How To Clean Grimy Pillowcases

How to clean grimy pillowcases from

At some point, just about everyone who does laundry has wondered how to clean grimy pillowcases. Parents of teens are all-too-familiar with how their hormones lead to greasy hair and skin that stains their pillows. Those who work outdoors find themselves in the same boat, and then there are pillowcases that get dirty when someone doesn’t adequately remove their makeup.

Article continues below

The thing is, grimy pillowcases tend to be stinky ones, too. Who wants to lay their head on a pillow that smells? Let’s fix that.

How To Clean Grimy Pillowcases

Wash in hot. Cold water washing doesn’t cut through the hair and skin oils that promote grime, so the first step is properly washing linens in HOT, HOT, HOT water with an equally hot rinse. Use the usual amount of detergent, but add 2 cups of white vinegar to the load. Vinegar is an excellent degreaser and is often sufficient to cut through the grime that builds up on pillowcases. For added impact, pause the cycle so the load soaks for 20 minutes before the rinse cycle.

Get tougher. If the grime remains after proper laundering then it’s time to switch tactics. Fill a basin sink with very hot water then add 1/4 cup Dawn Original dish detergent (Fairy or Sunlight in the UK), and 1 cup baking soda. Swirl to combine then add the pillowcases. If the basin has a scrub board, use it. Allow the cases to soak for 1-2 hours (or even overnight) then rinse well in HOT water until the water runs clear. Toss in the dryer or line dry.

Keep pillowcases from getting grimy again.

You may not be able to talk your family into showering every night before bed, but you can still take a few steps to keep your pillowcases from getting grimy again.

First, skip the fabric softeners and dryer sheets. These work by coating fabric with a very light layer of wax or grease, both of which attract and hold onto skin and hair oils.

Second, use an oxygenated bleach (like Oxiclean) and white vinegar when washing your linens. Chlorine bleach doesn’t degrease as well and should never be mixed with vinegar! Also, remember to wash your bed linens in hot water every time.

It only takes a few minutes to clean grimy pillowcases, and a few simple steps to keep them from getting grimy again. Why not tackle yours today?

Equipment I’ve Used For This:


  1. says

    Dearest Katie,
    This cannot be shared often enough and yes, prevention is as important as the cure in this case. Vinegar works miracles in our household and this is an excellent tutorial on the home economics of laundry.
    Hugs to you,

  2. Katie B. says

    Vinegar is truly amazing. It’s odd that here in America we’ve been brainwashed to believe we must use harsh chemicals to get our home and laundry truly clean. Our grandparents didn’t have “Scrubbing Bubbles” or “Mop & Glo” but we know they were excellent housekeepers. They used vinegar!

  3. Sue says

    Some have laughed at me for my inventory of vinegar, but when I explain all the money saving tips that come along with the product, they find themselves becoming one of the club….LOL.

    By the way, love the new site design. I’s easy to navigate and very pleasing to the eye!

    • Katie B. says

      I have shelves and shelves of vinegar, too. The grocery store clerk always look at me oddly when I buy an entire cartful when it’s on sale…not that vinegar’s ever expensive, but if I can get it at 50 cents for a gallon, I’m stockpiling!

      Thank you for the feedback on the new site design. I’m very, very happy with it, and it’s so easy to add/change stuff if I need to. Love that!

  4. sarah says

    Does this work if they have been yucky looking for a couple of years? I just don’t want to waste my time doing it if they are too bad to do anything about, with two small kiddos my time is precious

    • Katie Berry says

      It should work but, honestly, I fail to see what is so time-consuming about scrubbing with a brush, then filling a sink with hot soapy water and dumping pillowcases in so they can sit overnight. Surely your two small kiddos can spare you for three minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *