Care of Pillows

Both natural and synthetic materials are used for pillows. The natural filling includes down and feathers. Down is the soft, fluffy undercoating from the breast of geese or ducks. It is considered the ultimate in pillow filling. Goose down is often more expensive than duck down. It is also softer and longer lasting.

Feathers are sometimes used and the white ones are desired as they are usually finer, softer, and lighter in weight. Furthermore, the lighter feathers do not have a tendency to show through the ticking as some dark feathers do. Turkey and chicken feathers are used and they are often twice as heavy as down and are stiffer, harder, and less resilient. They may be artificially curled or crushed to increase their softness and they may be labeled as "crushed" feathers. Pillows of this type often lose resiliency and mat down after laundering as the curl is not always permanent. Chicken and turkey feather pillows are usually less expensive than the others. In some cases, there may be a mixture of down and other feathers.

Some individuals have problems with allergies and synthetic fill is an alternative. Polyester is the synthetic most often used. It comes in several forms and various prices. Hollow core fillers allow air in the center of each fiber, giving longer lasting resilience and resistance to matting.

Foam is also used in pillows, providing support and resilience. Both latex foam rubber and polyurethane foam are used. The foam can either be molded or shredded. Some of these are prone to distorting and lumping up rather readily.

There are numerous types of fillers used in pillows, some of the most common could be feather or down, various types of synthetic fiberfill, such as polyester or, in some cases, capok is used.

Bed pillows should be fluffed daily and aired to help them maintain their resiliency. Occasionally placing a down or feathered pillow in the dryer for 5-10 minutes on low heat is beneficial. This tends to drive out the humidity which may have collected in it and airs it out. Occasionally, the article will need a complete servicing.

Feather and down pillows can be dry cleaned and they can also be washed. Before processing, it is extremely important to make sure the ticking is in excellent condition with no rips, tears, or open ends where the down can work out. They must be thoroughly repaired before any attempt is made to either wash or dry clean them.

Some dry cleaners also maintain a special pillow cleaning service. The ticking is removed from the pillow and refreshed or replaced, the ticking is also replaced so you almost get a new pillow back.

Down and feather pillows can be washed by hand or in the machine on gentle cycle. Use warm water with sufficient detergent. Do not overcrowd the pillows if you are using the automatic machine and be sure the articles are rinsed at least 3-4 times in warm water after washing to make sure everything is removed. Squeeze out as much water as possible and then dry in the automatic dryer under moderate heat. It is beneficial to place several towels in the dryer during the drying. The drying process could be two or more hours. The pillows should be removed occasionally and shaken to distribute the feathers. The pillow can also be hung outside to air dry. Here again, it will be necessary to change position end to end and shake the article occasionally to speed up the drying.

Polyester fiberfill pillows can also be washed similarly. However, these will very often dry faster than down.

Foam pillows are a little more difficult to wash and washing is not always recommended. They are never dry cleaned. If washing is done, they should just be soaked in cool water with a little detergent and rinsed well and hung to dry. The article can be washed in an automatic washer on the gentle cycle, if desired.

Source: Norman Oehlke, International Fabricare Institute, June, 1990.


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Updated 8/19/05