Pillows are essential for a comfortable night of sleep. They provide back, head and neck support to help you get the rest that your body needs. Many different types of pillows are on the market today, making it difficult to choose one if you´re looking for a perfect new pillow and want to make one from scratch.
The most common filling types include feather pillows, synthetic fiber pillows, buckwheat hull pillows, memory foam or latex pillows. Each type has its own unique pros and cons, so here we discuss 13 different types of pillow stuffing options to help you decide which is best for you.
One pillow stuffing option that is becoming more and more popular is the natural stuffing for your pillow. This includes materials like wool, cotton, feathers, and down. There are many benefits to using natural stuffing materials, including being hypoallergenic, eco-friendly, and providing superior comfort.
This stuffing is recommended for children, people with allergies and chemical sensitivities, and anyone who wants to cut their exposure to toxic chemicals that may be released by conventional synthetic pillows. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best natural materials for your pillow.
Latex fill is one of the most recommended natural pillow fillings, it’s thanks to its hypoallergenic properties and springiness. Latex is a natural product made of sap from rubber trees, which means that it has the same benefits as rubber does, such as durability and elasticity.
Latex pillows are very breathable because the air circulates easily in them, no matter if you choose the solid latex or shredded latex option.
They are also pressure-relieving because they have no hard parts inside that could press against your head or neck when you lie on the pillow, which makes them great for side sleepers. Latex filling has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
If you suffer from asthma or allergies, a latex pillow is a perfect choice for you because it doesn’t retain moisture and is resistant to mold and mildew. Choose GOLS certified latex which is guaranteed to contain 95% of organic latex, free from toxic chemicals.
Washing Instructions: A latex pillow should not be machine washed as it can get easily damaged. You can hand wash and spot clean the casing.
Materials: GOLS certified organic latex and organic cotton
Read More: Are Latex Pillows Good?
Buckwheat Pillow Filling is made from 100% buckwheat hulls. They are naturally hypoallergenic, dust mite resistant, and have the ability to wick away moisture. Buckwheat pillows are a great option for side sleepers because they can provide a lot of support due to their firmness and malleability.
This natural pillow fill is also recommended for summer months of hot sleepers as they are very breathable and keep the sleeper cool.
Washing Instructions: Buckwheat hull fill should never come in direct contact with water. Spot-clean the casing when it gets stained and protect your buckwheat pillow with a pillow protector.
Materials: GOTS certified buckwheat and cotton
Millet pillow stuffing is made up of millet hulls. This type of pillow filling provides airy support and allows for ease of movement. Millet hull filling is inexpensive, though not as cheap as polyester filling. Millet hulls are naturally soft, smooth, and pliable making them great pillows that are also eco-friendly and biodegradable.
Millet hull pillows are commonly used as an alternative to down and foam pillows because they provide similar support without animal byproducts. Millet hulls offer support that keeps one’s neck in a neutral position, such as when sleeping on one’s side or stomach. This pillow fill has similar properties to buckwheat but is much more lightweight.
Washing Instructions: It’s a good idea to remove the filling before washing your pillow as millet hulls should never get wet. Allow the filling to breathe before reinserting it into a clean pillow.
Filling: Millet Hull
Natural kapok is harvested from the seeds of the kapok tree. It looks like cotton but is silkier, lending it its name of “silk cotton” which offers a comfortable and airy feel. Kapok has a unique blend of heat-, moisture-, and mold-resistant fibers, making it better than most pillow stuffing options.
This pillow filling is hypoallergenic and can breathe easily, allowing air to move freely inside the pillow for a comfortable sleeping environment. So if you are looking for a good pillow stuffing material that is free of chemicals and other toxins, then a kapok pillow should be your choice.
Washing Instructions: Kapok fill can be easily damaged when it becomes wet, so it’s best to wash only the cotton shell and leave the filling in direct sunlight for a few hours to air it and naturally sanitize it.
Materials: GOTS Certified Kapok and GOTS Certified Cotton Cover
Down pillow stuffing is a great choice for any sleeper. This material is generally made from goose or duck down and they are some of the softest stuffing options available.
Down pillows are lightweight, breathable, durable and supportive without being too firm or too lofty. They offer the right amount of support to help you get the rest your body needs.
Most down fillings are hypoallergenic and dust-mite resistant. It´s not water-resistant so keep in mind that these pillows need to be cared for properly or they will develop mold. This type of pillow is also more expensive than most other fillings due to the high-quality materials used.
Cleaning and Care: Down pillows should be washed and dried on a gentle cycle and then air-dried. Fluff your down pillow every other day or so to allow even distribution of the filling material and prevent clumping.
Material: RDS-certified goose feather and down, Oeko-Tex certified sateen cotton
Feather Pillow Stuffing is another hypoallergenic choice. Although there is some controversy surrounding the cruelty of goose and duck farming, most major retailers offer feather pillows obtained from animals not live-plucked or force-fed animals.
These materials tend to be very fluffy and soft, making them a great option for anyone who prefers a firm pillow with a lot of support.
Feather pillows are not water-resistant and most down-proof pillowcases can be used with these pillows to cut down on cleaning time and prevent damage from mold build-up. This type of filling is high quality, durable, versatile, and affordable.
Cleaning and Care: To maintain the quality of your feather pillow it should be washed in cold water on a gentle cycle with delicate laundry detergent.
Materials: 85% Goose Feather, 15% Goose Down, Oeko-Tex Certified Cotton
Cotton pillow fillings contain a bunch of short and long-stranded fibers that are pulled, twisted, and bonded together. Cotton material is cheap, and it’s easy to find GOTS certified organic cotton filling that is chemical-free as well as pesticide-free, making it a great choice to use in pillows for children as their skin is more sensitive than adults’.
Since cotton is a natural product, it has some drawbacks too. Pillows filled with 100% cotton may be harder than pillows filled with other materials, they are also prone to compression and lumps so they do not keep their shape well.
As they absorb moisture very well, they may become moldy over time, which makes cotton fill the least desirable pillow filling out of all-natural options.
Washing Instructions: Never use hot water with cotton, or else it will shrink. Machine wash in cold or lukewarm water along with other pillow stuffings and mild detergent to keep your pillows naturally clean.
Materials: 100% Organic Cotton
Wool pillow stuffing is great for regulating moisture, keeping you dry and fresh all night long while maintaining a neutral body temperature. These hypoallergenic pillows will keep you cool in summer and warm on cold winter nights. Wool pillows are fluffier than other types of fiber which means they have less springiness to them.
Read More: Wool Pillows Pros and Cons
On the other hand, they are quite delicate and should always be checked for proper care instructions before purchase. Natural wool pillows lose their puff over time, so it’s advisable to re-fluff them once daily to retain their shape.
Washing Instructions: Wool pillows are delicate and should always be checked for proper care instructions before purchase.
Materials: GOTS Certified Wood and Cotton
Sizes: Standard, Queen, King
PLA (polylactic acid) is a great alternative to polyester. PLA is a natural filling material, a renewable resource and biodegradable. PLA stuffing material is made from plants, not plastic, making it safe for our environment.
PLA pillow stuffing provides plenty of support and as its fibers are as resilient as polyester, it´s bound to last. These pillows also have excellent moisture-wicking properties, making them ideal for people who tend to sleep hot and sweat at night.
Washing Instructions: This pillow is machine washable, make sure to refill it after drying it.
Materials: Organic cotton and plant fiber
Hemp pillow fill is antibacterial, anti-allergenic and very sturdy. Hemp is most often used for rope and fabric, but it’s also a great filler material. Hemp filling for pillows is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
It absorbs moisture and sweat quickly and prevents the formation of mold, fungi and bacteria. This hypoallergenic pillow filling prevents allergies and respiratory problems such as asthma.
Washing Instructions: Hemp will be tuned when it comes in contact with water. You can only wash the casing using a mild detergent.
There are many different types of synthetic pillow fillings on the market these days, each with its own set of pros and cons. In this section, we’re going to look at the different types of synthetic pillow materials and their benefits, so you can decide if they are the right choice for you.
Polyester pillow stuffing is affordable, easy to maintain, machine washable, and it’s one of the best fillings for outdoor pillows. A polyester fiberfill pillow provides good support for restful sleep in different sleeping positions, however, polyester tends to compress and become lumpy pretty fast.
Poly-fil is not the right pillow type for hot sleepers as it retains body heat. Polyester is also used in down alternative pillows for people who are allergic to down or don’t want to buy animal products. While it’s much cheaper than down, it’s not nearly as durable and compresses pretty fast.
Washing instructions: Machine wash using warm water, re-fluff after drying.
Memory foam is a popular pillow filling material made from expanding polyurethane foam that can be seen in mattresses and couches. It’s available in two types of pillow stuffing, solid and shredded memory foam. While a solid memory foam pillow provides firm support and high loft, a shredded memory foam pillow is more fluffy and malleable.
Memory foam pillows are engineered to provide excellent pressure relief and restful sleep. However, this synthetic filling option may retain heat, so it’s not recommended for hot sleepers.
If you choose memory foam pillow fill, make sure that it’s CertiPUR certified. This certificate ensures that the pillow doesn’t release high amounts of VOCs and other toxic chemicals.
Care Instructions: Unless it is explicitly stated otherwise, memory foam pillows should not be washed. Memory foam acts like a sponge, so putting it in a washing machine will ruin it and make it prone to developing mold. You should only spot-clean your memory foam pillow if it’s necessary.
Materials: Certi-Pur certified foam
Microbeads are made from plastic or polyesteryne. Some of these beads are made from recycled plastic, making them more sustainable than other synthetic pillow filling types. They are known for their durability and affordability, as well as softness.
Microbead pillows are pliable and provide comfort to users. They are durable because they will not flatten easily, but tend to maintain their shape. This makes them great for stomach sleepers and back sleepers alike.
Care Instructions: Keeping your microbead pillow clean and fresh is critical. Wash it in a gentle wash cycle in warm water with a mild laundry detergent.
We always recommend using natural pillow stuffing material. Apart from being an eco-friendly option, natural pillows are also less likely to release VOCs and other toxic chemicals. The best pillow stuffing also depends on your sleeping position, personal preference and budget.
In our experience, buckwheat and latex pillows are some of the best options. Apart from being low maintenance, they offer fantastic support and keep your neck and spine healthy during sleep. They also provide excellent airflow which is ideal for people who overheat during the night or sweat a lot at night.
The best places to buy pillow stuffing online are:
The amount of pillow stuffing you choose will depend on your personal preference and budget. These guidelines will give you a general idea of how much filling you´ll need for a standard-size pillow depending on the stuffing type you choose:
You can always add a couple of pounds if you prefer a high-loft, firmer pillow. You can use less filling if you prefer a flatter or soft pillow. Some types of pillow stuffing, such as polyester or cotton, will compress with use, so you’ll probably need to add more in a few months.
The healthiest pillow filling is GOTS or GOLS certified natural stuffing. These certificates mean that the material is free from harmful chemicals and is biodegradable.
Organic certified stuffing should always be encased in an organic cotton cover to make sure that your pillow is completely free from VOCs and other toxic substances, including pesticides and bleach.
Additionally, an allergy-proof pillow is essential if you suffer from dust mites and mold allergies. These allergens are most common in cheap stuffing, so investing in a high-quality option for allergy sufferers is important. Organic buckwheat and latex pillows are the best options for this.
The best pillow filling for side sleepers is a natural latex pillow. Latex fills gaps in the neck and shoulders to provide more support for people who sleep on their sides. Side sleepers often suffer from neck pain and stiffness; latex pillows alleviate this discomfort.
Another great filling for an organic side sleeper pillow is buckwheat. Buckwheat pillows provide support for your neck and spine, while also allowing air to circulate through the pillow so that it stays cool throughout the night.
The best pillow filling for back and stomach sleepers is 100% natural latex. Latex offers firm support, ideal for the neck and spine.
Choose a flat latex pillow specially designed for stomach and back sleepers that provides enough loft and support to help you prevent neck pain and, at the same time, won’t let your head sink.
There is no one “best” pillow filling. The best types of pillow stuffing for you depend on a number of factors, including your sleeping position and personal preference. As every sleeper is different, the only way to find out what’s the best pillow stuffing material for you is to try several options.
We always recommend choosing natural pillow filling over synthetic one, because it is both healthier and kinder to the environment. When you shop for your next pillow, keep in mind that not all natural materials are created equal.
Make sure that the stuffing you choose is GOTS or GOLS-certified organic and has a 100% cotton cover to ensure that it’s completely free from VOCs, bleach and other chemicals.
If you´ve got any questions or suggestions regarding pillow stuffing options, please use our comment section below.
My name is Kamila, and I'm passionate about researching non-toxic, organic products for the home. I believe it's so important to create a safe and healthy environment for our families, and I enjoy helping others do the same.