It may be the last thing anyone wants to acknowledge, but the pillows where we place our heads at night are virtual breeding grounds for bacteria and other microorganisms.
The average person spends one-third of their life asleep. During that time, it’s gross — but all too true — that our skin and saliva can, shall we say, free themselves from the body, promoting the growth of bacteria inside our pillows and pillowcases in the process.
Feeling creeped out? Don’t worry. A proper pillow cleaning is just a few simple steps away with the road map we’ve sketched out below. Included are some of the best tools on the market today to help you on your journey to pillow purification.
Potentially harmful invaders
Pillows can absorb and carry other potentially harmful invaders, including:
- Dust mites
- Larger insects, possibly including bed bugs
Now, just because it’s possible for these substances to find their way into your pillow, that does not mean that hosts of deadly pathogens are congregating there right now, plotting your demise. But there is some risk, especially if you don’t clean or maintain your pillow as recommended.
Cleaning your pillow
Does your pillow need a deep clean or more of a once-over? Are you a do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiast, or are you more comfortable letting the professionals handle it?
In general, sleep experts recommend cleaning pillows twice a year and replacing them every two or three years. As with everything else, wear and tear, grime, and microorganisms simply accumulate in pillows over time. So, don’t let replacing them become an afterthought, no matter how comfortable they are.
Tips and tools for pillow cleanliness include:
- Dry cleaning: Check first to see if your dry cleaner accepts pillows. You may need to shop around for the best price or even to find one that accepts pillows.
- DIY home cleaning: If you’re handling the task yourself, wash the pillow on the warm cycle and add half a cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, and a good-quality laundry booster like the Charlie’s Soap Laundry Booster and Hard Water Treatment to the water.
- Dry it out: No one needs a primer on why damp pillows are a bad idea. Make sure pillows are completely dry from the inside out before putting them back in service. To make sure the pillow is as dry as possible, try some dryer balls, like the reusable 100% New Zealand wool balls from Smart Sheep, to achieve a faster and more complete clean compared with traditional dryer sheets. (If you have a down pillow or something similar, dryer balls can also help prevent clumping.)
- Don’t forget the pillowcase: After all, pillowcases are the pillow’s primary barrier, so wash pillowcases weekly with other bed linens in hot water and bleach.
- Sanitize at home or on the go: If bacteria and mold are a major concern and you want an extra layer of clean beyond what typical cleanings can offer, consider investing in a UV sanitizing tool, such as the Sharper Image Travel UV Sanitizing Wand. This can also be a good solution for travelers who tend to find themselves sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings.
It’s actually kind of impressive how many recent innovations we’ve seen when it comes to keeping our environment clean. Even so, good old fashioned elbow grease and a little vigilance are all it really takes to get your pillows and pillowcases clean and as pathogen-free as possible. Short of living in hermetic chambers, this simple roadmap gives you about as strong of a shield as it’s reasonably possible to have.
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