What’s in your pillow? If you’re not sure, or you’re looking to upgrade to a safe and more sustainable pillow, you’re in the right place. In this part of the Leaf Score Guide to Non-Toxic Bedding, we pick a fight with common chemicals in pillows, look at the best pillows for different sleep styles, discuss pillow care and protection, and more.
All about organic pillows
It matters where you rest your head after a long day.
A comfortable, non-toxic, eco-friendly pillow can support restful sleep. On the flip side, a lumpy and uncomfortable synthetic pillow made with a chemical cocktail can leave you with what feels like a daily hangover. Think: sore neck, stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, and low motivation.
If you need to upgrade your pillow, we can help you find a safer, more sustainable alternative.
Choosing healthy, natural pillow materials
In this part of our pillow guide, we look at the different kinds of natural and organic materials commonly used in pillows.
Some of my favorite non-toxic and sustainable pillow materials include:
- Organic wool
- Organic cotton
- Organic latex
I’ve slept on all of these and my firm (ahem) favorites are kapok and shredded latex, followed by buckwheat. I’m a hot sleeper, though, and a stomach-sleeper, so I like an adjustable pillow that’s breathable and low-profile.
If you’re a side-sleeper who likes things cozy, you’ll likely have different preferences. That’s why I talk you through the pros and cons of different pillow materials and offer insight on the best pillows for every sleep position.
Chemicals of concern in pillows
You may also be considering a pillow made with down, recycled down, or even recycled polyester. We look at the pros and cons of those materials as part of our guide to toxic materials and chemicals in pillows.
What else could be lurking in your pillow? Formaldehyde for one.
Learn how to spot this carcinogenic chemical and other chemicals of concern regularly found in conventional pillows.
Green certifications for pillows
Green pillow certifications can be an easy shortcut to help you choose safe, non-toxic bedding. Some certifications are little more than greenwashing though and may leave you fuming over toxic pillow fumes and an inflated price.
We explore the most meaningful green certifications for pillows here, with a tiered approach to help you make a more informed choice. We also highlight some of the certifications and seals that it’s wisest to disregard when making your next pillow purchase.
How to choose an organic pillow
Choosing a new pillow isn’t just about the material for the cover and fill. You’ll also want to consider things like:
- Size and shape
- Pillow design
- Your preferred sleep position(s)
- Any allergies and sensitivities
- Your budget.
If, like me, you have spent years sleeping on conventional polyester or polyfoam pillows, you may find that a completely different pillow design helps you sleep more soundly. It did for me!
What works for you may be wildly unsuitable for your sleep partner, though, so don’t just buy two matching pillows and hope for the best.
There are many more options these days for organic, natural, and sustainably made pillows, so take your time when choosing and pick a pillow for life.
Many pillows now come with a built-in zipper that lets you adjust and refresh the fill for years to come. Your next pillow may well be the last you ever buy! That depends, though, on proper….
Pillow care and maintenance
Once you’ve found your new pillow partner, you’ll want to treat them well. This means understanding how to care for and maintain natural pillows.
Different materials require different levels and types of care. Some materials are fussier than others, and some care practices might not suit your lifestyle or capacity for routine pillow maintenance.
Get it right and your new pillow could last for a decade or more. Get it wrong and you might be in the market for a new pillow sooner than you think.
We explore the ins and outs of pillow care and maintenance, so you can choose your new pillow wisely and keep it in tip-top shape for years to come.
Pillow recommendations and reviews
Putting it all together, we offer our top choices for pillows of every kind, including the best:
- Organic cotton pillows
- Kapok pillows
- Organic wool pillows
- Organic latex pillows
- Buckwheat pillows.
We also curate pillow choices based on your sleep preferences. Coming soon, our recommendations for:
- The best pillows for side-sleepers
- The best pillows for stomach-sleepers
- The best pillows for back-sleepers
- The best pillows for combination sleepers.
Finally, we pit pillow-makers against each other, so you can get off the fence and into bed with your perfect pillow match.
Don’t forget pillow protection!
Before we wrap up, a word on wrapping up your pillow.
To keep your pillow in great shape for longer, consider a protective encasement. These covers can help guard your pillow against bed bugs and dust mites and some even offer protection against spills and stains.
I have a toddler and a penchant for drinking tea in bed, so pillow protectors are a must for my bed.
How can you protect your pillow without toxic chemicals? I discuss smart design and the best materials for pillow protectors here.
I also offer my top choices for natural pillow protectors here.
Final thoughts on pillows
It pays to be particular about your pillow. I certainly am.
Most pillows are short-lived polyester monstrosities that smell awful, collect dust mite feces, and turn lumpy and uncomfortable within just a few months. That’s not a great recipe for sustainable, safe sleep, and I’m too old and tired to waste time with a bad pillow partner.
Taking care to research and choose your next pillow might seem fussy, and it’s definitely a lofty goal to find the perfect pillow. Your pillow is a foundational piece of bedding, though. After all, you’re likely to spend a third of your life with your face in close contact with your pillow.
Use our guide to pillows to help you choose the right pillow for your sleep needs and to care for any natural pillows you already own.