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Can You Wash Couch Pillows? How?

A collage of couch pillows and washing them.

If you’ve ever owned a new or new-to-you pet, you know how imperative it is that couch cushions and pillows be washable. The quick answer is that, yes, some couch pillows can be washed. Strong emphasis on the word some.

Another emphasis is on the word wash. There are so many different materials used in couch pillows, not to mention decorative details, that could make or break the wash process. That same train of thought goes with washing in itself.

I can speak from personal experience because of an incident with a decorative couch pillow and a dryer.

One morning, my mother called and was hysterical. After I gave her a moment to compose herself, she explained that the dryer smelled like smoke. Confused, I asked what on earth she was in there to cause a problem.  Come to find out, this situation involved a beaded pillow with tassels.

The pillow had come apart and wrapped around the spinner in the center and took all of the unraveled tassels with it. Unfortunately, the pillow could not wholly be retrieved and neither could the dryer. So, let’s all avoid further turmoil, shall we?

Related:  Can You Wash Feather Pillows | Can You Wash Bamboo Pillows  | How Many Pillows Should You Put On a Couch

Pillows, To Wash or Not to Wash

Don’t be like my mom, learn from her mistakes so you can bypass a repair bill. In order to do that, it’s important to get a better sense of what can and can’t be washed. Not being able to be machine washed and washed by hand are two very different sentiments. There’s also spot cleaning. 

Before you do anything with a couch pillow, be sure to read the tag. If there’s no longer a tag present, I’ll go over some of the most common pillow types later.

Remember, just because you can’t throw it into the washing machine doesn’t mean it can’t get wet. For now, let’s talk about machine vs hand washing.

Machine Wash


Woman holding a basket with couch pillow.

Pillows that can be washed in the washing machine are the kinds that you can lay your head on. There’s a wash-friendly blend inside and the pillow is made of durable fabric. Depending on what kind of washer you have, there’s going to be a lot of activity going on under the lid.

Between the swishing water and the spin cycle, it can get downright violent for the items getting a bath. The same thing goes for the dryer. Tumbling in high temperatures can put stress on seams. If there’s anything dangling from the couch pillows or other apparel, tangles will happen quickly.

If the tag is still attached, always follow those directions. It will inform you of things like hot or cold water as well as what type of dryer setting. Be careful with the dyer, too. Once, when I was a teenager, my mom washed a comforter of mine. She didn’t use the correct dryer setting so it came out very stiff.

The blended filling hardened in some spots and the whole thing was never again the same. Come to think of it, perhaps my mom is the underlying reason I’ve become passionate about washing things properly. I digress.

Hand Wash

Woman on gloves holding a couch pillow.

If a pillow is not fit for the rough and tumble washing machine, it’s for a good reason. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s about what’s inside the pillow, but more about what it’s made of. Some pillows can’t go in the washer because of what they’re stuffed with. Some pillows are too delicate. 

Whatever the case, you will want to be careful and perform a spot test before dumping an entire pillow under water. To do this, take a spot in the corner on the back. Put your cleaner on there and dab it lightly with water. If the color runs, this is a spot-clean only pillow. If not, you should be good to go. 

From here, be aware of what you’re dealing with. Clean dangly bits separately and do not scrub around anything sewn onto the pillow, such as sequins or beads. Don’t submerge a pillow that is thick with filling. It will take a lifetime to dry and might begin to mold towards the center, where you would be unable to notice. 

Spot Cleaning

Decorative couch pillows on couch.

If your pillow is a whirlwind of decorative chaos, it might behoove you to just focus on the soiled spot. No matter how much one tries, it’s nearly impossible to protect a couch pillow forever.

Sooner or later, someone is going to spill a drink or step on it with dirty shoes. Hopefully, the area in question is manageable enough that there’s no need to stress about hand washing. 

Peacock Alley shares, “Simply find yourself a good quality upholstery shampoo and sponge and begin by working the cleaner into the pillows to remove stains. Use a circular motion and be sure to clean the trim, decorations, and other accents on the decorative pillows.”

That’s it! Now, you won’t have to worry about damage. 

Lastly, if all else fails, you should be able to take a chaotic couch pillow to the dry cleaners. 

Types of Couch Pillows

If we’re being honest with ourselves, it is a bit odd that there are so many pillows that can’t really be used as pillows. Plenty are designed to be looked at but not touched. The one thing they are meant for and can’t be used in that fashion. Even though the logic isn’t there, that hasn’t stopped the population from buying them. 

I’m not talking about the squishy ones you prop up on or use to set your laptop on, as I’m doing now. Those are great and can take a more playful experience. Pillows that fall into the decoration-only category are kind of a pain. They are the ones that aren’t meant to be used for literally anything other than sitting there and looking pretty. 

What kind of pillows do you have? Here’s a list of a few popular types:


Phantoscope 18 x 18 Pillow Inserts - Throw Pillow Inserts with 100% Cotton Cover - Square Forms Pillow Sham Stuffer - Decorative Couch Cushion Pillows (2 Pack, 18 Inches)

Cotton is in what feels like everything. It’s a great material and is most likely able to be used in the washer. Using the gentle cycle, put the setting on warm water. Be careful to not put too many other items in with the cotton pillows to avoid getting soap trapped inside. 


MEKAJUS Purple Throw Pillow Covers 18x18 Set of 4 Velvet Soft Square Pillow Cover Couch Pillow Covers Case Pillowcase for Patio Sofa Bed Bedding Living Room(Purple)

Due to the rough nature of velvet in general, it would be best not to toss a velvet couch pillow into the machine. There is too much of a chance for problems between the fabric and the chemicals involved in cleaning. If the tag says otherwise, feel free to put it in a load. Otherwise, hand or spot washing would do the trick.


Grey Pillow Covers Decorative Throw Pillow Cases Solid Satin Fabric Black and White Piping Bed Couch Sofa Chair Soft Square Cushion Cover Pillow Sham, 18x18 inch, 45x45 cm, Pack of 2

“Satin pillows to cry on,” as Jeanne Pruett stated in her 1973 hit. These are smooth pillows that don’t absorb moisture the way other types do. It’s great for hair, face, and extreme weather. Don’t put a lot of physical pressure on them though. Once they tear, it’s tough to repair. 

As far as care goes, Aanya Linen explains, “To wash satin pillowcase use cool water, mild detergent. Turn them inside out and use a gentle cycle in the washing machine. Dry them at a low heat cycle otherwise air dry is the best option. Prevent from direct sunlight.”

Faux Fur

LIGICKY Decorative Lumbar Soft Faux Fur Throw Pillow Cover Luxury Series Rectangle Plush Pillow Case Cushion Cover for Couch Sofa Bed (12" x 20", White)

It doesn’t matter if the fur is just on one side or if it’s all over. There’s too much going on to run the risk of the fibers getting caught in the washing machine or dryer. If this pillow gets dirty, focus on cleaning areas of fur individually to avoid creating any holes.

If there’s a massive amount of stain, like from a glass of wine, hand wash by focusing on areas. Don’t submerge the whole pillow. So, if it’s a corner, soak the corner. Pat dry instead of squeezing and then let it air dry.