Different kinds of pillows need different kinds of care and maintenance. Get it right and your natural pillow could last your for many decades! Here’s how to care for pillows made with buckwheat, kapok, cotton, hemp, wool, and other natural materials – part of our Guide to Non-Toxic Bedding.
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Latex pillow care and maintenance
Latex pillows don’t require a lot of care and can last for decades if treated well. This is one of the reasons I am a big proponent of latex pillows.
If you have a molded latex pillows and a spill happens, quickly remove the cover (which can usually be machine washed) and give the latex a quick wipes or even a very quick rinse with warm soapy water. Dab the latex dry with a towel and then let it air dry fully before using the pillow again.
For shredded latex, care and maintenance is a little trickier. If you spill something and it gets through the pillowcase and inner cover, you may want to empty the contents of the pillow and let it air out. This may mean laying the latex out in a shallow layer on a large tray for good air circulation.
This can be very messy, though, and is definitely best avoided. I’ve not had to do this with my latex pillow and am very glad! If the latex is mixed with something else, such as kapok, it can be hard, if not impossible, to separate the fibers, so be sure to follow care instructions for all the materials in the pillow.
Also, avoid laying latex out in direct sun as this can degrade the material. I live somewhere prone to strong winds, so am also mindful of finding a sheltered spot to air out any kind of bedding, including pillow stuffing.
Kapok pillow care and maintenance
To care for a pure kapok pillow, machine wash on a gentle cycle without any abrasive items (no clothing with zippers, for instance).
You can also dry kapok pillows on a cool cycle in the dryer. Add wool dryer balls to help fluff the pillow. Kapok fibers are prone to clumping, so fluff the pillow well between wash cycles.
Reading through materials science and engineering journals (as is my wont), I finally found some research on the flammability of kapok. Though some kapok proponents claim the flammability of the fiber is a myth, this is wishful thinking.
Kapok has many fantastic qualities; being highly flammable could be one of them, if you wanted to start a fire.
For bedding, though, it’s best to avoid materials that are highly oxygen-absorbing and highly flammable. Still, the benefits of kapok are great, so it’s worth keeping the fiber in mind as a pillow fill and just taking care not to expose your pillow or kapok duvet to open flames or high and dry heat. That means no smoking in bed, no camp fires, and no drying your kapok pillow by a wood burning stove or other significant heat source.
Wool pillow care and maintenance
To care for an organic wool pillow, spot clean with a dilute vinegar solution and then air the pillow outside in the sun or on a sunny window ledge indoors.
To restore loft to a flattened wool pillow, fluff the pillow in the dryer on low heat with wool dryer balls.
If you’re storing a wool pillow for any length of time, use cedar or other pest deterrent to prevent moths and so forth eating through the wool.
Buckwheat pillow care and maintenance
Buckwheat pillow care is super simple. Every two to three years, empty the hulls out onto a large tray and set the tray in the sun. Let the hulls air out while you machine-wash the pillowcase.
If you spill something on your buckwheat pillow, act fast. Remove the cover and isolate any hulls that got wet. Discard these or lay them out to dry in the sun. Turn and shake the hulls every so often to prevent clumping. And make sure the hulls are totally dry before you put them back in the pillowcase.
Never soak the buckwheat hulls from your pillow. They will swell up fast, spoil quickly, clump together, and can develop mold or start rotting.
If you have a major spill, consider discarding any soaked hulls and replace these with hulls from the original pillow manufacturer or other source.
Millet pillow care and maintenance
As with buckwheat, millet pillow care is straightforward. Every two years or so, empty the seeds onto a cookie sheet or tray to air out while you wash the pillowcase.
Rinse the millet seeds if necessary, but don’t soak them (they could sprout!). Make sure they’re fully dry before returning them to the case.
If you need to replace any spoiled millet, you’ll usually be able to find organic millet at the grocery store. Or, contact your pillow maker to see if they sell larger quantities at a lower price.
Hemp pillow care and maintenance
Hemp pillows are not typically washable as it is difficult to ensure the fill is fully dry. This means it’s best to spot clean hemp pillows. If the pillow does get wet, let it dry on or near a suitable, safe heat source.
To spot clean hemp, use a mild solution of 3:1 water and vinegar. Apply it using a spray bottle and dab dry with towel.
Most hemp pillows come with a removable, washable pillowcase. If the pillowcase is also hemp, it’s best to wash this on a delicate cycle with cold or warm water and mild detergent. Hang the pillowcase to try and iron only if absolutely necessary.
Cotton pillow care and maintenance
Cotton shrinks when washed in warm or hot water, so it is best to wash cotton pillow covers on a cold gentle cycle and air dry. As for cotton pillow inserts, it’s best not to wash these in the machine as it is very hard to ensure the batting dries fully. This could lead to issues with mold and mildew.
Instead, spot-clean your cotton pillow using a spray comprising 3:1 water to vinegar.