Can You Use Fabric Softener On Pillows? 🧺

Pillows often become lumpy as the fill material clumps together due to repeated use. If fluffing the pillow in the dryer fails to restore its condition, you may be tempted to try using a fabric softener. 

Fabric softener helps soften your bedding and clothing to prevent wrinkles and fabric from wear and tear. It also helps eliminate static cling. Yet, you may wonder whether fabric softener is suitable for use on pillows.

Fabric softeners should not be used on pillows. Liquid fabric softeners contain oils and polymers that may cause the fill material inside the pillow to clump. The oils may also cling to the outside of the pillow and attract more oil and dirt. 

Using a fabric softener may leave your pillow in worse shape. Instead of making your pillow fluffy, the softener may leave it clumpy, matted, and more prone to bacteria and mildew.

Why You Should Avoid Using Fabric Softener on Pillows

Fabric softeners are designed to leave clothes and bedding soft and wrinkle-free but typically have the opposite effect on most pillows. There are three types of fabric softeners:

  • Liquid fabric softener
  • Dryer sheets
  • Dryer balls

Liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets may damage your pillows. Liquid fabric softeners are added to a washer during the rinse cycle detergent. The liquid fabric softener coats the surface of the fabric with electrically charged compounds. The compounds “stand up” due to the electrical charge, which makes the fabric feel softer and fluffier.

Dryer sheets also coat fabrics to make the fibers stand up and soften. However, the sheets are added to the dryer. The heat from the dryer softens the chemicals contained in the sheet. 

Liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets use chemicals to coat fabricsOpens in a new tab.. Depending on the type of pillow, the chemicals in the fabric softener may cling to the stuffing inside the pillow. Most pillows are made with one of the following types of fill material:

  • Down 
  • Polyester
  • Cotton
  • Buckwheat
  • Memory foam

The chemicals from the fabric softener are more likely to harm pillows made with down, polyester, or cotton. The oils from the fabric softener may cause the stuffing to clingOpens in a new tab. together and form clumps. 

Down pillows are especially prone to clumping when washed with fabric softener. Clumping is less of a risk when using dryer sheets, as the sheets contain fewer chemicals. However, avoiding dryer sheets is a safe idea.

Instead of using liquid softener or dryer sheets, try using dryer balls. Unlike liquid softeners and dryer sheets, not all dryer balls contain chemicals.

Dryer balls are typically made from compact balls of wool or polymers. The ball bounces around in the dryer, which agitates the pillows and allows more air to reach the fabric and stuffing. This cuts down on drying time and leaves your pillows fluffier. 

Why Do Pillows Go Flat So Fast?

Compression is the main cause of a flat pillow. The stuffing (fill material) becomes compressed due to the weight of your head or body. 

Moisture can also make pillows flat. Moisture weighs down the stuffing, causing it to flatten and clump. A moist pillow also provides the perfect environment for mold spores to spread. 

Mold, dust mites, dead skin cells, hair, and body oils can weigh down the pillow and keep it from staying fluffy. About 10% of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is comprised of dead dust mitesOpens in a new tab. and their casings.

Pillows also become flat as the stuffing breaks down and deteriorates. Down feathers, polyester fiberfill, cotton filling, and other soft stuffing materials lose their absorbency. Instead of absorbing some of the moisture in the pillow, the stuffing becomes stiff and clumps easily.

How Do I Make My Pillows Fluffy Again?

According to Consumer Reports, you should fluff your pillow dailyOpens in a new tab. to restore its shape. Here are three ways to fluff your pillows:

  • Fluff your pillows by hand
  • Fluff your pillows in the dryer
  • Put your pillows in the sun

Along with these steps, you should also wash your pillow. Washing your pillow can strip it of dirt and oils that keep it from staying fluffy. However, certain types of pillows require precautions when washing. For example, washing a memory foam pillow could destroy the foam. 

Use our guide to learn how to safely wash and dry pillows of all materials. With just three steps, you can thoroughly clean your pillow and extend its life. 

Manually Fluff Your Pillows Each Day

Fluff your pillows by hand each day to keep the stuffing from settling and clumping. The traditional method for fluffing a pillow involves grabbing each end of the pillow in your hands. Push your hands together and apart, as if you are playing the accordion. Repeat this motion to fluff and reshape your pillow.

You can also try squeezing the pillow. Hold the pillow vertically instead of horizontally. Squeeze the pillow together from the top and bottom instead of side to side like the previous method. 

Holding the pillow in one hand and hitting it with the other may also fluff it up. Hitting the pillow helps loosen the filling (insert) without compressing it.

Use a Dryer to Fluff Your Lumpy Pillows

One of the easiest ways to fluff your pillow is to use a dryer. You can toss your pillow in the dryer and allow it to spin for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Using a dryer to fluff your pillow offers several advantages:

  • Eliminates the need to squeeze or hit your pillow
  • The hot temperature can kill mold and bacteria
  • Drying your pillow eliminates moisture

You can also add a dryer ball to get better results. The dryer ball constantly hits the pillow, helping to loosen the stuffing. If you do not have a dryer ball, try adding a clean tennis ball. 

Leave Your Pillow in the Sun to Keep it Fluffy

Moisture is one of the causes of a flat, clumpy pillow. Leaving your pillow in the sun helps eliminate moisture and decreases the risk of mold growth. 

Remove the pillowcase from your pillow. Place the pillow near a window that receives direct afternoon sunlight. In the Northern hemisphere, south-facing windows provide the brightest and strongest afternoon sun. 

Leave your pillow under the window for at least four hours. You could also place it by a window in the morning and retrieve it before bedtime. Repeat this process daily to dry out your pillows. 


Liquid fabric softeners may damage your pillows. Oils from the softener can coat the stuffing, causing it to clump. Dryer sheets have less of a risk of clumping but should still be avoided. 

If you want to keep your pillow light and fluffy, shake it out each day. Daily fluffing provides better air circulation for the stuffing, which keeps it fluffy and prevents moisture and mildew. Placing your pillow in a sunny window may also help eliminate moisture and prevent clumping.

Using a dryer ball is another method for instantly fluffing an old pillow. Toss your pillow in the dryer with the dryer ball and run on a low heat cycle for at least a few minutes.

Yet, the most effective way to keep your pillow in top shape is to wash it regularly. Washing your pillow removes oil and dirt that cause the stuffing to cling together. Frequent washing also kills bacteria and mold, leaving your pillow fresher.


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