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Different Types of Pillow Stuffing and How to Choose the Best Pillow for You

by
/ May 27, 2022

Your bed pillows play a big role in the quality of your sleep, and the pillow filling may well be the most important thing to get right. A good pillow will offer enough support and the proper amount of airflow. It also won’t wear down too quickly.

There are a variety of pillow stuffings on the market, which can make it hard to determine which one is best for your particular sleep style and preferences. Luckily, this article will break down the 10 most popular types of pillow stuffing to help you choose the best one for you.

10 popular types of pillow stuffing materials

As we noted, there are many different pillow fillings on the market. Each of them offers different features and benefits. With such a wide variety out there, it’s important to select the pillow filling that best aligns with your sleeping preferences and lifestyle.

Before choosing a pillow filling, there are a few things you should take into account. These include the price, support level, maintenance, and whether or not the pillow is hypoallergenic.

1. Down pillow stuffing

Down pillow stuffing is made from a bird’s soft, fluffy feathers underneath the hardier outer feathers. The feathers usually come from geese or ducks. Down, typically combined with a percentage of feathers, makes for an incredibly soft and fluffy pillow filler. 

These pillows are lightweight, durable, hypoallergenic, and eco-friendly. They can last five to 10 years if cleaned regularly and properly maintained.

Down filling works well for just about any type of sleeper. But you may not always be able to find—or want to spend what are typically higher prices—for 100% down. 

In that case, a down alternative pillow might be a good option for you. Down alternative filling is typically made from synthetic fibers and offers similar benefits to traditional down.

2. Feather pillow stuffing

Feather pillows are one of the most affordable pillow options on the market. But feather filling is often not quite as durable as other pillow stuffings. 

Because of the low price point, pillows with feather filling typically only last one to two years. During that time, though, a feather pillow will be lightweight and easy to mold—much like down stuffing.

Feather pillows are a popular choice for inexpensive throw pillows, decorative pillows, and sleeping pillows. Keep in mind that feather pillows require regular fluffing while you're using them because they retain your imprints and can flatten out.

3. Memory foam pillow stuffing

Memory foam pillow stuffing is a great option for sleepers looking for pressure relief and the ultimate level of comfort for your head and neck. 

There are two different types of memory foam filling: shredded memory foam and block memory foam. A block memory foam pillow will have a solid piece of memory foam, while shredded memory foam pillow stuffing is torn into little pieces. 

You can slide memory foam pillow inserts into a pillowcase or use a shredded memory foam pillow to enjoy the contouring benefits of this material. 

4. Polyester fiberfill pillow stuffing

Polyester fiberfill pillow stuffing is a nice affordable option for back sleepers and stomach sleepers. But it isn't quite as durable as other pillow fillers.

Poly-fil pillows tend to lose their shape quickly, which requires constant re-fluffing. On the other hand, they're fairly easy to maintain and clean.

Pillows with polyester filling are most likely going to be machine washable, unlike foam pillows. You can wash them with warm water using the gentle setting on your washing machine and allow them to air-dry.

5. Buckwheat hulls pillow stuffing

Buckwheat pillows have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They use buckwheat hull shells as the filling, which allow for good airflow and breathability. Because of this, they tend to be great for hot sleepers. 

They also offer adequate support for your head and neck if you're trying to avoid back and neck pain. Another key benefit of buckwheat pillows is that they're highly durable. They can last 10 to 20 years if they're properly cared for over the long term. (Besides choosing the right pillow, staying hydrated can also make it easier to sleep. Learn more about drinking water to improve sleep quality.)

6. Kapok pillow stuffing

Kapok pillow stuffing is similar to cotton but comes from the ceiba pentandra tree, a tropical tree found in Mexico. These pillows are organic and eco-friendly. They're commonly described as silky, soft, and cozy.

The biggest downsides of kapok pillow stuffing are that it isn't a common pillow type, it's highly flammable, and it's not easily moldable.

7. Latex pillow stuffing

If you're looking for an ultra-comfortable, high-quality pillow filling, a latex pillow may be the way to go for you. Similar to memory foam, latex pillow stuffing can be found in either block or shredded form.

Latex foam is buoyant and responsive, so it's great at relieving head and neck pain. It also sleeps cool and is highly hypoallergenic, making it a great option for those who sleep hot or those dealing with allergies. 

Latex pillows can often last more than 10 years if properly maintained. But they do tend to be more expensive compared to memory foam and other filling materials. If you have a higher budget for your new pillows, you may want to consider using a latex pillow at night.

8. Cotton pillow stuffing

Cotton isn’t super-common as a pillow stuffing, though you definitely can find it. It's more commonly used in other bedroom accessories, including sheets, duvet covers, and pillowcases. Cotton pillows are durable and eco-friendly. They're also hypoallergenic and offer good airflow for hot sleepers. 

It’s more common to see cotton blended with other materials, such as poly-fil, kapok, or down. If you can find a cotton pillow blend, you may be able to reap the benefits of both filler types.

9. Microbead pillow stuffing

Microbead pillow stuffing is similar to the filling you find in bean bags. As a material, this filling is breathable and soft. It can also act as a more affordable version of buckwheat hulls.

While microbead pillows are inexpensive, they often don't last very long. They tend to quickly flatten out within a few months and offer little support to your head and neck throughout the night. 

This material also may produce off-gassing as it's a non-organic synthetic material. If you're concerned about off-gassing, then you should avoid this pillow type entirely.

10. Wool pillow stuffing

Wool is a good material for pillow filler. It's highly durable and can work well in both the summer and winter since it's highly breathable.

The biggest drawback of wool is that it tends to lump together quickly—so it may not last as long as some other pillow stuffing. 

You may be able to find a pillow that has a blend of wool and another material. This could help solve some of the durability issues and provide additional benefits from the other material. Popular blends include cotton and polyester fiberfill.

Choosing the right pillow fill for your sleeping position

Finding the right pillow can really help improve your sleep quality overall. Keep in mind that certain sleeping positions will require different levels of support on your neck and shoulders, which will have a big impact on the type of pillow you should buy. 

The best pillow fill for side sleepers offers support for your head and neck without being too firm. You could benefit from using down, memory foam, latex, and buckwheat pillows. 

The best pillow fill for stomach sleepers is one that's breathable and medium-firm. You should consider down pillows, feather pillows, and organic cotton pillows. Avoid high loft pillows because they tend to strain your neck and shoulders throughout the night.

Back sleepers are lucky because you can work with just about any type of pillow, as long as it’s made with high-quality materials. You'll do best on a medium-thick pillow since that will keep your head, neck, and spine properly aligned. (Learn more about choosing the best pillow fill for back sleepers.)

Shop high-quality, long-lasting pillows with Saatva

The right pillow can help you improve the quality of your sleep and reduce back, neck, and shoulder pain. In fact, it can make all the difference between a restful night’s sleep and an uncomfortable one. Choosing a new pillow isn't always easy, though. Luckily, Saatva's here to help. 

We offer a range of high-quality pillows and other bed accessories. All of our products are made with high-quality materials to help you get the best night's sleep possible. See how Saatva pillows compare to competitors and learn the difference.

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