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How to Clean a Memory Foam Pillow

For 16 years I had to make sure I had a clean and hygienic environment because I was a caregiver and mom to a severely disabled son.


How to Clean a Memory Foam Pillow

My late special needs son, Jaden, had a severe form of cerebral Palsy that affected his muscle spasticity, making his muscles rigid and tight. Sleeping did not come naturally to him, so we had to use meds and special pillows. One of these pillows was a memory foam pillow and it would often get dirty, so I had to learn about memory foam pillows.

As you know hygiene is important and even more so if your immune system is compromised ergo cleaning the one thing that we find our faces pressed against most, is a MUST. Hence it must be done properly, or you will have dust mites playing tambourine in your ears but not everyone knows how to clean pillows especially memory foam ones.

Ever been tempted to just throw the thing in the washing machine? I have, trust me, it did not end well, and let us just say even my dog did not want to sleep on it. So, I felt I needed to write this article and share practical information, a sort of how-to, for your pillow so you can keep your comfy companion in tip-top shape.


What is Memory Foam Pillow?

Before we can clean them let us find out precisely what a memory foam pillow is. No, it is not a pillow that allows you to store memories (although that would be awesome!) This type of pillows is made of, as the name suggests, memory foam, otherwise called Viscoelastic foam. It is a treated polyurethane with a synthetic compound, and other chemicals. It is sensitive to heat and pressure which is the reason it works so well. It reacts to increased temperature by softening which means it can mould. Making it able to adapt to fit your head and shoulders. The heat from your body will soften it and mould it to fit you however once cool, it will go back to its original state especially the pillows with high density.

Origins of Memory Foam Pillows

Believe it or not, this pillow was discovered by NASA, or at least memory foam was (E.T went home and left it behind, just kidding). To enhance cushions for astronauts, which could serve also to protect them if there was a crash or accident, they came upon this wonderful material. This was in 1966 and it was Initially called “temper foam”. This was because of its ability to change to temperature. Since its inception, memory foam has moved from being used in specialized fields to being used for comfort in the home, like mattresses and pillows.



Memory foam pillows are undoubtedly the most hygienic pillows around which is why I used it for my special need’s son. They are also user-friendly to people with allergies which is why I use it for my daughter as well. This is because the pillows are resistant to bacteria, dust mites and other germs that can use a pillow as a habitat. Unlike your regular pillows, although dust mites may stay on the surface, they cannot go into the material.

Absolute Don’ts

Here are a few things you should not do when cleaning your pillow:

  • Put it in the washer or drier.
  • Wringing.
  • Harsh scrubbing.
  • Use a strong detergent.
  • Use hot water.

Express cleaning your pillow

You would mostly need your usual household items to clean your memory foam pillows so, it is neither as expensive nor difficult as you might imagine. I will try to guide you on how to clean it, looking at the following: spills, stains, removing bad odor, and deep cleaning.

1. Spills

Spilled something on your pillow? No worries, you are in good company, happens all the time to me. First things first, remain calm then move quickly before it turns into a bad stain.

a. Remove the pillow cover

Remove pillow cover to wash separately

b. Then dab out excess liquid

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Use a dry, clean cloth to blot out the excess spillage. Blot do not scrub.

c. Use detergent

Now mix a gentle detergent like dish detergent with cool water. Immerse a clean cloth in the water then use that to dab the spill until it is all out.

d. Dry

Finally, take a clean cloth and dab at the spot to dry it or just leave it out to dry.


2. Bad Odours

Is your memory foam pillow giving off a bad smell? Some people complain of a certain odour from their fresh from the store pillows. This smell is a result of off-gassing. Off-gassing is when a Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) spill into the air from the pillow. Relax, it is not another pandemic, this compound is not harmful to you. You can leave the pillow outside in direct sunlight to air out. If the odour is from something else, like say saliva (my son dribbled a lot especially when he played) then read on and follow the steps below to ensure a better smelling pillow.

a. Pillow cover

The first step is to be rid of the pillowcase.

b. Baking soda

Yes, the oldest trick in the book. Splash some baking soda on the pillow, making sure to cover the whole surface, ( add cherries then put it in the oven to bake till golden delicious, JOKING) then leave it be for an hour or so.

c. Vacuum

Use a handheld vacuum to clean it or use the upholstery attachment on your normal vacuum. Thoroughly vacuum the whole pillow and this will absorb the odour.

d. Repeat

Turn the other side and do the same following the steps from a to b. Your pillow should then be fresh and odourless.


3.Pillow Stains

Stains are a nuisance and can frustratingly make you want to toss a perfectly good pillow so make sure to at least try to get the stain out before you turn all "hulk smash" on it.

a. Mix solution

Add white distilled vinegar to cool water. You can add about a teaspoon of lemon juice to stifle the smell of vinegar. Then transfer the solution to a spray bottle.

b. Spray

Lightly spray the stain with the solution then let it be for a few minutes.


Soak a clean cloth in cool clean water. Use the cloth to dab at the stain.


Repeat the process until the stain completely gone. Spray let it be then dab.


Once the stain is gone leave the pillow to air dry.


4. Deep Cleaning your pillow

Every so often your memory foam pillow must be cleaned thoroughly and No, washing machine still not an option. You will need surgical gloves, a MIR machine, and some chocolate, again I’m just kidding (yes I have a weird sense of humour but in order to cope with harsh realities, one must learn to smile through it all).
So, to end up with a clean, fresh pillow, follow the steps below.

a. Remove covers

As always, we start by removing the pillow covers to be washed separately.

b. Mix detergent

Fill a bathtub or large sink with cool or lukewarm water. Add a detergent, a gentle detergent like the kind you use for dishes or hand-washing silk. If you have a liking for it, you could also add lavender oil. Purely to scent your pillow.

c. Clean

Fully submerge your pillow in the water. Make sure to squeeze it so that the soapy solution goes all the way into the pillow. The goal is to make sure that the whole pillow gets clean. By squeezing you ensure the water goes past just the surface. Continue to repeat this until you are satisfied.

d. Rinse

Now we rinse out all that soap. Drain the soapy solution and refill the tub with clean water, still cool water. Submerge the pillow and squeeze it in. Repeat this a few more times to get out all the soap or any residual dirt. Do this until the water runs clear.

e. Dry

Before you can leave it to dry, squeeze the water out of the pillow. Remember, no wringing as that could deform your pillow. Just go on squeezing. Then you can leave it out to air dry, preferably outside in the sunlight. Depending on the density of your pillow it will take about a day or two to fully dry. Please do not replace the cover or use a pillow before it is completely dry. So as a little tip, do not do all your pillow washing in one day, or if you do ensure you have a spare pillow.

Happy washing!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 11, 2020:

Much appreciated Elaine:)

Elaine Byers on September 11, 2020:

Fantastic advice, I'm going to try this out on my memory foam mattress, thanks for this great article!

Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 02, 2020:

Appreciate the support:)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 01, 2020:

Thanks for this excellent information as to how to clean a memory foam pillow. I did not know all this excellent information and I appreciate it, Charlene.

Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 01, 2020:

Thank you for reading:)

Kyriaki Chatzi on September 01, 2020:

I am a huge fan of memory foam pillows. They adjust to your head almost perfectly and make sleeping all the more comfortable. However, cleaning has always been a pain point for me. But, your tips are really helpful. Thank you for sharing!

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