How to wash a body pillow – laundry experts share their tips for bulky laundry

Take the stress out of this laundry challenge with these simple tricks

A bed with white padded headboard made with white bedding and a blue throw pillow
(Image credit: Sweetpea & Willow)

Body pillows can be a fantastic way to get full-body comfort when snuggling down to sleep at night. However, their size and comfort come at a cost – they need to be washed just as much as you would wash the rest of your bedding. 

Unlike washing pillows, body pillows can sometimes be too large to fit in even the best washing machine and their plump stuffing means they can take an age to dry thoroughly enough to use again. 

So, how do you wash a body pillow? Here, laundry care experts and professional cleaners explain all. 

How to wash a body pillow

Even the best body pillows need to be freshened up and washed every once in a while, but it doesn't have to be the immense chore you think it will be. This is how to make it easier.  

1. Check the care label

hand wash laundry label

(Image credit: Getty images / Kinga Krzeminska)

Before doing laundry, you should always start by checking the care label and laundry symbols for tips on how to wash the body pillow without damaging it, begins Kim Romnie, P&G fabric care scientist. 

‘Check fabric care labels to make sure your down goods can be put in the washing machine.  If your pillow has a removable cover, go ahead and remove it from the pillow and launder it separately,’ she recommends. 

'While you are checking the label, take the time to also check the pillow for any signs of wear or damage, too,' she adds. ‘Check seams for durability, and mend any shaky seams before laundering.’ 

2. Washing them in the washing machine

Miele washing machine in a stylish farmhouse modern laundry room with sage green cabinets, a sink full of flowers, and a decorative vase

(Image credit: Miele)

For smaller body pillows, you might find that they are machine washable, continues Daniel Feliciano, co-founder and CEO of Clotheslyne:

‘If the body pillow is machine washable, a front-loading washer is recommended. This type of washer doesn't have a central agitator that can cause damage over time with a body pillow. Be sure to wash the pillow on a delicate cycle with mild detergent and add some towels to balance the load. Select a low spin setting to avoid clumping. Rinse the pillow to remove the soap thoroughly.’ 

Just because a body pillow is machine washable, doesn't mean it will always be suitable for your washing machine. Consider your machine’s load limit and drum size to avoid the common washing machine mistake of overloading the drum.  

3. Or, hand wash larger body pillows

image of bath in country house

(Image credit: Genevieve Lutkin)

‘If the body pillow is not machine washable, you must hand wash the body pillow,’ Daniel Feliciano, laundry expert, continues. ‘Fill a bathtub or large basin with lukewarm water and mild detergent to hand wash. Immerse the pillow, gently agitate it by hand, and let it soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water until all soap is removed. Gently squeeze out excess water, and do not wring the pillow. Otherwise, it might go out of shape.’ 

4. Use the right products

A laundry basket with fodled sheets and laundry detergent bottles

(Image credit: Getty Images)

No matter if you are hand washing laundry or popping your body pillow in the washing machine, it pays to use the right products. While the detergent you use might vary depending on your allergies and the pillow’s materials, you will generally want to pick out a mild detergent and avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and powdered detergents, advises Parima Ijaz, bedding expert and Founder of Pure Parima. These all risk damaging the pillow, she explains.  

5. Lay flat to dry, or add to the tumble dryer

laundry room with brass accessories

(Image credit: Curated Nest/Jacob Snavely)

Drying the body pillow is the next big challenge, and there are generally two ways to go about it. For a smaller body pillow (or a larger tumble dryer) you can tumble dry it on a gentle, low-heat. Parima Ijaz, bedding expert, recommends adding in a few wool dryer balls, or even a clean tennis ball or two to help plump up the pillow after washing and ensure the following is evenly distributed.

If air drying, you should lay the pillow out flat, rather than hanging it on a drying rack or line drying to prevent stretching, adds Daniel Feliciano, laundry expert. Laying it flat in the sun will speed up the drying process and further sanitize the pillow. In the absence of good weather, popping a dehumidifier beneath or nearby will speed up the drying and prevent musty smells.  

Wool Dryer Balls $9.88 at Walmart

Wool Dryer Balls $9.88 at Walmart
Avoid single-use dryer sheets and opt for a more eco-conscious laundry routine with wool dryer balls. They speed up drying, and with a few drops of essential oil, help to freshen up your laundry too

6. Freshen up between washes

A messy body pillow on a messy bed, a pair of knitted baby boots on top

(Image credit: Nelly Senko via Getty Images)

Given that washing a body pillow can be a laborious process, it helps to pick up a few quick cleaning tips to keep the pillow fresh and preserve your sleep hygiene between washes. Kim Romnie, P&G fabric care scientist recommends getting a removable cover for your body pillow that can be washed more frequently, for instance. 

However, freshening up is not an excuse to neglect washing altogether, she warns. ‘Since pillows are used many times between washing, they can have built up or set in soils. You should be washing them at least every few months so they don't become too soiled.  

‘If you experience stains or soils like makeup or dirt on your pillow between washes, you can also spot clean by making a solution with water and Tide Free and Gentle liquid, available at Walmart.  Take a cloth and gently rub the stain with the detergent solution repeating until the stain is gone.  You should then rinse the spot with a cloth soaked in clear water and let air dry. You can also use a product like Tide Anti-bacterial fabric spray on the pillow between washes.’  

If you need another way to freshen up your body pillow and deep clean to kill bacteria between thorough washes, body pillows are one of the many things you can clean with a steamer. Check the care label first to ensure the materials are safe to be subjected to high heat, and steam using the upholstery attachment on your best steam cleaner. This will penetrate deep into the stuffing and kill any bacteria while also removing odors – perfect for a quick refresh.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.