What Exactly Are Pillows Made Of?
Pillows come in different shapes and sizes to meet varying needs and serve different purposes. The content of your cushion (aka what the pillow is made of) - the filling, filler, or pillow stuffing defines its character.
The pillow filler material gives each pillow different characteristics – hard, firm, soft, low or high loft, or supportive. We break down exactly what pillows are made of & pillow stuffing materials below.
Naturally, there are different types of filler materials to give each pillow a unique appeal while enabling it to meet different sleeping and support needs, such as those who are side sleepers or stomach sleepers. As far as pillows go, there’s no one-size fit all approach; what might work for you might elicit back and neck pain in another person.
Luckily, you’re spoiled for choice when shopping for a pillow and can try out different types until you get the perfect one. If you’re curious as to what pillows are made of, wonder no more. This piece is out to answer the question, what are pillows made of?
Types of Pillow Filler & Stuffing Materials
Simply put, all pillows are made of filler materials that fall into different categories. Here’s a detailed look at each of the conventional pillow filler & pillow stuffing materials.
Down Pillow Filling
Down in this case refers to the fluffy bottom section of a bird’s feather, also known as the undercoating. Down pillows are the most luxurious varieties on the market because down is very soft. What’s more, these pillows outclass their synthetic alternatives by holding their loft for three times longer.
European white goose down or Hungarian goose down is the gold standard in down feather pillows due to their generous sizes and pure white color. Superior quality down pillows don't contain any feathers and carry a high price tag. However, these pillows are malleable and offer excellent neck and shoulder support in addition to being durable, light, and cuddly.
Feather Pillow Filling
Feathers also make great quality pillows but not quite to the down pillows level. You can think of feathers as the down pillow’s cheaper alternative. Feathers have one great downside in that they tend to flatten with continued use. That cause the pillow to lose its loft and become flat and thus uncomfortable to use.
Some manufacturers counter this problem by adding some down cluster to a feather pillow to check the rate of deterioration. That said, feather pillows are not only cheaper to own but are also cuddly and light. They are also moldable to provide you with exceptional neck and shoulder support. However, they also tend to retain heat and as such, can feel rather warm at night.
Polyester Fiber Pillow Filling
Often referred to as Poly-Fil, polyester fiber pillows are a popular option with many people thanks to their affordable price tags. In addition to the low asking prices, these pillows are easy to clean and ultra-lightweight. However, polyester fibers aren’t breathable and can feel too warm at night. They also tend to clump with continued usage making them feel lumpy and flat. Polyester fiber pillows make a great choice if you’re running on a lean budget.
Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam has the magical ability to regain its shape after a weight is lifted off, which explains the name – it remembers its original form. The ability to rebound to original shape makes memory foam popular with many users. That means they will never flatten out, which can make the pillows hard and uncomfortable to use.
Foam memory pillows have a firm pillow without compromising the softness. The traditional foam memory consists of a block of rectangular sponge and isn’t moldable, springing to its original shape with each use.
If you’re looking for a moldable foam memory pillow, then you can’t go wrong with the shredded variety. As the name suggests, these pillows are made from shredded memory foam. Since the pieces move independently, such pillows are moldable and have a soft but firm feel.
Shredded foam pillows don’t clump and offer excellent neck, shoulder, and back support in addition to being malleable.
Microbead Pillow Filling
Microbeads are ultra-fine balls that measure approximately 1/32 inches in diameter. Such pillows have a sand-like feel save for their exceptionally light nature. Microbead pillows are not only light but also soft and cuddly as well as breathable.
They have excellent airflow and don’t become too warm in the night as to leave you drenched in sweat. However, the microbeads tend to lose their mass, causing the pillow to flatten out, shortening its lifespan.
Buckwheat Hull Pillow Filling
The hull of the buckwheat plant makes it perfect for creating breathable, moldable, yet firm pillows. Buckwheat hull pillows fall under the natural pillow category and often stand a cut above synthetic ones. They come with an extra-long lifespan and don’t retain heat as you sleep in addition to being eco-friendly.
However, they are not without a few drawbacks, chief among being their weight. A regular 20 x 26-inch pillow might weigh as much as 8 lbs. They also make a rustling noise as you shift in your sleep, which might be a tad distracting.
Cotton Pillow Filling
Cotton pillows have a soft yet firm feel compared to other varieties such as polyester and down. These pillows are usually free from odors as well as other toxic chemicals and are breathable to keep you cool and fresh as you sleep. However, they are not common, having been overtaken by other filling materials. They also tend to form lumps with continued usage, which makes them uncomfortable to use. They are also not very malleable.
Kapok Pillow Filling
Kapok refers to a cotton-like material produced by a Mexican tropical tree by the same name. The cottony material comes in a light shade of brown and is often referred to as silk cotton. Its soft nature makes it the perfect alternative to Poly-Fill and down filler material. Silk cotton is commonly used as filler material in life preservers, upholstery, and pillows.
Such pillows are not only eco-friendly but are free from toxic chemicals, and they compare to the down pillow in terms of texture. They are popular with people looking for natural solutions and keen to conserve the environment. On the downside, the filling is highly flammable, quick to lump, and isn’t quite malleable.
Our Conclusion On Pillow Stuffing Materials
You are really spoiled for choice when looking to buy a pillow, be it a regular pillow, a throw pillow, or a pregnancy pillow.
Be sure to purchase one with the filler material that fits your specific needs. Breathable pillows make the best choice since they don’t retain heat and they let you enjoy your beauty sleep without being drenched in sweat.
Hello! My name is James, a researcher of pillows and getting a great night’s sleep with over 10 years of experience! Graduate of the University of Kansas with a Physiology Degree. I enjoy writing, camping, reading, traveling abroad, swimming, and educational research. Contact me at the social links below!