Buckwheat pillows are becoming popular throughout the world but have their origins in Japan where they are called sobakawa. The buckwheat husks (hulls) allow the head and neck to mold into the pillow giving greater comfort than traditional fillers. They are also more durable and with care should last at least 10 years. An important part of that care is in cleaning and washing the pillows. Here are some guidelines on how to clean buckwheat pillow.
1. The Outer Pillowcase
The covering of the buckwheat pillow is just like any regular pillowcase and can be removed and washed in the machine according to the instructions on the tab.
2. The Husk Cover
Although the sturdy husk cover may not need washing as often as the pillowcase, it will still get dirty from time to time. Spillages and soiling from breakfast in bed or bedtime drinks will likely happen occasionally. Unlike other pillows with foam or polyester fillings, the buckwheat stuffing cannot be put in a washing machine or soaked in water. To do so will result in misshapen and hard hulls that will also be susceptible to mildew and mold forming.
3. Removing the Husks
This is the tricky part which takes a bit of time but is worth it to preserve the pillow. Prop the pillow upright so that the hulls settle at the bottom and then pull another pillowcase up and around to contain it. A paper carrier bag would also do well for this purpose. Carefully unzip the husk cover and tip or scoop out the filling into the pillowcase. Turn the cover inside-out to remove any remaining husks and then pull up the holding pillowcase over them and tie up lightly.
4. Washing the Husk Cover
This is safely washed by hand but is usually made of a cotton material that can be machine-washed. Use a gentle wash in cold water and air dry. Tumble drying should be avoided as it may shrink the cotton.
5. Replacing the Husks
Unzip the dry cotton cover, lay flat and spread out, or, better still, get someone to hold it open for you. Carefully scoop the husks back in and rezip.
6. Drying and Freshening The Hulls
The strong covering should, with some luck, prevent any spillages dampening the husks. If they do get wet or need freshening-up a tip is to pour them all into a large open jar or spread out in a shallow container in the air and sun. They should revive but if too wet may need replacing.
7. When to Replace The Pillow
After some years the hulls will naturally start to break down. The buckwheat pillow may become flat or bumpy and not as cool or supportive as formerly. It is possible to buy some additional filling and pad out the pillow but after a time it will probably be better to replace it altogether.
The best quality Sobakawa pillows are hypoallergenic, cooling, and comfortable. Cleaning them with care should preserve the quality and usefulness for many years to come.