam has an off-gassing smell that takes a couple of days to dissipate.

Pillow fluffing FAQs

How do I keep my pillow from going flat?

Unless you have a memory foam or silk pillow, your pillow will flatten over the night. The best thing is to get into the habit of giving your pillows a good shake and fluff every morning when you make your bed. 

How do I keep my pillows from getting lumpy?

Make sure that your pillows are clean and dry before you fluff them up. If your pillows are damp or dirty, the filling inside is more likely to clump together and make lumps. If your pillow is lumpy no matter what you do to it, it could be a sign that you need new pillows. 

These techniques aren't just useful for pillows. You can use all of these methods on thick duvets, comforters, and down pillow-tops to make your entire bed feel brand-new.  

Sophie Warren-Smith
Contributing Editor

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.