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How To Spot Clean A Pillow

Unlike bed sheets and clothes, you can't always toss pillows into the washer to remove stains and sanitize them. However, you can spot clean them to lift stains from food, beverages, and grease to keep them looking brand new. But how do you spot clean pillows? In this post, we have found the answer for you.

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Here's how to spot clean a pillow:

  1. Remove visible dirt and dust
  2. Use a towel to blot the stain
  3. Apply mild soapy water
  4. Apply a bag of ice (for sticky stains)
  5. Apply rubbing alcohol (for ink stains)
  6. Blot it dry

Before attempting to spot clean your pillows, it's always best to first look at the care tag to ensure that you don't damage the pillow in the process. And, of course, it's always helpful to do a small spot test on an inconspicuous area beforehand just to be on the safe side. Continue reading to learn about how to remove stains from your pillow.

woman's hands set up white pillow on the bed, How To Spot Clean A Pillow

Steps To Spot Clean A Pillow

Dirty pillow on wooden table

Things you'll need:

  • A white towel or microfiber cloth
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Baking soda
  • Ziploc bag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • 2 cups of ice

1. Remove visible dirt and dust

To begin spot cleaning your pillow, most importantly, first remove as much debris and visible dust as possible. Doing so will help you avoid smearing the wet dust around the pillow and pushing it into the fabric. If you have an upholstery vacuum, run it over the pillow a few times to get rid of any debris and dust on the pillow's surface and around the zipper.

You can also use a vacuum that has an upholstery brush to do this as well. Be careful when running the vacuum over any frayed edges of the pillow, as you don't want to suck up any loose threading into the vacuum.

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2. Use a towel to blot the stain

It's important to blot up any excess liquid or grease as soon as possible. To do this, press a paper towel or dry towel over the stained area in gently dab the pillow to soak up the liquid. Continue to do this until most of the liquid transfers to the towel or cloth from the pillow. Make sure that you don't use any colored towels as they may transfer dyes to the pillow.

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3. Apply mild soapy water

Next, take a microfiber cloth and dip it into the soapy water. Before applying it to the pillow, ring it out once or twice so that water is not dripping from the cloth. Gently rub the cloth on the stained area in a circular motion, starting from the outside of the stain and working your way toward the middle. This will keep the stain from spreading to the surrounding areas for the pillow. If you are having trouble removing the stain, apply a teaspoon of baking soda and rub it in with a small toothbrush to help lift it from the pillow's fabric.

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Take a dry cloth and wipe the baking soda off of the pillow. Next, rinse the cloth with warm water, wring it out, and use it to wipe away any soapy residue from the affected area.

4. Apply a bag of ice (for sticky stains)

If you have sticky substances on the pillow, such as syrup, chewing gum, or candy, take a Ziploc bag, fill it with two cups of ice, and place it on the pillow's stained area. Keep the bag of ice on the pillow for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until the stain hardens. Next, use a butter knife or the edge of a credit card to scrape the hardened substance off of the pillow.

Be sure to start on the outer edges of the spot and work your way toward the middle. If the substance softens again during the process, reapply the ice pack until it hardens, then repeat the process. Follow this up with soapy water and baking soda if necessary to remove the spot from the pillow.

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5. Apply rubbing alcohol (for ink stains)

If you have an ink stain on your pillow, apply rubbing alcohol to a white cloth (or hand towel) and gently dab the stain until the ink transfers from the pillow to the cloth or towel. It's always best to ensure colorfastness first before applying the rubbing alcohol to the entire stain. Beforehand, do a quick test on a small part of the stain to ensure that it is okay to proceed.

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6. Blot it dry

Once you have effectively removed the stain from the pillow, take a dry cloth or towel and gently blot the pillow to remove any excess water. This will help the pillow to dry out faster and prevent the accumulation of mold and mildew. You can also set the pillow outside on a warm sunny day to help it dry faster.

With continued usage, pillows can collect body oil, skin products, sweat, and other substances. If your pillow is machine washable, following up the spot cleaning with the toss in the washer can help freshen it up. Unsure how to wash your pillow? If so, continue reading!

How to deep clean a pillow

Big white soft pillows on a white luxury cozy bed with clean white sheets, how to wash feather pillows

With the exception that your pillow specifies Dry Clean Only on the care tag, you should be able to hand or machine-wash the pillow about once or twice a year for deep cleaning. Washing pillows isn't tough, but care should be taken to ensure that you don't damage the pillow during the washing and drying process. Here's how to give your pillows a deep cleaning.

1. Throw it in the washer

If you have a regular-sized pillow, toss it in the washer with another pillow to help balance out the load. Next, add 1/4 cup of laundry detergent to the washing machine and set it on the gentle cycle or the shortest setting available on your washing machine. You can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to the washing machine to remove any odors from the pillows.

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2. Dry it thoroughly

After pulling the pillows from the washer, toss them into the dryer with a couple of tennis balls or dryer balls. Be sure also to throw in a fabric softener sheet. Set the dryer to medium heat or for 45 minutes so that the pillows dry thoroughly. Drying the pillows thoroughly is important as they may develop mildew if they remain damp.

You can also add one or two dry towels to the dryer to help speed up the pillows' drying process. If the weather is warm and sunny, you can hang the pillows outside on a clothesline to let them air-dry. Typically, if the weather is 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the pillows will dry in about 12 to 24 hours.

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Can You Wash Something That Says Spot Clean Only?

No, please do not wash spot clean only items! If you wash an item that specifies Spot Clean Only, you risk ruining it.

What Happens If You Wash Something That Says Spot Clean Only?

If you wash a garment that has a care tag that says Spot Clean Only, you risk the chance of ruining the garment. These types of garments don't bode well with water or certain fabric cleaners and can only be cleaned with steam. Washing them may cause them to lose their shape, and you can also ruin their color.

How Do You Disinfect A Pillow?

There are a few ways to go about disinfecting pillows, depending on the filling material used in the pillow. One quick way to sanitize your pillow is to spray it with Lysol spray. If you don't have this available, you can also wash the pillow to sanitize it. Below are the steps to a general method to disinfect most types of pillows.

1. Take off the cover

Take off the cover of your pillow by unzipping it or pulling it from the pillow itself. Oftentimes, decorative pillows have buttons, zippers, or flaps that you can remove to wash the pillow itself. However, if your pillow has a sewn-on cover, you will not be able to remove it without having to re-stitch it together. So it's best to just leave it on.

2. Throw the pillow in the washer

If the pillow has polyester or feather filling, you can wash it with 1/4 of a cup of mild detergent and warm water. Take the pillow and throw it into the washing machine, setting it on a gentle cycle. You can also typically wash cotton pillow as well. Next, add half a tablespoon of color-safe bleach to the water to help sanitize the pillow.

3. Dry the pillow thoroughly

Once the pillow has completed the washing cycle, toss it into the dryer with a few dryer balls and fabric softener. Place the dryer on a medium setting, and once the cycle has finished, re-fluff the pillow by hand to remove any lumpiness.

4. Hand wash the pillow cover

To disinfect the pillow's cover, place it in a sink full of water and add a few teaspoons of antibacterial dishwashing soap. Gently agitate the pillow cover to help soak it in the water. Let it soak for about 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing it out and hanging it to dry. If it's not washable, you can also spray it with disinfectant or sprinkle a few teaspoons of borax on it.

Wrapping things up

We hope that this post has provided you with all of the information you were looking for regarding spot cleaning pillows. Remember, it's always best to do a small test with your cleaning solution before applying it to the entire stain.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

How To Get Yellow Stains Out Of Pillows

Should Pillows On Your Sofa And Loveseat Match?