How to Spot Clean Decorative Pillows
If you’re like me, then you make a concerted effort to buy the highest quality home goods you can afford. Buy once, cry once, am I right? High quality, well-crafted items are made to last, which means in the long run they are more sustainable. Decorative pillows are no exception.
With that said, over time, pillows can get stained and dirty. It’s important to treat stains and regularly spot clean decorative pillows to help them last as long as possible. In this blog post, I will teach you how to spot clean decorative throw pillows quickly and easily!
Understand Your Pillow Fabric and Material
Before you start applying a spot cleaning solution to your decorative pillow, it’s critical that you first confirm the fabric and material. Some decorative pillows are covered and filled with materials that can all be machine washed!
Other materials like silk need to be handled with a bit more care. And natural materials like cotton, linen, and wool can shrink if exposed to heat so it’s important to be mindful of that as well.
If your decorative pillow case can be unzipped and removed then you’re in luck! You have the flexibility to treat stains on the pillow case separately from the pillow fill. If your pillow case includes a laundry care tag sewn inside then definitely consider the wash and care instructions listed on the tag before applying any cleaning solutions.
Removing Stains from Decorative Pillows
Different stains require different treatments. Below I have listed some of the most types of common decorative pillow stains and the specific treatments for removing each one.
Removing Oil Stains:
What you need:
- Cornstarch or baking soda
- Vacuum brush or upholstery attachment
When it comes to removing any stain from a decorative pillow, I like to start with the gentlest method then work my way up. In the case of oil stains, I like to start with cornstarch.
If the oil stain is fresh, start by blotting away excess oil with a clean, dry, white cloth or paper towel. Next, place the pillow somewhere where it won’t be disturbed for a few hours (possibly days).
Create a small mound of cornstarch or baking soda on top of the oil stain. Let that pile of cornstarch sit there for a few hours (the longer the better). The powder is going to slowly soak up any remaining oil and thus eliminate the oil stain. Every few hours (or once a day, depending on how old the oil stain is), brush away the excess powder to determine whether or not the stain is still there.
Once you have determined the stain has been lifted, use a brush attachment on your vacuum to suck away the rest of the powder.
Here are more general tips for removing oil stains from fabrics.
Removing Water Stains:
What you need:
- Distilled white vinegar
- Multiple clean, white cloths
Most people would never expect water to cause a stain! And yet, many fabrics including silk, satin, suede, and leather are susceptible to water stains. Water stains are usually caused when the minerals within hard water dry out and leave visible marks on fabrics.
To remove a water stain from a decorative pillow, dip a clean, white cloth in a mixture of ½ distilled white vinegar and ½ water. Gently dab that solution on the stain. Continue blotting the stain, alternating between a clean, dry cloth, and a cloth dipped in the vinegar solution.
Once the stain appears to have been lifted, follow up by dabbing the stain with a clean cloth dipped in water. Finish it off by pressing a very dry, white towel into the damp area you just created. Continue pressing until you remove as much moisture as possible (skipping this step might land you back exactly where you started!).
Removing Blood Stains:
What you need:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Gentle fabric brush
To remove a blood stain from a pillow, start by applying a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the stain. Scrub it gently with a soft-bristled brush. You will probably notice the hydrogen peroxide has a fizzy reaction with the blood stain – this is normal!
Once the hydrogen peroxide has had a chance to work its way into the stain, use a clean, white towel dipped in water to blot the area clean. Finally, dry your decorative pillow by firmly pressing a dry, clean towel into any damp spots.
Removing Dirt Stains:
- Vacuum upholstery attachment
To remove a dirt stain from a pillow, start by vacuuming the area with an upholstery attachment. If the stain is still visible, apply a small amount of dish soap to the area and scrub it gently with a soft-bristled brush or clean fingertips.
Once the dish soap has had a chance to work its way into the stain, rinse it off with warm water. Finally, blot the area dry with a clean, white towel.
Vacuums and Steam Cleaners
There are times when decorative pillows don’t have specific stains but they do start to look a little dingy and discolored all over. This kind of build up can be caused by regular exposure to dead skin, greasy hair, and dirt and dust that rubs into pillow fibers.
To minimize the chances of your pillows becoming grungy, try using one (or both!) of these quick cleaning methods as a preventative measure.
Cleaning Pillows with a Vacuum
Use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to clean both sides of the pillow. Be sure to vacuum in both directions – horizontal and vertical – to remove all the dirt and dust.
Regularly vacuuming your pillows (and upholstered furniture) will reduce the likelihood of dirt getting trapped deep into the fibers of your pillows. The less dirt (and dead skin) that gets trapped within the fibers of your pillows, the less likely your pillows will start to take on a brownish, grayish dirty tint.
Steam Cleaning Pillows
Steam cleaning is a great way to clean pillows if they are very dirty or if you have allergies. To steam clean a pillow, start by filling your steamer with distilled water. Hold your steamer about six inches away from the pillow and move it back and forth over the surface.
Be sure to go over the entire pillow, including the piping and seams. After you are finished steam cleaning, allow the pillow to air dry completely before using it again.
Preventing Stains on Your Pillows
The best way to keep your pillows clean is to prevent stains from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips:
- Use removable pillow covers or cases. It is much easier to treat stains on a removable pillow case than it is on a full pillow! Plus, many pillow inserts can be machine washed even if the pillow case is made from a more delicate fabric.
- Spot clean spills as soon as they happen. The longer a spill sits, the harder it will be to remove.
- Vacuum your pillows regularly. This will help remove any dirt or dust that has accumulated on the surface before it sets into the pillow fibers.
How often should you wash your decorative pillows?
Ideally, you should wash your decorative pillows every three to six months. However, if they are only used occasionally, you may be able to stretch this to once a year. If you have allergies or sensitivities, you may want to wash your pillows more often.
If after all of this effort you’re still left with a pillow you no longer want to keep, wait before you throw it in the trash! First, consider one of these ways to repurpose old pillows and minimize unnecessary waste.
Kait is the founder and editor of A Clean Bee. She is passionate about discovering natural, eco-friendly, and sustainable ways to clean and organize her home. Kait has been featured in online publications such as NBC News, Oprah Magazine, BuzzFeed and PopSugar for her expertise in natural cleaning techniques. She enjoys spending her off-time outside in her garden with her husband and their two small boys.