How to Clean Throw Pillows

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Dear Home Ec 101,
Can you tell me how to clean throw pillows? A friend made me a pillow cover for a throw pillow on my couch, but she sewed it shut over the pillow, so there is no way to remove the pillow to wash it.   Are there any options as far as cleaning the cover?
Throw Down in Three River

clean throw pillows

Heather says:

It was very kind of your friend to make you the throw pillow cover, but I certainly understand your dilemma. We’ll start broadly and then narrow it down to your specific case.

How to Clean Throw Pillows

In general cleaning a throw pillow is much like cleaning any upholstered furniture, since they are often made of the same material. Vacuum your throw pillows with the upholstery attachment each time you vacuum the couch or chair. Be careful, as decorative throw pillows may have delicate stitching or accents that may unravel with vigorous cleaning.

If your throw pillow is covered in silk or wool, it can and should be dry cleaned when necessary -read that as when looking dingy.

Throw pillows can be washed, preferably in a front load washer on the hand or delicate cycle and then dried thoroughly, first by drip drying and then on the fluff / tumble / no heat cycle in the dryer. Be absolutely sure that the pillow is completely dry before returning it to its place of honor or you’ll run the risk of developing the funk of mold or mildew. With a bulky item like a pillow, you are guaranteed a hard time trying to get rid of that odor.

If the decorative cover of your throw pillow has too many delicate items to run the risk of a trip through the washer, even on gentle, grab a seam ripper.

Yes, you’re going to do a little surgery on your throw pillow.

Carefully cut the thread that contains the last seam sewn for the pillow. This seam should be easy to identify as there will be some exposed stitching, no matter how careful your friend was. Hint: check near the corners.

Hand wash the cover of the pillow and then, close the seam with a slip stitch.

furniture care guide
Click the picture for more tips!

As I truly hate sewing, the decorative pillow would then be moved to a place of “honor” where it would rarely come in contact with the often grubby minions who seem to insist on wallowing on things I love, immediately after playing in the mud.

Good luck with your throw pillow and let me know how it turns out.

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5 thoughts on “How to Clean Throw Pillows”

  1. I’ve had good luck machine washing things with beads etc stitched to the surface by enclosing them in a pillowcase befor washing them on the delicate cycle. Just drop them in the case and use safety pins to close it up. It’s more protective than a mesh garment bag.

  2. I feel your pain with trying to keep throw pillows relatively clean. That’s why I have precisely 2 of them. Ok, I have six on the couch in my office, but there are no dogs, cats, or greasy husband there. ;o) One of the 2 pillows at the house is made from swimsuit material and is filled with microscopic foam beads. It’s the pillow I use when I have a migraine. And last week the cats dragged it off the bed, all through the house, and deposited it in the dog’s water dish. The tag on it specifically says not to wash it or get it wet, of course! My task this week is to figure out how to open it up and get all 10 million of those tiny, static-cling nightmare beads into another container so I can wash the cover. I’m hoping I won’t have to clean the beads (corn starch and a mesh basket, maybe?). I’m really crossing fingers that I can clean it because I haven’t seen another one like it in years.


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