Can I Wash My Memory Foam Pillow?

In a word, “no.” Well actually you can wash it, but then you won’t want to use it again. You see, memory foam is made of thousands of tiny polyurethane bubbles all stuck together, and these little bubbles have an open cell structure. That means that the walls of each bubble are full of holes, like a wall in a house with windows and doors.

So when water, or any liquid, gets on a memory foam pillow, it soaks right into all the thousands of little holes in the cell walls. Each cell wall allows water to pass into its cell. The cells fill up, but because of the way water works (a thing called surface tension), the water kind of sticks inside each little cell. It’s nearly impossible to dry. The water will stay inside the cells for days, weeks maybe.

By the time your pillow dries out, stuff will have started to grow inside, and then you won’t want to sleep on it any more. Even if there was no problem with drying a memory foam pillow, they are impractical to wash. A washing machine and dryer tear up memory foam.

I washed a 24” x 24” x 2” sample of memory foam, just as an experiment, and it was a mess. Most of it came through in tact, but a bunch of it tore into dozens of small pieces. The foam did not fare any better in the dryer; it tore into many pieces there as well. memory foam pillow protectorIf you have a small spill on your memory foam pillow, try spot cleaning. But to guard your pillow from spills and ensure that it will last for many years, a better solution is to be proactive and get a waterproof memory foam pillow protector.

21 thoughts on “Can I Wash My Memory Foam Pillow?

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  2. Art Harmon

    am disappointed to learn that my memory foam pillow is unwashable. This is a huge limitation and means it a very expensive disposable pillow. Natural body oils have absorbed into it and now its uncleanable? Is there any non water based way to get this clean? Perhaps a solvent based cleaning system such as dry cleaning? I’ll wait for the answer before throwing away this pillow and replacing it with a convenetional one. Also I was on my way to buy a mattress topper until I read this. The idea of a waterproof protector pretty much sounds like sleeping on a unbreathable sheet of plastic. Sorry for the candor here but this seems an overcomable objection.

  3. Bev

    I agree. I read (but haven’t tried it yet) that you can wash it outside by hand with a hose and some light soap with no oil, or perhaps even vinegar and baking soda, then let it air dry for a couple days. Good luck!

  4. Su

    I have now tried to wash my pillow in a front-loading washing machine. It had absorbed natural oils. i have a front-loading washer. I began washing it on delicate and put the majority of the laundry detergent (all small and mighty) directly on the most soiled part of the pillow. A few minutes into the cycle, I took it out and THOROUGHLY rinsed it with warm water via a long shower hose in the bathtub. Then came the hard part — trying to get all the water out of it. I went through no less than 10 bath towels (after trying to get out all the water I could in the bathtub).

    I tried to dry it for a few moments (less than a minute). I would not try to dry it for any longer because the pillow will tear apart. What I would do to attempt to dry it is roll it in towels, like you would a sweater, and then wrap it in dry towels and just sit on it to try and compress out all of the water. Right now, my pillow is air-drying the rest of the way. I think it will be okay.

    In all total, it took me well over an hour and a half to try to wash it, but it was time well-spent if I don’t have to buy another pillow.

    I hope that helps, Art!

  5. Lala

    It’s not quite as satisfactory as washing, but I’ve deodorized and maybe sanitized my husband’s stinky pillow.

    I used two things: sunshine and about a dollar’s worth of cheap vodka, applied with a clean washcloth. Vodka is great for disinfecting things that can’t be rinsed, as it evaporates quickly, and is odorless and non-toxic when dried.

    I got the washcloth wet but not dripping and laid it flat and pressed it into the surface of the pillow repeatedly, moving around and re-wetting the washcloth as necessary, and test-smelling until I was satisfied the stink was gone. Then I put the pillow outside in the hot sun.

  6. George Pellington

    I’ve been able to keep my memory foam pillows clean and fresh by using some basic steps by using disinfectant sprays and vinegar. It is a bit touchy to use water, but as long as your don’t get the foam damp, you’re good to go.

  7. maria

    Wow. Vodka. Now that sounds like a bargain. But since vodka has water in it. Wouldn’t it be water too and thus stay in the memory cells and ruin it anyway with the possiblility of bacteria and fungus growing inside. I really need to wash both me and my husbands memory foam cuz they doooo stink. It’s been over 15 months since we’ve had ours. Anyway vinegar. Somebody said to use vinigar? I don’t want to experiment on a $60 pillow to just throw it away. I think I’m just going to Fabreeze it lightly and hope the smell goes awaay…

  8. Lisa Dupuis

    I’ve washed and dried mine more than once in my front loader with bleach and they are fine. Perhaps it is the brand (Isotonic) ? The pillows I have, have a removable pillowcase over them that I do not remove when washing. I also add a large towel to help (in my minds thinking) lol suck up the humidity/water… Maybe thats the key… Not sure but I def washed and dried mine and all is well.
    The first time it was hot out so I allowed it to dry outside. The second time I put it right in the dryer and just kept and eye on it every 10-15 minutes.
    Hope that helps! OX

  9. Betty

    My cat peed on my pillow while I was away for a weekend. Faced with trowing out the pillow of maybe damaging it by washing it, I put it in the front loader on hand-wash cycle with extra rinse, on cold. It does hold onto the water, and the spin cycle aborted as unbalanced (maybe it would have done better with a couple of towels added to the load. But it came out with only one small tear and NOT smelling like cat pee. As for the trapped water, I will try a no-heat tumble in the dryer with a couple of dry towels and with a clean zipper case on the pillow. Still beats throwing it in the trash!

  10. wonder boy

    after washing dry in your dryer on the shoe rack if your dyer came with one!!!! works well no issues!!!

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  12. Bessie

    I have 3 memory foam pillows. Twice a year, I put each pillow in laundry net bags and wash them in a front-loading washer @ normal/hot setting. I then air-dry them for a few days. I’ve already done this 3x and my pillows are still fine.

  13. michelle

    I have waterproof covers on all my pillows and mattresses and it is a matter of brand, and price to get one that doesn’t feel or sound like plastic. took some time, but wasn’t impossible to find a reasonable waterproof cover that wasn’t plastic at all. I got mine at kohls, and am very happy I won’t have to try and wash the pillow!

  14. G

    We should have bought the recommended pillow protectors with our two Tempur-Pedic pillows, but we didn’t. Double pillow cases allowed six years of use before both pillows became really stinky on top of the front edge.

    Dry treatment with baking soda took away the smell for about one day. Faced with throwing away the pillows anyway, I decided to experiment with gentle cleaning. Using a washcloth dampened by a mixture of water and Spic & Span, I pressed the moisture into the pillow, then pressed equally hard with a dry washcloth to squeeze out the moisture. I kept repeating that process until I’d worked over the entire stinky area several times. To make sure of removing all the water that I could, I sandwiched the pillows in a dry bath towel and compressed them by walking on them. I used several towels that way, keeping at it until the towels still felt dry afterward. Then I propped the pillows upright with the (formerly) stinky edge topmost.

    That process might seem like a lot of work, but it wasn’t very hard work. It also turned out to be worth the effort. After setting the pillows aside for a couple of days, they felt dry to the touch and had no detectable odor. Although the front edges were still slightly yellowed, both pillows were otherwise good as new.

    After three months of open storage on a shelf, the pillows were completely dry, odor-free, and without any sign of damage from the cleaning process. In fact, my (picky) wife did the sniff test this evening and decided that they were totally OK to go back onto the bed. This time, however, we encased them in brand new moisture-proof pillow protectors.

  15. Brandon

    Su i hope this finds you…..i have a temperpedic pillow that i want to wash in the same manner you did but im scared to because ive have been told that even how you described gettin all the water out is not good enough and stuff will grow inside the pillow and turn stinky….. so in short, how was your pillow a week, month, or maybe you still have it, how is it now?

  16. Nead

    Well my dog pissed on my pillow when I was at work. I love the comfort of the memory foam, but if I wash it will it be just like an ordinary pillow or even worse. What I’m asking is should I just throw it away?

  17. Kate

    Since this article gives good reason for not washing memory foam in any method, how can they be deodorized? After a time, “night-breath” can make it not too pleasant to smell. For the price of a new one, I don’t want to throw this one away.

  18. laura m.

    I use a contour style foam pillow, and toss it after one year around my birthday. I use an allergy zip up cover over it. Foam breaks down over time. Older pillows can be used as chair pads, camping, etc. or donated to rescue missions.


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