The main benefit of a memory foam pillow is that the material can adapt to the contours of your head and neck to help distribute pressure and increase comfort.
The downside is that memory foam pillows tend to trap sweat and can start to smell after prolonged use.
So you might be wondering if you can wash your memory foam pillows without damaging them or not.
Memory foam pillows can NOT be washed in the washing machine without the risk of the memory foam becoming severely damaged. However, memory foam pillows CAN be washed safely by hand using cold water and a mild detergent or enzyme cleaner.
Memory foam pillows should NOT be placed in the dryer because the heat can cause the filling to melt.
You should wash your memory foam pillows at least once every 2 months – possibly even more frequently during the summer and/or if you tend to sleep hot/sweat a lot at night – in order to maintain good hygiene.
The rest of this article explains how to wash your memory foam pillows properly step-by-step.
How to Wash Memory Foam Pillows
The safest way to wash and dry your memory foam pillows is to follow the exact instructions on the label.
In the event of there being no label – or if clear instructions are otherwise lacking – then you may want to consult with a professional dry cleaner or cleaning company for guidance on how to wash your pillows.
But if you’re prepared to take matters into your own hands, then the first step is to ascertain if your pillows are made from solid memory foam or shredded memory foam.
Because whilst the cleaning strategies are mostly the same, it’s important to note that solid memory foam pillows tend to need more delicate care than shredded memory foam because the solid block is more liable to crack and degrade.
Memory foam can get wet but it tends to not release the moisture very well, so it’s best to expose your pillows to as little liquid as possible to avoid creating a damp environment that could encourage mold growth and odors.
As such, the ‘general washing’ strategy listed below is the recommended technique for regular cleaning.
This is how to wash your memory foam pillows without damaging them:
- Remove the pillowcase – wash and dry your pillowcases separately in line with the instructions listed on the label.
- Rinse the pillow in the sink/bathtub – rinse the pillow under the tap using cold water and try to avoid letting the pillow sit in the water to avoid excessive moisture retention.
- Use a mild detergent – add 1 teaspoon of mild detergent (such as washing up liquid) per 1 gallon of water to the sink/bathtub to help dissolve dirt and grease.
- Apply the cleaning solution – dab the pillow into the mixture of cold water and the detergent (avoid soaking) until the entire surface of the pillow has been covered.
- Rinse – rinse away the soap with clean water.
- Press between towels – do NOT wring or rub the pillows because wet memory foam can tear. Instead, place the pillow between two towels and press downwards – repeat to expel as much moisture as possible.
- Air dry – do NOT put the pillows in the dryer. After pressing, you should allow the pillows to air dry (sunlight can help speed up the process and kill bacteria).
With the general washing strategy, the aim is to remove the surface dirt, grease, and bacteria whilst avoiding deep soaking of the memory foam so that the pillow doesn’t retain moisture.
Here’s how to remove stains from your memory foam pillows:
- Dab away excess moisture – if the stain is fresh then you should attempt to dab away any excess moisture using a clean, white cloth (avoid a colored cloth because the dye may transfer and do NOT rub aggressively at the stain since this can damage the memory foam and push the stain further in).
- Prepare a cleaning solution – for general stains, mix a mild detergent with cold water (1 teaspoon of detergent per gallon of water). Use an enzyme cleaner for more aggressive stains but do NOT use bleach.
- Apply the cleaning solution – dip a clean white cloth into the cleaning solution and dab gently at the stain (again, do NOT rub aggressively – this can make the stain worse and damage the memory foam). Work from the outside of the stain towards the center to avoid spreading the stain.
- Air dry – once the stain has lightened or gone, you should air-dry your pillow (do NOT use the dryer) fully before using it.
A mild detergent can be used in many cases, but an enzyme cleaner may be required for urine stains or blood.
For very stubborn stains, you could use hydrogen peroxide.
It’s crucial that you don’t rub aggressively at the stain because this can make it worse and damage the memory foam.
Here’s how to deep clean your memory foam pillow to remove the most amount of dirt, grease, and bacteria:
- Fill the bathtub with cold water – cold water reduces the chance of stains setting.
- Add a mild detergent – add a mild detergent like washing up liquid (avoid bleach and harsh chemicals), use 1 teaspoon of detergent per gallon of water.
- Submerge the pillow – push downwards on the pillow so that the cleaning solution can penetrate the memory foam and remove the dirt and bacteria. Do NOT wring, twist, or aggressively rub the pillow because wet memory foam can tear (the video below shows the exact technique that you should use).
- Rinse out the soap – empty your bathtub, wash it out with water, and then refill it with clean water. Place the pillow in the water and repeatedly press downwards until the soap is fully expelled (signified by the water coming out clear).
- Press between towels – press the pillow between two towels to remove as much liquid as possible (this is very important because due to the submersion, the liquid will be deeply embedded into the pillow).
- Air dry – before putting your pillow case back on, you should air dry your memory foam pillow until there’s no sign of damp (sunlight can help but do NOT use the dryer).
Deep cleaning can remove the dirt and bacteria that are embedded more deeply into the memory foam.
However, you should generally only deep clean your memory foam pillow 1-4 times per year to avoid soaking the foam and causing moisture retention that could lead to mold, mildew, odor, and material damage.
Also, memory foam naturally tends to be hypoallergenic and quite resistant to microbes like dust mites – which may reduce the need for frequent deep cleaning.
Here’s how to deodorize a memory foam pillow without getting it wet and avoiding damp:
- Apply baking soda – sprinkle baking soda on one side of the memory foam pillow and allow it to sit for 1-2 hours (ideally in the sun).
- Vacuum away the baking soda – use the upholstery attachment to vacuum away the baking soda.
- Repeat – do the same thing on the other side of the memory foam pillow before putting your pillowcase back on.
Baking soda is a great way to remove smells from memory foam mattresses and pillows without getting the foam wet.
Alternatively, you may like to try a fabric freshener like Febreze.
What to Avoid
Here’s what you need to avoid doing in order to prevent damage to your memory foam pillows and extend their lifespan:
- Do NOT use the washing machine – this can cause your memory foam pillow to tear.
- Avoid the dryer – the heat can cause the materials to melt and become distorted.
- Avoid bleach – harsh chemicals can cause the memory foam to degrade.
- Do NOT wring – twisting wet memory foam can cause it to tear.
- Avoid warm water – although warm water may help to kill bacteria better, using cold water can help to stop stains from setting.
- Do NOT use a damp memory foam pillow – putting your pillowcase on a damp memory foam pillow and using it can trap the moisture and lead to mold growth and odor.
Here are the answers to some of the questions related to washing and cleaning memory foam pillows.
What Happens if You Wash a Memory Foam Pillow in the Machine?
If you wash a memory foam pillow in the washing machine then it will become waterlogged and may tear due to the friction generated by the machine.
What Should You Do if You Washed Your Memory Foam Pillow in the Machine?
If you accidentally washed your memory foam pillow in the washing machine then you should press as much water out of the pillows using a set of towels as possible before allowing them to air dry – do NOT twist the foam because it may tear.
Can Memory Foam Get Wet?
Memory foam can get wet but it’s more liable to tear and can be difficult to dry completely.
Can You Steam Clean a Memory Foam Pillow?
It’s not recommended that you steam clean a memory foam pillow because this may damage the memory foam.
Conclusion: Light Cleaning Advised
The best way to clean your memory foam pillows is by lightly applying a mixture of cold water and a mild detergent and then rinsing the pillows without submerging them in the water – as per the general cleaning strategy outlined above.
Because this will remove much of the surface dirt and grease without soaking the pillows so much that it makes them difficult to dry out.
Hence the reason why deep cleaning should be applied sparingly – use the spot cleaning strategy as needed.
This article is for informational purposes only. Always follow the instructions on the care label or consult with a cleaning professional to avoid damaging your pillows.
Image Attribution and Licencing
Main image: ‘High Performance Memory Foam Hypoallergenic Pillow on White Bed Sheets’ by Vonkara1 – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.