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How-To Wash a Woolly Bolas Pillow

Woolly bolas fiber before and after washing

A woolly bolas pillow can be washed and air dried with reasonably good results if done with special care. Below are step-by-step instructions I developed based on my experience washing my own pillows.

Before You Start

Check your washing machine – it’s crucial to use a machine that allows you to manually stop and start various cycles so you can skip agitation during wash and rinse. This will greatly reduce the fiber from matting and clumping. So if your machine controls can’t be altered, follow the hand wash instructions at the bottom of the page. 

Know this -- no matter how gently you wash your pillow, the felted wool bits (bolas) will lose their small cocoon-like shape. I noticed the bits puffed up and fibers tangled somewhat, changing the original texture of my pillows. My pillows are still comfortable but feel less springy than before wash.

Machine Washing Instructions

  1. Remove pillow case. Leave wooly bolas fiber in its zippered case, zipper closed.
  2. Fill machine with cold water and turn it off. Use very little detergent.
  3. Submerge pillow in water. It will tend to bob to the surface while it’s absorbing water. Keep pushing it down into the water until it sinks.
  4. Add a bath towel. This will help balance the load and spin evenly.
  5. Gently swirl and squeeze pillow as if you’re washing a wool sweater in a sink. Do not rub or agitate. Let it soak for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn machine to rinse, bypassing the agitating wash cycle. Let machine fill with water and turn it off.  Swish pillow around in the rinse water.
  7. Turn machine to spin.  When the cycle completes, remove pillow. It will come out as a heavy, wet lumpy ball and the felted bolas bits will look puffed up-- don’t be alarmed, you’ll have a chance to reshape it once the fiber dries.  Wrap wet pillow in a dry towel. Squeeze out any excess water.

How to wash a woolly bolas pillow

Air Drying Instructions

  1. Unzip case and remove wet fiber. Spread it out flat in a thin layer on a towel to air dry.
  2. Tease apart matted and tangled clumps. This took me a while. I did it several times throughout the day as the fiber was drying. I found it took almost 24 hours for the fiber to dry completely.
  3. If you dry the fiber outside in the sun on your deck or back yard, be sure secure cheesecloth over the top so the fiber doesn’t blow away.
  4. When dried, insert fiber in even layers into your clean zippered case. Cover with a pillow protector and pillow case.  

Hand Washing Instructions

  1. Beware -- hand washing a woolly bolas pillow takes some elbow grease! It gets heavy and lumpy when it’s wet.
  2. Remove pillow case. Leave wooly bolas fiber in its zippered case, zipper closed.
  3. Partially fill bath tub with cold water. A big sink will work, too. Use very little detergent.
  4. Submerge pillow in water. It will tend to bob to the surface while it’s absorbing water. Keep pushing it down into the water until it sinks.
  5. Gently swirl and squeeze pillow as if you’re washing a wool sweater. Do not rub or agitate. Let it soak for 15 minutes.
  6. Drain soapy water and refill tub, or sink, with clean water to rinse. Swish pillow around, squeezing out soap. Repeat until water runs clear from pillow.
  7. Squeeze out as much water from pillow as you can. Wrap it in a dry towel. Continue to squeeze out any excess water.
  8. Air dry and refill your zippered case per instructions above.

Keep in mind you don’t need to wash your woolly bolas to keep it clean. Using a pillow protector and pillow case, as well as, airing it outside in the sunlight will do the job. But if washing is a must, do it with care. I’ve only washed my pillows one time each in the 2 years I’ve owned them. Based on how the fiber texture changed with only one wash I think I’ll stick with the non-wash method for keeping them clean.