Throw pillows and cushions add to the decor of a room. The colors, patterns and textures in throw pillow covers can complement wall color, curtains or other accessories. Over time, cushions become soiled and require cleaning. While cleaning freshens cushion covers, it can also weaken fabrics or cause colors to fade. 

Some fabrics are machine washable. Others require hand-washing, and yet others may require dry cleaning. A few materials, such as faux leather, should be wiped with a soft cloth and not immersed in water. If you want to keep your cushion covers in good shape over time, follow recommended laundering guidelines. Here is a guide to help you wash your throw pillow covers with good results.

Check Manufacturer's Labels

Manufacturers usually include fiber content and washing instructions on the labels, using standardized, internationally recognized icons that advise consumers how to treat fabrics. Washing instructions should include:

  • Whether to wash by hand, machine or dry clean
  • Machine cycle, such as delicate or permanent press
  • Water temperature
  • Drying instructions 
  • Ironing instructions 
  • Type of detergent

Some fabrics, including most natural fibers such as cotton, wool and linen, shrink when washed. Some manufacturers pretreat fabric so that it will not shrink after washing. Synthetic fabrics usually do not shrink but cannot tolerate high temperatures.

Machine Washing Throw PIllow Covers

Most fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, microfiber, cotton, linen and silk, are machine washable. However, colors may bleed when the item is immersed in water. If you have a doubt about the colorfastness of your cushions, wash a corner or an inside seam with cold water to see how it performs. If color runs into the wash water, take precautions if you launder the item. Wash single-color items with other items of the same color. That way, any color loss will not discolor other items. If the cover has a design that could be affected by color bleed, send it to the dry cleaner.

Dyes are fixed by a mordant when an item is manufactured. Synthetics run less than natural fibers because the dye is added when the fiber is made. Overcrowding in the washing machine creates friction on the fabric, which can cause the mordant to wash out. Warm water opens fibers, which releases dye. Hard water and harsh detergents can cause fibers to break, which also releases dye.

There are ways to prevent color from running. Machine wash in cold water. Wash on gentle cycle with a mild detergent. Avoid bleach. Some detergents contain whitening agents that weaken the fabric and release dye. Washing an item inside out reduces friction on the outer surface and helps retain color.

Hand Washing Throw Pillow Covers

Even the gentle cycle on a washing machine can damage fabrics with repeated washings. Hand-washing is the gentlest way to wash. Use cold water and a mild detergent. Gently squeeze the fabric to remove soil. Change the water several times to rinse out detergent. After washing, gently squeeze to remove water, place the cushion cover on a towel and roll it up. Apply pressure to the towel to remove water. You may have to do this several times.


Most synthetics and natural fabrics can be dried in a clothes dryer on air or low heat. However, some fabrics must be air-dried. Closures on pillow covers, such as zippers and Velcro, may not tolerate heat. Before washing, close zippers. When air-drying, block cushions to restore the shape before hanging. Dry in the shade to prevent fading from the sun.


Natural fibers such as cotton and linen may require ironing after washing. Faux velvet, corduroy and chenille should not be ironed because the nap can be damaged. Synthetic fabrics do not wrinkle much. If ironing is required, touch up corners and pleats with a cool iron on the inside.

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October 13, 2020