Want to clean yellow pillows? Here’s how to make pillows white again, with EASY steps for 9 ways & a video to whiten pillows without bleach.
How To Make Yellow Pillows White Again
If you use a pillow long enough, everyone’s pillows will yellow. That pillow yellowing is caused by a reaction with moisture from sweat, wet hair, skin care products and saliva building up on the pillow.
Some people prefer to throw yellow pillows away and just buy new. BUT, if your pillow is still comfortable and fluffy, you can clean and whiten yellow pillows pretty easily.
If your pillow is washable, it should be washed every 6 months. But, if you eat in bed or sweat a lot, you might need to wash your pillows more often.
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Washing your pillows correctly can remove the odors, bacteria, sweat, dirt, and dust mites that build up over time. Even with regular washing, most pillows should be replaced every 2 years.
Spraying a pillow with Lysol Spray, or similar products cannot completely clean a pillow. Those sprays can’t penetrate deep enough to kill all of the bacteria inside of the pillow.
Before following any of these tips, check the label on your pillow to be sure that the pillow can be washed, soaked, or cleaned with wet cleaners. Some pillows need to be professionally cleaned.
OK, let’s get to that list of ways to make yellow pillows white again.
Table of contents
- How To Make Yellow Pillows White Again
- Is It Safe To Put Pillows In A Dryer?
- How To Whiten Pillows
- How To Whiten Pillows: Video
- How To Clean Yellow Pillows In A Washing Machine
Is It Safe To Put Pillows In A Dryer?
Be sure to check the manufacturers directions, just in case. But it is generally safe to put washable pillows in the dryer. I put my pillows in the dryer for about 2 hours to get them completely dry.
I don’t use dryer balls. But some people say that dryer balls or tennis balls in the dryer with a pillow will fluff your pillow back up. So, it’s worth a try if you have dryer balls.
It is VERY important to make sure that your pillows completely dry after washing. If they stay damp inside, they can MILDEW.
Another great way to dry pillows is to hang them up outside on a warm day. They’ll dry while getting whiter, thanks to the bleaching effect the sun has on wet pillows.
How To Whiten Pillows
Before following any of these methods, check the care instructions provided with your pillows. Some pillows cannot be washed in a washing machine. And, some higher-end pillows require dry cleaning.
Don’t forget, feather pillows can’t handle hot water. And, memory foam or latex pillows should be hand washed. The foam can fall apart in a washing machine.
1. Regular Washing
The EASIEST way to make pillows white again is with a washing machine. At least, I think that’s the easiest way. In my front loading washing machine I can wash 1 or 2 pillows without problem.
I actually prefer just 1 at a time so that more of the cleaning solution can hit both sides of the pillow. Watch the video at the end of this post to see what I mean.
Sometimes top loaders really need 2 pillows at a time to keep the load balance. So, just keep that in mind if you have problems.
I wash yellow pillows on the Bulk wash setting in warm water. I use the normal amount of Tide Detergent (it’s my favorite) AND 2x the normal amount of OxiClean White Revive because the pillows are so yellow.
If your washer has a Soak Cycle option. I’d recommend using it to let the OxiClean White Revive have more time to work it’s magic. If not, no worries, your pillows will still get a lot whiter.
I want to point out that I use warm water because that’s what is recommended on the OxiClean. Some people prefer hot water for pillows, to kill more germs and bacteria.
But, if the correct amount of detergent is used, hot water isn’t necessary. You’ll still get all of the cleaning power without using hot water.
2. Sunlight Can Make Pillows White Again
If the washing machine didn’t get your pillows white enough, hanging them in sunlight will help to whiten yellow pillows. It works best if the pillows are wet when you hang them up.
The UV rays from the sun can have a bleaching effect on the fabric, helping to whiten it. Sunlight can also help to remove other stains naturally. So give sunlight a try on any stubborn fabric stains.
3. Baking Soda
In a large tub create a prewash soak using 1 cup of baking soda per 1 gallon of water. Make enough to cover your pillow or pillows. Let your pillows soak overnight
When soaked long enough, baking soda is great at removing grease stains, blood stains, and sweat stains. It’s also a fabric softener and it can kill odor causing bacteria.
After soaking overnight, wash the pillows (max 2 pillows per wash) in your washing machine with normal detergent.
This one is similar to the Baking Soda pretreat I used to get the sweat smell out of clothes.
White vinegar is a great at cleaning many things around your home. I like to use vinegar to clean shower glass. On fabric, vinegar can help eliminate yellowing, odors, and most bacteria.
Mix equal parts water and white vinegar to create a vinegar pre-treat for your pillows. Make enough to saturate your pillows in a tub. Then let it sit overnight.
After soaking in vinegar overnight, wash the pillows in your washing machine with normal detergent or an oxygenated detergent, like OxiClean.
5. OxiClean Pre-Treat (or Other Oxygen Bleach Brands)
Oxygen Bleach is such an effective cleaner because it’s a mix of Hydrogen Peroxide and Washing Soda. Oxygen Bleach is safer than chlorine bleach on fabric and skin. In fact, it’s non-toxic.
Oxygen Bleach, like OxiClean, is great at breaking down stains and odors, making it easier for Laundry Detergent to wash away those stains and odors.
Follow the instructions on the product to mix a pre-soak for your pillows. Make enough to cover your pillows in a tub. Leave that overnight to soak.
In the morning, without ringing the pillows out, throw those pillows (max of 2 pillows in 1 load) in a washing machine with the normal amount of detergent to finish cleaning and whitening yellow pillows.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
Like I mentioned above, one of the key ingredients in Oxygen Bleach is Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide is also a fantastic cleaner on it’s own.
I like to use Hydrogen Peroxide and a soft toothbrush to clean stained grout. It did a great job on stained grout stains without damaging the grout sealer.
To make yellow pillows white again with hydrogen peroxide, spray hydrogen peroxide straight out of the bottle on both sides of your pillow. Be sure to saturate the fabric.
Let that sit overnight. Repeat if necessary. Then wash 1 or 2 pillows in your washing machine to remove the stains and dirt that the hydrogen peroxide has helped to loosen and whiten.
7. Enzyme Cleaners
Enzyme-based cleaners can be effective in breaking down tough stains and yellowing on pillows. Look for enzyme cleaners specifically formulated for fabrics, and follow the instructions provided.
A popular example of an enzyme cleaner is the BioKleen line of enzyme cleaners. It’s popular for getting stains out of washable baby diapers. So, it’s safe enough to use on pillows too.
After using BioKleen on your pillows and giving it time to work. Follow it by washing your pillows in the washing machine with your normal detergent.
8. Dishwasher Tablets OR Dishwasher Detergent
I haven’t tried this one YET. But, I plan to the next time I wash my pillows. People rave to me about how well dishwasher detergent works to whiten yellow pillows. Rave!
So, I’m going to trust that they’re right.
For this one wash 1 or 2 pillows in your washing machine with the normal amount of laundry detergent plus 1 cup of powdered dishwasher detergent OR 1 tablet of dishwasher detergent (not gel packs).
9. Professional Cleaning
If none of the options above work for you, and you REALLY want to save your pillow, you can try taking your pillows to a professional cleaner that specializes in upholstery or fabric cleaning.
A professional cleaner might have access to specialized products and techniques that can help you make your pillows white again.
How To Whiten Pillows: Video
Want to see how to whiten pillows in a washing machine with OxiClean? Watch this video to see it done.
How To Clean Yellow Pillows In A Washing Machine
Check the care instructions on your pillow to be sure it can be washed. Foam and latex pillows cannot be washed in a washing machine. Most feather pillows need to be hand washed.
For pillows that can be washed, follow these easy steps to get pillows white again in a washing machine.
- Add the regular amount of laundry detergent AND 2x the regular amount of OxiClean White Revive to your washer. (OxiClean recommends 2x amount for yellow stains)
- Put 1 or 2 yellow pillows in your washer. 1 works best in my front loader, it lets the soapy water make contact with both sides of the pillow. But, some people need to wash 2 at a time for balance.
- Wash in warm or hot water on a bulk setting. Add a Soak Cycle, if available, to let the OxiClean White Revive work longer.
- Place pillows in a dryer on high heat for 2 hours, or until the pillow is fully dry. Damp pillows will mildew if not dried properly.
That’s it for 9 ways to make pillows white again. I hope this helped! Now, here’s a few more posts you might like.
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Stephanie Abbott has been remodeling homes, updating & building furniture, and working on DIY home maintenance and cleaning tips for over 20 years. Her remodeling has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. And, her DIY YouTube channel has had more than 8 million views.
Most of the DIY tutorials and videos on this site focus on beginner to intermediate level DIY Projects that can be done in an affordable way without high-end, expensive tools. All of the cleaning tips on this website have been tested in her home.