8 Methods on How to Deodorize Your Pillows

At painfreeaussies we know Your pillows are one of the most essential comfort items in your home. You rest your head on them every night, so it's understandable that they can start to take on some odors after months or years of use. Body oils, drool, sweat, and shed skin cells can build up in pillows, leading to less-than-fresh scents. While washing pillows is one option, not all types can be machine passed. Luckily, you can use many simple, natural methods to banish smells and make your pillows fresh again.

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the most versatile and practical odor absorbers. Its gritty texture helps scrub dirt and oil, while the soda neutralizes unpleasant smells. Start by vacuuming pillows to lift away any loose debris. Make a baking soda mixture using about 1/4 cup per standard-sized pillow. Rub the baking soda thoroughly into the fabric, distributing it evenly on both sides. Let the baking soda sit for at least an hour or overnight if odors are strong. As it sits, the baking soda will work to pull and absorb odor molecules. Finally, use a vacuum hose attachment to suck up all the baking soda, pulling stains and smells away.

2. White Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer commonly used for cleaning. The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar kills odor-causing bacteria. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and cool water. Lightly mist the vinegar solution over both sides of the smelly pillows. Let the pillows air dry fully before putting the pillowcases back on. The vinegar scent will fade as it dries. This quick vinegar spritz knocks out odors and disinfects.

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3. Essential Oils

For a fresh, natural scent, essential oils can be used to make a deodorizing spray. Opt for light, new oil scents like lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus, or lavender. Add 10-15 drops of essential oil to water in a spray bottle. Shake well to mix thoroughly. Lightly mist over the cervical pillow, allow to dry, then put pillowcases on. The essential oils will leave a clean fragrance behind, masking stale odors.

4. Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has become a popular substance for absorbing odors and toxins. It can work the same magic on stinky pillows. Place charcoal air-purifying bags inside pillowcases and zip or button them closed. The charcoal will work to pull odors, oils, and moisture out as it sits. Let it sit overnight for the best odor reduction. Then simply remove the charcoal bags - no vacuuming or washing is needed. Activated charcoal offers an easy "set and forget" way to passively freshen pillows.

5. Sunlight

Harnessing the natural power of sunlight is an easy and free way to banish odors. Sunlight naturally kills odor-causing bacteria. On a sunny day, take pillows outside and let them sit directly in sunlight for a few hours, occasionally flipping so both sides get exposed. The fresh air circulation plus the sanitizing effects of the sun’s UV rays will naturally deodorize pillows. A little outdoor time can go a long way for stale pillows.

6. Detergent Soak

For machine-washable pillows that are still holding onto odors, try soaking them in detergent. Fill a tub or basin with warm water and add some oxygenated laundry detergent, like OxiClean. Submerge pillows and let soak for at least an hour, gently pressing and churning periodically. Rinse thoroughly, then launder as usual. Let pillows air dry in the sunlight if possible. The detergent soak plus sun-drying will eliminate stubborn lingering smells.

7. Freezer Time

The cold temperature of the freezer can help neutralize odors and freshen pillows. Place pillows in large plastic bags and seal tightly. Put the bagged pillows in the freezer and leave for a day or two. The cold will kill odor bacteria and dry out moisture that can cause smells. After removing them from the freezer, take pillows out of the plastic and let them dry fully before putting them back on your bed.

8. Dryer Sheets

Scented dryer sheets can impart a fresh fragrance onto pillows. For fabric pillows, toss a few sheets into the washer and dryer cycle. For pillows that can't be washed, simply place dryer sheets between your pillow and pillowcase. Leave them for a few days until the scent has transferred. You’ll be resting your head on a pillow with a clean laundry scent.


From pantry staples like baking soda to high tech activated charcoal, many effective options for deodorizing pillows without harsh chemicals exist. Whether your pillows are starting to smell stale or you just want to give them a refresh, try one of these simple methods. With a few easy steps, you can avoid odors and help ensure you rest comfortably on a fresh-smelling pillow every night.


How can I tell if my pillows need to be deodorized?
Signs your pillows need freshening include odor, yellow discoloration, or oily stains on the fabric. If they smell musty or stale, it's time to de-stink them.

How long does it take for baking soda to deodorize pillows?

Baking soda should be left on pillows for at least 1-2 hours up to overnight for very smelly pillows. This gives the baking soda time to absorb odors fully.

Can I use lemon juice instead of vinegar to deodorize?
Yes, lemon juice works similarly to vinegar as a natural deodorizer. Mix lemon juice and water in a spray bottle and use as directed.

Will freezing my pillows ruin them?
Freezing is safe for most pillows. Just ensure they are sealed tightly in plastic bags so no moisture can get in when frozen. Avoid freezing pillows with batteries or electronics.

How often should I deodorize my pillows?
Plan to deodorize pillows every 6 months to 1 year for average use. If you sweat heavily at night or have oily skin/hair, you may need to freshen them more often.