My Non-Toxic Tribe: Guide To Choosing A Safe, Non-Toxic Pillow
This is a topic which I have been meaning to write about for a very long time. However, having a new baby as well as a toddler, this year has been extremely busy. To write a guide like this takes copious hours of research and writing and when the research is for myself, I find it too difficult to squeeze it in… I say for myself, because up until now Isabella hasn’t been using a pillow. She often sleeps on her tummy and has never really asked for one. However, Isabella turned 3 a few months ago and has started asking for a pillow. Here was the motivation I needed to go down the rabbit hole of research and find the best, non-toxic pillow available.
I’d actually done a bit of research into children’s pillows just before I had Charlie. However, the stand out ‘organic latex’ children’s pillow company I wrote to ended up not being able to back up any of their claims, could show no certifications and stopped replying to my emails. I knew I had to tread carefully so that I found something truly non-toxic and didn’t believe someone’s tricky marketing hype.
Even though Isabella hasn’t been using a pillow… I sure have and so has my husband Bez. I ran out of time to research before I had baby Charlie and so whilst we’ve had amazing non-toxic mattresses, I hate to say it, but our pillows have definitely not been. It’s become something that’s been hanging over my head, making me cringe every night as I lie down… The last toxic thing in the bedroom… and the one I actually put my head on! I’ve been so desperate for a change… I just knew I had to do my research properly, otherwise I’d end up wasting money and regretting my decision.
Why is it important to choose a non-toxic pillow?
A pillow is a really important purchase given that we spend so many hours with our heads right on it… Isabella sleeps about 12 hours a day and as an adult, I too spend 8 hours a day in bed. With our faces literally up against a pillow’s surface for so many hours, we can’t help but have a large cumulative exposure to any volatile gaseous output our pillow emits.
Quality of sleep and comfort are very important too given that sleep is just as important as food and water to our wellbeing and long term health. (Possible links have recently been found between poor sleep and Alzheimers.) However, even if a pillow’s toxin output didn’t immediately affect our sleep (though many experience respiratory irritation from the initial off-gassing odours), breathing in chemical fumes which are emitted from petrochemical foams can potentially have detrimental long term health effects.
Unfortunately, it is not just new pillows which “off-gas”. Although the ‘new smell’ odour does decrease over the first few weeks, it has been shown that over time as foams break down, they also release toxins into the air for us to unwittingly breathe in.
It is really important to me that I’m choosing the healthiest sleep environment for Isabella, Charlie and also the family. Whilst Charlie doesn’t use a pillow yet, he co-sleeps and breastfeeds at night and so I’m very aware that he too would be exposed to any chemical off gassing from my own pillow.
What are the chemicals we want to avoid in pillows and why?
The most concerning toxins which are commonly in pillows include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and phthalates. The reason why exposure to these chemicals matter is that they have been linked to a whole host of negative health effects from respiratory irritation to endocrine (hormone) disruption and cancer.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs):
EDCs are thought to have a bigger impact when exposure occurs at certain developmental stages of life such as foetal development and puberty. Exposure when a tissue is developing can cause permanent changes that lead to increased incidence of diseases throughout life, even though they are not evident as birth defects. So for a baby, exposure can lead to irreversible effects whereas the effects of adult exposure seem to go away when the EDC is removed. This means that it is really important that we lessen exposure to unnecessary chemicals as much as possible for babies, children and teenagers.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals which are used in the manufacturing process of a product which can easily escape into the air, even once the product is in its finished form. Higher concentrations of VOCs in pillows are emitted from synthetic materials, particularly memory foam. The odour from pillows that off-gas usually dissipate within a few weeks, but some VOCs are odourless.
Phthalates are plasticisers and fragrances which are endocrine disrupting chemicals. They have been strongly linked with asthma as well as low testosterone, undescended testes and reduced sperm quality, amongst other negative health effects.
Phthalates can be found in the PVC waterproofing covers of pillows, particularly in a medical setting. Up to 30% of PVC by weight can be made up of phthalates. As they are not chemically bound into the PVC, they leach easily into their surrounds and so it is very important to avoid it.
Phthalates can also be found in artificial fragrances and deodorisers, added to a pillow to mask a chemical smell.
What else is in a pillow that we want to avoid?
Allergens build up in pillows over time, particularly if they are not replaced for long periods, cared for correctly or used with a pillow protector. Dust mites can make up to one third of a pillows volume and can leave droppings which exacerbate hayfever and eczema. We can also get fungi and mould growing in pillows which can trigger respiratory reactions.
What is in a pillow?
Pillows contain an outer casing and a filling. These can be made from a variety of different materials, both synthetic and natural. Fillers are chosen on the basis of comfort, malleability, durability, cost as well as ethics and health reasons.
Synthetic pillow materials are very common as they are comfortable, retain their shape and are inexpensive. Unfortunately they can contain toxic ingredients which will continue to off-gas for the user to breathe in. There are however a lot of natural choices of pillow filling too.
Memory foam is a conforming visco-elastic foam made by adding chemicals to the petrochemical foam, polyurethane. Some options can also be made with a soy-derived foam, but they still have some level of petrochemical based foam too.
Advantages: By moulding to your shape, helps achieve neutral spine alignment quickly and comfortably. Good support. Malleable. Doesn’t clump.
Disadvantages: Varies widely in quality. Can release high levels of VOC’s. Can be accompanied by a strong chemical odour.
The production of polyester itself is pretty toxic involving chemical ingredients like formaldehyde, benzene and toluene, which aren’t good for the environment – or you.
Advantages: Cheap. Light weight. Easy to clean. Can be filled to various heights and densities to alter the feel of the pillow. Hypoallergenic (purely meaning most people won’t get an allergy to it.)
Disadvantages: Not very breathable. Retains body heat, so can be hot to sleep on. Can clump quickly making pillow feel flat and lumpy.
These pillows are made from Silicone or Polyurethane materials encased in plastic. Manufacturers layer this gel on top of a pillow material such as memory foam and sometimes even chop and disperse it through the foam.
Advantages: Has cooling properties. Can offer pressure relief.
Disadvantages: Cooling effect tends to last only for a duration of about 10 minutes. Combined with memory foam, these pillows are likely to release VOC’s.
These are the synthetic alternative to buckwheat hulls and sometimes called ‘uniform polymer particles’.
Advantages: Malleable. Promote air flow.
Disavantages: Degenerate. Lose Volume. Flatten quickly. Can have a chemical odour. Potential for VOCs.
Synthetic latex is a synthetically produced petroleum based compound, most commonly styrene-butadiene rubber, which is made to have similar properties to natural latex.
Disadvantages: Can emit high levels of VOCs.
Some pillows are made from a blend of synthetic latex and natural latex to save on costs. Manufacturers can call their pillow ‘natural latex’ as long as there is a percentage of natural latex in the synthetic blend. This makes it really important to purchase your pillow from a trusted company who can show certifications of purity and quality.
Natural Latex Foam
Natural latex is a renewable material gathered from the sap of a rubber tree.
Advantages: Low levels of VOCs. Highly resistant to mould and dust mites. Eco- Friendly. Durable. Naturally hypoallergenic (except for those with an actual latex allergy!) Can come in a variety of shapes, profiles and densities. Can come in a block of shaped latex that isn’t malleable or a shredded latex filling that is.
To have these properties, it is very important for a product to be made from 100% natural latex.
Disadvantages: Can have a slightly rubbery odour. More expensive.
Buckwheat pillows are more common in Asia, though you may have used one in a yoga class.
Advantages: Firm. Highly malleable. Breathable. Conform perfectly to the shape of the head and neck. Cool to sleep on. Long life span. Eco-friendly. Thickness can be adjusted by adding/ removing hulls.
Disadvantages: Heavy. Make a crunchy rustling sound when moved which can be off-putting. (To attempt to mute the noise, they can be made with a wool outer.)
More chemical pesticides are used for cotton than any other crop. Most studies do show that the processing of the cotton should wash or bleach out the chemical residues from conventionally grown cotton, but a question mark does remain.
Advantages: Better for the environment. Breathable. Non-Toxic; grown without pesticides in untreated soil. Soft. More expensive. Odourless. Can be washed.
Disadvantages: Dust mites love to live in cotton. Compress over time. Can become lumpy and uncomfortable. (Does resist clumping better than wool.)
Feather and Down
Feather stuffing literally contains whole feathers and down stuffing is made up of only the light, fluffy part at the bottom of a bird’s feathers. Pillows can be stuffed with either feather, down or a combination.
Feather Advantages: Cheaper.
Feather Disadvantages: Flatten more quickly. Can become uncomfortable as quills align with each other. Quills can poke out and prick you. Retains body heat making pillow feel warm. Can be difficult to clean. Can be too soft. Need to constantly be re-fluffed. Offer little neck and spine support. Can have a distinct odour. A potential allergen. Can be seen to be inhumane.
Down Advantages: Softer. Lasts Longer. Can be moulded better and fluffed into a specific shape.
Down Disadvantages: Retains body heat making the pillow feel warm. Can be difficult to clean. Can be too soft. Need to constantly be re-fluffed. Offer little neck and spine support. Can have a distinct odour. A potential allergen. Can be seen to be inhumane. More expensive.
European white goose down is considered the best quality. Down feathers are collected either after a bird has been killed for their meat, during live plucking or being gathered from live birds. From an ethical perspective, it is important to find out where and how the down is sourced.
Kapok is a silky fibre harvested from a tree native to Mexico called the Ceiba tree. Its flowers produce a fluffy, cotton-like material containing hundreds of seeds.
Advantages: 8 times lighter than cotton. Feels like down but eco-friendly and more ethical. Soft textured pillow.
Disadvantages: Extremely flammable. Not malleable. Quickly develops lumps.
Millet is a less common filling, but similar to buckwheat, except the hulls of millet are smaller and circular.
Advantages: Less noisy and softer than buckwheat. Breathable. Eco-friendly. Thickness can be adjusted.
Disadvantages: Doesn’t hold its shape like buckwheat pillows do.
As it has not been chemically cleaned with sulphuric acid, some residual lanolin remains which acts to protect the wool and helps to inhibit dust mites. (It can have a mild lanolin odour, which is inoffensive to most people.)
Advantages: Breathable. Regulates temperature. Fibres naturally wick moisture away from the face. Naturally mould, mildew and fire resistant. Firmer feel.
Disadvantages: Can have a strong lanolin smell, particularly in humid environments. Can quickly become lumpy and uncomfortable. Not very malleable. Doesn’t hold shape. Some consider inhumane. Compress over time.
Poor quality wool and washable wool
Poorer quality wools can be held together by a synthetic resin. Washable wool is made by exposing the wool fibre to chlorine that erodes the scales in the wool. It is then coated with a resin to ensure that the wool fibres will glide over each other when washed, rather than felt and clump. This can vary in toxicity status depending on how well the chlorine was washed out and what resin or plastic was used. I personally avoid this option.
Advantage: Cheap. Washable.
Disadvantages: Decreased dust mite resistance. Decreased heat regulation. Can potentially emit VOCs.
Covers/ Outer Shell
Most pillow shells are made of conventionally grown cotton, poly-knit blends, viscose rayon and bamboo. These all have various levels of chemicals used in their production. The final materials can also be finished with wrinkle resisting chemicals such as formaldehyde. It is best to look for a pillow with a natural, organic casing.
What are we wanting to look for in a non-toxic pillow?
- Low VOC certification
- No added fragrances or antimicrobials
- No polyurethane foam
- No PVC or vinyl
Great Non-Toxic pillow stuffings:
- 100% natural latex – ideally organic to ensure purity
- Chemical free, untreated wool
- Organic Cotton
- Organic Kapok
- Organic Buckwheat and Millet
- Down and Feather fills tend to be quite clean and chemical free when coming from a reputable source. Though from an ethical perspective, an understanding of where and how the down is sourced is important.
- Covers – organic cotton, organic hemp, organic bamboo lyocell
Which pillow will suit me?
It may be one thing to find a non-toxic pillow, but you also have to find one that you enjoy sleeping on. Each of the above non-toxic materials has different physical properties and suit different sleepers.
When sleeping it is important to maintain a straight back and spine without any pressure on the neck or muscles. This means that different pillow materials are appropriate for different sleeping postures.
Back Sleepers: A medium to firm pillow is best for back sleepers to support the head and neck whilst sleeping. This pillow should not be too high that it tilts the head too far forward. A softer pillow can be ok too. Best pillow options: Organic cotton, buckwheat, biodynamic wool, down.
Tummy Sleepers: A low, soft, flat pillow suits tummy sleepers. It gives support without raising the head and neck too far. (It must be mentioned that it is recommended not to sleep on your tummy in general, as it can lead to neck and spine issues.) Best pillow options: biodynamic wool, organic cotton, down.
Side Sleepers: A firm-to-extra-firm pillow is recommended because it supports the neck and ensures the spine is supported properly at a consistent height. Best Pillow options: Latex is best for side sleepers and can come in a contoured shape to help further support the neck and keep the spine aligned. Wool is also a good option.
Contour pillows are shaped higher at one side and drop in the centre where the head sits. This provides greater support under the neck and comfortable positioning of the spine. The non-toxic version of these are made from organic latex. These suit side sleepers best as they give the most neck support.
Classic pillows do not have a contour. They may be good for back or tummy sleepers depending on height.
When choosing a natural pillow, if you choose one with a zip, it will be possible to add or remove fibre to make it your ideal height and level of firmness.
Pillows for children
When should my child start using a pillow?
Many health professionals think children under two should have no pillow. This comes about partially due to SIDS guidelines. From three onwards, an appropriate pillow is recommended and this depends on sleeping position.
Choosing the right kids pillow
The key to choosing the right pillow for a child is to ensure the natural alignment of the spine is encouraged during sleep. Depending on the sleep posture a child prefers, they will need differing amounts of neck support to maintain alignment. Children should use low pillows which give appropriate neck support for their size. Children are much smaller than adults and should not be using adult pillows as they are too high and result in the neck tilting forward and the spine not being in neutral alignment.
Side sleeping children need the thickest of the kids pillows; about 5-6cm thick depending on the size of the child. If you find your child with their arm under their pillow at night in an unconscious effort to lift it, the pillow is too low.
Back sleeping children suit a pillow height about 4-5 cm thick.
Tummy sleeping children don’t really need a pillow as any height will be lifting their head up out of alignment. Stomach sleeping is not recommended as it can cause neck and spine issues long term.
How do I actually know how non-toxic a pillow is given they have no ingredients list?
Pillows don’t come with an ingredients list and not surprisingly every company wants you to believe that their pillow is the best. Companies will often use the words ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ etc. but these terms can be purely clever marketing. The only way to truly know whether a pillow is non-toxic is to have a look at its independent certifications.
Certified pillows have been reviewed by third party independent organisations whose logo assures consumers that the product meets their quality criteria. The criteria however can vary widely and some certifications are meaningless, whereas others demonstrate that a product passes stringent testing. It is therefore important to know which certifications to look for.
The best non-toxic certifications:
–GOLS (for latex) means that a pillow is made of at least 95% organic latex with the other ingredients being restricted in important ways and certain ingredients prohibited.
–GOTS Organic (for textiles) means that at least 95% of the pillow must be made from certified organic materials with certain chemicals prohibited entirely. (On the prohibited list are polyurethane foam, fire retardants and phthalates). A GOTS certified product will be verified to have the least potential for VOC emission.
–Oeko-Tex Standard 100: This certification sets limits for VOC emissions (such as formaldehyde) and also prohibits the use of flame retardants and dyes. It does not require the materials used in the pillow to be organic.
–Eco Institut: This certification shows that a product has been tested for the presence of VOCs, flame retardants, heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates and formaldehyde. It requires very strict criteria to be met.
Unfortunately some pillow companies may even claim to have a certification that they don’t actually have. The only way you’d really know is to actually see the actual signed certification.
I haven’t mentioned it above as a memory foam pillow does not come into my top recommended list. However, if you are on the market for the safest possible memory pillow, then look out for the CertiPur-US certification. This certifies foam materials that are free from harmful chemicals and have low levels of VOCs.
What pillow materials I’ve chosen for the family and why:
Choosing the right pillow material depends on what kind of position you like to sleep in. It also depends on the physical attributes and characteristics that are most important to you.
For me low levels of VOCs, dust mite and mould resistance featured highly in what I was wanting. I also wanted something 1) low for Isabella who is young and sometimes a tummy sleeper, 2) high and firm for myself as I am a side sleeper, 3) firm and of moderate height for my husband, Bez, as he is both a back and side sleeper.
Organic latex: It has low levels of VOCs, is highly resistant to mould and dust mites. It is durable, hypoallergenic and eco-friendly. Organic latex can give a firm level of support to the neck and suits both a side and back sleeper.
Pure, chemical free wool: Is great for heat regulation, breathes well and the fibres naturally wick moisture away from the face. Pure wool is naturally mould, mildew and dust mite resistant. Pure wool pillows are available in a lower height and it is a great material on its own or in combination with latex in a pillow.
Organic cotton pillow protector: Has great breathability and excellent moisture wicking properties. It is a wonderful cover for a pillow. It can also be woven tightly enough that the pore size in the fabric is smaller than the body size of a dust mite. It gives the advantages of cotton and yet avoids the big disadvantage of a 100% cotton pillow, which is that dust mites love it.
Whilst buckwheat might be a great non-toxic option, I know that the noise would personally be too much for me. I also don’t like the smell of feathers and down and I find the idea of the collection of them off putting too. Kapok tends to clump and so lacks durability and dust mites love to live in cotton.
Choosing the right company isn’t that easy:
Once I’d identified what I wanted, finding the right company to buy a pillow from still took quite a bit of research. Organic latex has always stood out as my top pick in pillow materials. I realised that I have a bias towards it as I like a firm, high pillow as a side sleeper. Originally, my focus was about choosing the right pillow for Isabella, so I spent my time looking for an organic latex pillow for children, which had a low height. One company stood out as it targeted children’s pillows and was the only one which claimed to be organic latex. I wrote to them and they were happy to tell me that their pillows were indeed organic latex, however when I asked what certifications the latex had, they went silent and stopped replying to my emails. Their website did not detail even one independent certification.
Even then, if a company had 100% natural organic latex in their pillow, it is also important that the other pillow ingredients are chemical free too, such as the covers (not treated with formaldehyde etc. to reduce wrinkling.)
For pillows made overseas, there is unfortunately a lack of full understanding (and a lot of trust) by the company selling it here that the ingredients in the pillow are what the manufacturer is stating. Overseas imports also have to go through a fumigation process at customs, particularly if they are entering Australia from Asia.
I therefore decided I wanted to find a company which made their pillows in Australia. The latex raw ingredient obviously isn’t made in Australia (though the wool is!), but there is a lot of wrapping and protecting a company can do of raw ingredients in shipping which I still imagine would be easier than protecting a whole pre-made pillow from fumigation.
As I was concerned about the purity of the materials, I chose to buy from a company who had the following certifications: GOLS (organic latex), GOTS (organic textiles), Oeko-Tex 100 (low VOCs) and Eco Institut (low VOCs and no flame retardants, heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates and formaldehyde).
I discovered the Natural Bedding Co. during my extensive research into non-toxic mattresses when I wrote My Non-Toxic Tribe: Guide To Choosing A Safe, Non-Toxic Mattress. Right from the first prompt, transparent replies to my copious emailed questions, I knew that they were what I had been looking for. The whole family have been sleeping on their super comfortable organic latex, pure wool and coconut coir mattresses for over a year now. They were seriously the best investment into decreasing our cumulative chemical exposure that I could have made. I don’t know if I sleep better because the mattress is so comfortable (which it is) or just because of my peace of mind that we’re not all breathing in unnecessary chemicals, but I’m super happy.
The Natural Bedding Co. is a small Australian family business which was founded in Sydney 34 years ago. Each of their mattresses and their wool and latex pillows are handmade in Marrickville. This means that the company knows exactly what goes into each and can vouch honestly for its purity.
Andrew the owner has made creating the most natural, non-toxic pillows and mattresses his passion. His constant researching of materials and improvement of sources has led to them being made from the purest and highest quality components I could find. They also have the best independent third party certifications to prove it. (GOLS, GOTS, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and Eco Institut)
The latex used by the Natural Bedding Co. is certified organic and the coverings of the pillows are certified organic cotton and hemp. The wool used is pure and chemical free Australian Downs wool which has been only washed with a mild detergent before carding and nothing else.
Whilst the Natural Bedding Co. ships pillows around Australia, they only have one shopfront; in Stanmore, Sydney. (They do have distributors in Melbourne and Hobart.) By having only one shop and a small factory where the products are handmade and not using large budgets on television advertising, the Natural Bedding Co. is also able to keep their prices competitive, even though their quality is premium.
They have a range of different pillow options from latex alone to a latex and wool combination as well as pure biodynamic wool, buckwheat, down and others. However, only the latex and the wool pillows they make themselves.
The Natural Bedding Co. Pillows that I chose for the family and my reviews, 2 weeks in:
Isabella is 3.5 years old and has never used a pillow before. She also spends most of the night sleeping on her tummy as well as her back and side.
Being a young child and also sleeping on her tummy, a low pillow is very important. Whilst I looked high and low for a low profile organic latex pillow, I couldn’t find one and given the fact she sleeps on her tummy, I came to realise that a firm pillow wasn’t probably the best pillow for her anyway.
I chose a pure wool low pillow for Isabella as it is mould, dust mite and mildew resistant and doesn’t have harmful chemicals or emit VOCs.
Isabella was absolutely thrilled to get her first pillow. She said it felt like her head was resting on flower petals. Whilst she loves having a pillow, in truth she’s still getting used to it and spends only about half the night with her head on the pillow. She tends to choose to not use the pillow when she sleeps on her tummy. (Having realised the long term problems tummy sleeping can cause for the neck and spine, I’m going to soon try to break the habit by taping a thick bit of cotton wool to her pyjamas on her chest whilst she’s asleep so it’s uncomfortable to roll on. Apparently it works a treat and you only need to do it for a few weeks. I’ll let you know how I go!)
I was originally surprised how low Isabella’s pillow was. Though when I compared it to her size and lay down with her using it, it feels right and I’m pleased it’s not higher. The pillow has a zip which you can open and see the layers of wool. This means that the cover is washable too which is great. The wool doesn’t have a strong smell and the pillow is soft and comfy. I’m so pleased that Isabella has a safe, non-toxic pillow and I will feel more confident moving her away from the tummy sleeping now I know that she has a pillow for proper neck support whilst she side sleeps.
Having spent years breastfeeding and co-sleeping (and still am!), I sleep only on my side. To support my neck adequately, I find I need a high, firm pillow. I often swap between beds in the night though, and so was looking for two pillows. Rather than get both the same, to satisfy my curiosity and also to be able to give a report for this review, I chose both the contour latex and wool pillow and the standard latex and wool pillow.
I chose the wool and latex combination for the additional height and temperature regulation. The pillows come with a zip cover and so I knew if it was too high, I could always just remove the wool component.
The pillows themselves are beautiful. They have a very subtle natural smell that I remember from when our mattresses were new. The smell goes away quickly and it isn’t unpleasant or overwhelming at all. It’s great to be able to unzip the organic cotton and hemp cases and take a peep at the contents. It’s then that you realise the difference of choosing a truly natural pillow. You can literally see the whole contents of the pillow – the moulded organic latex and the pure wool wadding. It’s simple, it’s non-toxic and just so good. It leaves no doubt in your mind that it’s the healthy option.
Contour pillow: I’d never used a contour pillow, so I was really curious to try it. It has a flat bottom and then raised edges on either side with one higher than the other and then a dip in the middle. The raised edges are to give you neck support and to keep your spine in a natural alignment. I soon realised that for me, it was more comfy to have my neck on the low side rather than the high side of the pillow. I enjoy having a little nook for my head. I think sometimes due to co-sleeping and breastfeeding, I’ve adopted some terrible sleep postures. This holds me more accountable, or more correctly, holds my body in more alignment. Whilst I’m still getting used to it after a lifetime of something different, I’m really enjoying it.
Standard pillow: These latex pillows have a lower density latex core and a higher density latex outside so that it too gives adequate neck support. They are much more the shape that I’ve been used to and I really notice the difference in support of my head and neck. With both the wool outer shell and having chosen a thick pillow protector, I may decide to make the pillow a bit lower sometime by removing the wool, as it is pretty high… but I am enjoying having so much height that no matter what arm position I have to adopt whilst breastfeeding, I still don’t have excessive weight on my shoulder. I’m sleeping really well with this pillow. It just feels beautiful, comfy, supportive and familiar.
For my husband, Bez
I chose the standard organic latex and wool pillow for Bez. He’s a back and side sleeper and I thought the standard shape would be more accommodating to his change in positions.
Whilst I liked the height of this pillow as a pure side sleeper, Bez found the pillow to be too high and so from the next night, we took the wool out leaving only the latex. This did the trick and he has since found that he’s sleeping really comfortably. He finds it gives him good neck support and alignment which he’s really happy about as he suffers from mild back pain, due to his bent over posture at work (he’s a Dentist.)
I think the most non-toxic pillow protectors you can get are made from thick, quilted organic cotton. I chose the organic cotton pillow protectors from the ecoLinen. I was a bit nervous about choosing a non-waterproof pillow protector having made such an investment in getting new pillows, however I’m really impressed with how thick and lovely they are. They really do feel breathable and like they wick away moisture effectively and are absorbent enough even on the warm, humid nights we’ve been having here. They are also woven to act as a dust mite deterrent too, have a zip to fully enclose the pillow and are independently certified with the GOTS logo.
I have read that it is not advised to sleep on a pillow with wet hair. Isabella has lovely thick curls that take forever to dry and she’s pretty opposed to the noise of hairdryers… so this may well be a reality we have to deal with if bath time drifts any later. If it does become a concern, I will add a waterproof pillow protector with polyurethane backing underneath Isabella’s organic cotton one. Polyurethane in its solid form (rather than its foam form) is relatively stable and does not off-gas like PVC. Ecolinen also makes a bamboo cotton waterproof pillow protector which is Oeko-Tex certified. That would be my choice.
Looking after a natural pillow
Natural pillows need to be properly looked after to ensure that they stay fresh, clean and that they last.
- Keeping a pillow dry and airing it regularly is important to avoid mildew. This can be done by standing the pillow on its side each morning to give air flow to the underside.
- It is not recommended to sleep on a pillow with wet hair.
- Wool pillows can be aired in direct sunlight, however latex should be kept out of direct sunlight as it will degrade.
- It is recommended to wash both pillowcases and sheets frequently – at least once a week for pillowcases and at least once a fortnight for pillow protectors.
To decrease allergen build up in your pillows and to keep it fresh, a pillow protector is essential. Pillow protectors stop a pillow being affected by sweat, moisture and bacteria. They also can form a barrier against dust mites. Pillow protectors can be made from a variety of materials from polyester to organic cotton or ones that have a PVC (NOT recommended!) or polyurethane backing to make them waterproof. (See above for which ones I recommend.)
How often should I change my pillow?
Depending on the material, quality, how carefully it has been used with airing and protection, a pillow can last from 6 months to 10 years. A good quality wool pillow can have a life span of 3-5 years and a good quality latex or down pillow can have a life span of 5+ years.
I am so delighted and relieved with the change we have made to our whole family’s sleeping and bedroom environments in the past year. The change of the pillows was such a key component of it all and to be honest, I wish I’d done it much sooner.
The need to change both pillows and mattresses wasn’t an easy realisation to make and it was definitely a very big investment. However, not only are we all sleeping comfortably and soundly, but it is something that will make a huge impact on our cumulative chemical exposure ongoing.
If you’re like me and just coming to this realisation now, try to not get overwhelmed and just focus on doing whatever you can to keep moving forward. If you’re not in the position to purchase anything at this time, focus on keeping fresh air in the bedrooms and dust and vacuum regularly, to reduce the chemical load in the air and surrounding environment. This too will make a large impact on your family’s chemical exposure.
I’ve also written a Guide To Choosing A Safe, Non-Toxic Mattress which is definitely a must-read if you’re passionate about creating a non-toxic sleeping environment or reducing your family’s chemical exposure.
I hope you found this helpful!
Love Em x
(DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post. All the opinions in this article are my own. I found the Natural Bedding Co. through extensive research and made contact with them myself. They did give me a small discount on our mattresses and sent me the pillows upon request for review.)