Cleaning Puke out of Feather Pillows
January 8, 2009 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I have a pair of very heavy, dense feather (not down) pillows that were first owned by my Grandmother. Last night my son vomited all over one of them. Although we stripped the case of quickly, the vomit had already soaked into the pillow. Any suggestions on how to clean this?

If they were down I'd just wash and dry them at the laundromat, being aware that it takes down pillows many, many hours to dry. However, with the feather pillows, I don't think even 8 - 10 hours in a commercial dryer would do the trick.
posted by anastasiav to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
 
There are many reasons why you should not attempt to wash feather pillows yourself, shaking them and vacuuming the outer pillow is ok as is sponge washing them lightly. However putting them into the washing machine can be a big mistake and here are some of the main reasons why

• A home washing machine has what is called an agitator in it, this moves the clothing around inside the machine to ensure that the detergent and water is distributed throughout the clothing. However this will put too much stress on the feather pillow during the washing cycle.

• Feathers do not react very well to some of the harsh chemicals which can be found in some detergents, chemicals can cause the feathers to become brittle and break.

• Feather pillows take a lot of drying and while it can be tempting to put them on the fryer cycle this is the worst thing possible for feathers. Again excessive heat will cause the feathers to become brittle.

• Drying feather pillows can take several hours as they have to dried slowly, feather pillows can become mouldy and start to decompose before they are completely dry which would render them useless

• Washing in a normal washing machine can leave the feathers clumpy and matted and they can take a long time to fluff up even if at all

Lots of other info on Google
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:11 AM on January 8, 2009


I would take them to a dry cleaners and get them "reticked," which basically means new covers. It's pretty cheap, actually.
posted by Danf at 8:16 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could you un-sew the pillows and remove the feathers? Then, wash the case and feathers separately. You could re-sew the feathers in a much larger pillow case or something to wash them (which would give them the space for air to circulate and dry the feathers), and then compact them back into the original case. Since they're so dense, sounds like you'll not be too bothered if they don't fluff up.

I've never tried that, though - it's just a thought.

But whatever, this stuff is brilliant - we use it for our down jackets. It doesn't strip the oils from the feathers, so they retain their fluff and don't clump too much.
posted by dowcrag at 8:19 AM on January 8, 2009


I would take them to a dry cleaners and get them "reticked," which basically means new covers. It's pretty cheap, actually.

Absolutely the way to go - cost me about $15.
posted by Neiltupper at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2009


Are you very attached to these pillows? A typical two-year-old pillow is something like 10% by weight dust mites and their droppings - I wonder what percentage that would be in a pillow that has seen three generations of use? I'd imagine they probably carry a pretty serious load of fungal spores too.

Please make sure you never offer these pillows to a houseguest with allergies or, even worse, a compromised immune system. Here's a starting point.

If it's the covers that you want to preserve, maybe investing in new feather pillows, then enclosing them in the properly-cleaned covers of the old ones might be an answer.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:37 AM on January 8, 2009


Are you very attached to these pillows? A typical two-year-old pillow is something like 10% by weight dust mites and their droppings - I wonder what percentage that would be in a pillow that has seen three generations of use? I'd imagine they probably carry a pretty serious load of fungal spores too.

They are, hands down, the best bed pillows in the house. I'm very attached to them because (frankly) I've never seen another bed pillow for sale anywhere that comes close to the comfort and luxury of these two pillows. We do have anti-dust covers on them.

Reticking sounds like the way to go, if I can find someone here in Portland to do it. Thanks!
posted by anastasiav at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2009


Fire? Child vomit is nasty, caustic stuff.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2009


If you do get them re-ticked, could you maybe open the cases and remove the feathers nearest the vomit-y spot? Just to be safe?
posted by amtho at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2009


In the future, after you get them reticked, you might think about getting special covers for under the pillowcases on the pillows that your son is using. They do make nice, waterproof ones that don't feel too terrible and plasticky. These should protect the pillow until your son is a little bit older.
posted by theantikitty at 2:47 PM on January 8, 2009


JADP: I've washed both feather and down pillows with no problem. However, I did them in a front-loader, which means:

- no agitator (hence more room for the pillows to move around
- a fast spin which squeezes most of the water out at the end of the cycle

Gentle detergent and not much of it, extra rinse, delicate cycle, fast spin, and dryer on low or fluff.

Drying them does require you use something fairly hard in the load - traditionally a sneaker, but this tends to smell up the pillows. I used a couple of dense plastic rings that were sold for this purpose. You also may be able to use certain plastic unscented/unflavored dog toys (unused, obviously). Basically you want something 6-8 inches across, that's firm enough to beat the pillows during drying, but not completely hard so it doesn't damage the tumbler. I had good results with this method.
posted by jaed at 8:35 PM on January 9, 2009


jaed, I've always heard tennis balls are the perfect tool for the job.
posted by lioness at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2009


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