How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Pillows

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Things You'll Need

  • Salt

  • Lemon juice

  • Water

  • Detergent

  • Chlorine bleach

Pillows kept in a dry environment are less likely to mildew.

If your pillows were in a damp area and now smell like mold or mildew, you don't necessarily need to throw them away. Pillows that absorbed musty odors are often salvageable. If, however, you notice actual mold growth on the pillow surface, you may need to discard it. While mild mold growth can sometimes be removed, the mildewed pillows may pose a risk to your health if the mold is severe or has eaten through the fabric.


Step 1

Check the pillow fabric for mold growth, which typically appears as green or black spots. Brush any spots away in an outdoor area to prevent the spores from spreading inside.

Step 2

Clean lightly mildewed fabric surfaces by saturating the spot with lemon juice and sprinkling a thin layer of salt over it. Rub the mixture on the fabric, lay it in sunlight for about 12 hours or until it dries, and rinse it.

Step 3

Launder feather or polyester pillows in the washing machine, using warm water, detergent and chlorine bleach. Use the extra rinse cycle. Wash foam pillows by hand with warm water and detergent.


Step 4

Dry feather or polyester pillows at a moderate heat setting, or wring water from them by hand and hang them in the sun to dry. Dry foam pillows in your dryer with no heat or hang them to dry away from sunlight.


Check the care instructions on your pillows to ensure proper handling. Rub either damp salt or a cut lemon on the stain if you don't have salt and juice to combine. Wash two pillows in the machine instead of one. This balances the load. Put towels or clean tennis shoes in the dryer to speed drying time. Put tennis balls in the dryer to plump the pillows.


Exposure to mold can trigger asthma attacks, respiratory complaints and allergic reactions. Mold or mildew will continue to multiply if an article is not dried thoroughly. Test fabrics for colorfastness when using lemon juice or bleach. Lemon has a bleaching effect.


references & resources

Krissi Maarx

Krissi Maarx is a freelance writer who has written Web content since 2006. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in human services, with studies focusing on holistic healing, mental health care and medicinal botany. As a pet groomer, too, Maarx writes many dog-related articles for print and the Web.