How to Wash Comforters and Pillows Naturally

How to Wash Comforters and Pillows Naturally

Ready to learn the best methods on how to wash comforters and pillows naturally? You’re in luck. But first, we’ll touch on the importance of choosing the healthiest and most effective cleaning products.

Dangers of Conventional Detergents and Fabric Softeners

It has become common knowledge that laundry detergents and fabric softeners contain a slew of unsavory chemicals. The residue and scents left behind can be toxic to our skin and allergies, but an alarming fact that many of you may not know is that our dryers actually emit more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when scented detergent and dryer sheets are used.

Other need-to-know facts involve detergents containing petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances, even though they’re labeled “fragrance free.” Most companies are said to also add optical brighteners to detergent formulas, creating the illusion of brighter whites through blue light emitting chemicals that have the potential to cause skin irritation. (To learn more about which chemicals to avoid, check out this comprehensive list.)

Alternatives to Conventional Detergents and Fabric Softeners

A few ways that you can avoid harmful chemicals in your detergent and fabric softener is to look for the EPA’s Design for Environment logo, substitute for fabric softeners by using a ½ cup of vinegar in the rise cycle, try recycled wool dryer balls in lieu of dryer sheets, use baking soda as a brightener, or just make your own detergent instead.

Here’s a great detergent recipe from Mother Earth Living to get you started. And if you’re not the do-it-yourself type, or just don’t want to be bothered by making your own detergent, then we’ve got you covered with recommendations from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on what to buy and what to avoid on your next trip to the store.

The EWG bases its product ratings on the probability that the following could be caused or may occur as a result of exposure based on the product’s ingredients: asthma/respiratory problems, skin allergies and irritation, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer, and environmental effects.

Safe Detergents & Fabric Softeners

Safer detergents may not be plentiful, but they’re much easier to obtain than you may think. In fact, many of these can be purchased from your local grocery or health food store. These received a rating of “A” from EWG, the highest rating on their scale:

  • Planet Ultra Powdered Laundry Detergent, Hypo-Allergenic (see updated ingredients list)
  • Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Citrus & Wild Lavender
  • Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear
  • Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent
  • Green Shield Organic Fabric Softener, Lavender Mint (the only “A” rated fabric softener listed on the EWG site)

Unsafe Detergents & Fabric Softeners

Although there are far more unsafe products than there are healthy, we’ve still provided a handful of brands to avoid. These received a rating of “F” from EWG, the lowest rating on their scale:

  • Kirkland Signature Environmentally Friendly Laundry Detergent
  • Meyer’s Clean Day Laundry Detergent (variety of scents)
  • Green Works Naturally Derived Laundry Detergent, Original
  • Sun & Earth Fabric Softener Sheets, Fresh Citrus
  • Legacy of Clean Fabric Softener, Original

How to Wash Comforters and Pillows

Now that you know what to use, here is how to use it on your comforters and pillows:

When it comes to comforters and pillows, advice from the queen of housekeeping and all things perfect, Martha Stewart, has a variety of suggestions on how best to keep your comforters and pillows squeaky clean.


Per the website, it is recommended that comforters and pillows have covers to help shield from allergens, as well as guard against oils that can break down fabric and cause filling to leak. If you have a comforter cover (duvet), it should be washed weekly, or monthly if you use a top sheet, but you won’t have to wash the comforter itself unless you spill something on it.

On the other hand, pillow covers should be washed weekly or bi-weekly and the pillows themselves should be washed every 3 to 6 months. Both comforters and pillows are best cleaned in a front loading machine.

You may also wash comforters and pillows according to the label’s directions, but if they won’t fit in your washer, the next best thing is a roomy machine at the Laundromat. Depending on the soil level and the instructions, “warm” and “delicate” may be the highest settings you should choose. And remember, don’t go overboard on the detergent, a small amount of an all-natural laundry soap is all you really need.


Removing moisture is crucial for both comforters and pillows, so be sure to thoroughly dry your covers, comforters, and pillows in a heated machine dryer – and don’t forget your tennis or recycled wool balls to speed up the process. Avoid putting anything with foam in the dryer – it will surely melt!

To refresh your comforter every few months, it is suggested that you hang it on a clothesline on dry, breezy day.


Down comforters and pillows can be washed in much the same way, so long as you use the Laundromat. Just be sure to dry the comforter on a low heat setting, bring your dryer balls, and a lot of magazines to keep you busy while you wait. If it’s still not dry after several hours bring the comforter home and lay or hang it out to dry immediately. Avoid letting the down clump together and repair any tears or rips with a needle and thread before laundering.

Now that you’ve gotten the scoop on how to wash comforters and pillows, we want you to share your experiences. Did you already know about the hazards of detergents and fabric softeners? What are some of your favorite eco-friendly laundering supplies? Have you ever or would you ever make your own detergent? Say hello and share your thoughts on the EcoSalon Facebook page!

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Image of Bedding via Shutterstock

Jamie Duncan

After starting out in public relations, Jamie finished college with a BFA in interior design. This combination of writing and design knowledge, coupled with her fashion and lifestyle expertise, has paved the way for an exciting freelance career. Her work has been published in magazines and online, plus she’s managed PR campaigns, and is no stranger to copywriting. Jamie’s a vegetarian and cruelty-free product fanatic. Connect with her on Twitter and check out her website to learn more.