Many goose down pillows smell like farmyards. How can you get reliably get rid of the smell?

So far I have come across many reviews written by purchasers who are unhappy with the pillows they have bought, saying they've waited in the hope that the smell will go away but it hasn't or it's even got worse over time. Some have sprayed e.g. aftershave on their pillows, which (surprise surprise) only masks the smell rather than getting rid of it, and in any case I don't want a pillow that smells of aftershave or any other perfume. The retailers tend to say that you can only expect such a smell when you receive a "natural product", and that you should "give the pillow a good airing", but a number of people say they have aired their pillows to no effect. To judge from the reviews, the amount of smell seems to vary a lot, and a few retailers have realised there's a problem and have said they will get onto their suppliers.

But it is possible to clean up farmyards when the locations are given a different use, so I am wondering whether the answer to the problem is a) don't buy goose down pillows by mail order unless the seller offers free returns (or there's legal redress, but this might not be so, depending on how the advertisement is written, and many people can do without that hassle anyway), or b) actually there is a good solution, namely...


3 Answers 3


Down is a great natural loose fill fiber providing both warmth and comfort. Unfortunately it absorbs odors, can host dust mites, and may mildew and mold if not regularly laundered and kept dry.

  • Check the pillow for rips or tears, and repair before washing
  • Wash on gentle/delicate cycle - you may need to balance the load with another pillow or other article about the same size and weight of the pillow
  • Rinse twice
  • Dry on gentle/delicate, stopping the dryer frequently to fluff (ie, separate the down) the pillow until completely dry
  • Repeat of any odors still linger

This should eliminate any residual smells from the pillow. If it doesn't then you may need to replace the pillow to eliminate the smell.


Buy a better quality (but much more expensive) pillow. I did this and the manufacturer's process for cleaning the down before use is extreme, involving several washes and removal of unwanted material - hence the price.

My pillow has no detectable smell.

Alternatively remove the down from the pillow and subject it to your own regime of tough cleaning before returning it to the pillowcase. My guess is that you will only have to do this once - the farmyard smell won't come back.


Possible cleaning method (with disclaimer) - I have no idea if it will work, but remove the down and soak it overnight in a bucket of biological washing powder to remove organic matter. As I say, this part is guesswork so try with a sample first and don't blame me if something goes wrong.


Have the pillow stuffing dry-cleaned.

We grew up with down-filled pillows. Periodically my mother would send the pillows to be "cleaned" at the dry cleaners. The cases were opened. The down was removed, dry cleaned, and put back into the pillow case. The "shrinkage" was replaced and the case was re-stitched closed.

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