If you haven’t yet heard of kapok, you’re in for a treat. This super sustainable silky fiber is plant-based, fluffy, and a great choice for pillows. It does have some drawbacks, though. Read all about the pros and cons of kapok pillows below.
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What is Kapok?
Kapok is a silky fiber harvested from the seed pods of tropical trees called Ceiba pentandra. Also known as Java cotton, Kava kapok, silk-cotton, Samauma, or ceiba, kapok is significantly lighter than cotton (about eight times lighter!), feels very similar to down, and is wonderfully sustainable.
Kapok Pillows – Benefits
Kapok pillows are excellent for back sleepers as they offer minimal resistance and are very soft, fluffy, and luxurious. This makes kapok a natural alternative to down. Kapok is also hypoallergenic, resistant to mold, and dries quickly.
I don’t recommend pure kapok pillows for side-sleepers as the fiber is too soft to properly support spinal alignment. Stomach-sleepers like me, however, may like how much a kapok pillow can compress but most will still prefer a pillow that’s less lofty overall.
I’m a big fan of kapok mixed with shredded latex. This blends both the softness of kapok with the firm, buoyant support of natural latex. One of my favorite pillows (the Avocado Green Pillow – see review) is made with exactly this mix of materials and is adjustable, breathable, and super comfortable.
The Downsides of Kapok Pillows
Kapok is highly flammable and oxygen absorbing, which may put you off a kapok pillow depending on your lifestyle and who the pillow is for.
If you do choose a kapok pillow, don’t smoke in bed and avoid using your kapok pillow near a campfire or other source of ignition.
Because kapok also absorbs oxygen very well, this can cause safety issues during kapok transportation and storage. There’s no research on whether this makes the fiber a problem for pillows, but I would suggest avoiding kapok pillows if:
- You sleep on your front or side
- You have any kind of respiratory condition
- You intend to use the pillow for toddlers or younger children.
Is Kapok Sustainable?
In the right conditions, the kapok tree can grow up to 13 feet in a year, and some trees reach over 160 feet high, forming the canopy of a rainforest. Kapok fibers are harvested from seed pods after they fall once the rainy season is finished. This means that there’s no need to chop down or otherwise harm the trees to get the fibers.
Kapok cultivation also doesn’t require pesticides and can help to maintain important eco systems. Growing interest in this crop, and sustainable kapok farming, could also provide good jobs for workers in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and tropical west Africa.
How Much do Kapok Pillows Cost?
Kapok pillows have come down in price in recent years as more have entered the market. They now average around $50, which is a bargain considering a kapok pillow could last for decades with proper care.
My top choices for kapok pillows include:
- Avocado Natural Green Pillow [Staff tested] (See our review)
- Rawganique’s Kapok Pillow (See our review)
- Savvy Rest Kapok Pillow [Staff tested] (See our review)
- Savvy Rest Organic Kapok Body Pillow (See our review).
In Summary – Pros and Cons of Kapok Pillows
Here’s a quick run-down of the pros and cons of kapok pillows:
|Lighter than cotton||Not grown in the U.S.|
|Similar softness to down||Can cost more than other pillows|
|Hypoallergenic||Harder to find|
|Resistant to mold||Too soft for most side-sleepers|
|Machine washable||Highly oxygen-absorbent, which may make it unsuitable for anyone with respiratory difficulties and for young children|
|Durable (can last 20 years or more!)||Needs regular fluffing to restore loft|
|Sustainably grown and harvested|
|Thermally insulating and water-repellent|
|Bouncy and responsive|