Organic Pillows – Which Organic Pillow Material Is The Best?

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Organic Pillows – What material is your pillow made of?

 

My husband and I are planning to get new pillows for us so I decided to research organic pillows.  Pillows can be made of variety of materials which also include materials with harmful chemicals.  Pillows with toxic chemicals can emit harmful volatile organic compounds in our bedroom.   Some pillows can contain flame retardants. Since we sleep on our pillows everyday, we can be exposed to harmful VOCs or flame retardants continuously which can affect our health.   Therefore, I feel that using non toxic, organic pillows are particularly important.  In this post, I share with you how pillows can be toxic and what organic pillows are available.

 

 

How Pillows Can Be Toxic

 

There are several pillow materials that can contain harmful chemicals.  These materials can emit volatile organic compounds or have harmful chemical residue.  Let’s  take a look at each material that can be harmful. 

 

Memory Foam

Memory foam is a very popular material for pillows.  Memory foam pillows are often marketed as latex free pillows. They feel similar to latex pillows so they appeal to people who are looking for firm, supportive pillows that are latex free.  However, unlike natural latex pillows, memory foam pillows are made with polyurethane and several other synthetic chemicals. Polyurethane is derived from petroleum.  Other toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, antimony trioxide, polyvinyl chloride, boric acid and different types of petrochemicals are mixed with polyurethane to make memory foam.   These toxic chemicals can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air we breathe in.   Memory foam pillows often have chemical odor.  

A lab in Atlanta found 61 different type of chemicals emitted from memory foam mattresses.  Some chemicals were carcinogens such as benzene and naphthalene.  Memory foam may also contain isocyanates.  Isocyanates react with compounds containing alcohol (hydroxyl) groups and make polyurethane products including polyurethane foam.  According to the United States Department of Labor, isocyanates can cause chest tightness, difficult breathing, and irritation of skin and mucous membranes.  Isocyanates include compounds that are classified as potential human carcinogens and known carcinogens in animals.  It can also cause occupation asthma and other lung problems, irritation of eyes, nose, skin, and throat.  

Polyurethane foam is also highly flammable.  Before the new standard California Technical Bulletin 117 2013,  foam filled products were required to use flame retardant chemicals to pass the open flame test.  Fully effective January 1, 2015, new standard can be met without flame retardants.  However, flame retardant use is not banned. Therefore, it is possible that some polyurethane foam or products with polyurethane foam may still use flame retardants.  If you want to check the use of flame retardants in products, you can check it on the product’s label (TB117-2113). 

On top of toxic chemicals that can off-gas from memory foam and possibility of use of flame retardants, memory foam is also not breathable and traps body heat. 

 

 

Synthetic Latex

Shredded latex or solid latex pillows are also popular.  However, not all latex pillows are made from natural latex.  Latex pillows can be made from natural latex, synthetic latex or combination of both.  Natural latex comes from the rubber tree called Hevea brasiliensis.  Synthetic latex, on the other hand, is made from petrochemicals. It is commonly made with SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) which is derived from styrene and butadiene.  Styrene and butadiene are both harmful.   Styrene is a derivative of benzene and is a known carcinogen. 1,3 butadiene is also a known carcinogen and is classified as carcinogenic in humans by inhalation by the  United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Chemicals from synthetic latex emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and affect indoor air quality.  For blended latex pillows, natural latex portion could be a lot less than synthetic latex portion.  Manufacturers can blend in much smaller portion of natural latex and claim that the pillow is made of 100% latex or the pillow contains natural latex.  Unless the pillow is made of 100% natural latex, it will emit harmful volatile organic compounds.  Synthetic latex also doesn’t have the durability of natural latex. 

 

 

Polyester Fiberfill (And Polyester Casing)

Polyester is a manufactured synthetic material.  It is a kind of plastic.  Molecules (monomers) are obtained from crude oil and petroleum derivatives then they go though steps of chemical reactions.  Later, polyester polymers are made by reacting ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.    EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) concluded in their latest draft hazard assessment, ethylene oxide (EtO), a chemical intermediate in the production of ethylene glycol, is carcinogenic to humans.  Also, repeated exposure to terephthalic acid may affect the kidneys according to the New Jersey Department of Heath and Senior Services.   They also state that ethylene glycol may damage the developing fetus and also repeated or very high exposure may cause kidney damage and affect the brain. 

Polyester fiber is not breathable and it doesn’t absorb sweats since it is water resistant.  That means your skin can be trapped with sweat and get suffocated while you are wearing polyester clothing or using  polyester bedding materials. Therefore, polyester is not ideal as an everyday clothing or bedding material.  Toxic substances in polyester can also enter our body.  Some volatile monomers that are hiding in the polyester can off-gas and be absorbed through wet skin.  Polyester is also one of the worst materials affecting our environment.  Polyester which is plastic will take up to 200 years breakdown in landfill. It also uses double the energy of conventional cotton to produce. It also pollutes our environment with toxic chemicals.

On top of that, polyester fabrics can also contain toxic dyes, heavy metals, chlorine bleach and formaldehyde. Wrinkle free treatment with formaldehyde is often found at cotton-polyester blend fabrics. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. It emits toxic fumes into the air and it can also be absorbed by the skin. Polyester has its advantages.  It is affordable and light.  However, it is made of toxic materials which can affect our health.  Polyester fiberfill pillows can also get lumpy after while so they don’t last long.

 

 

Microbeads 

Microbeads are tiny polystyrene beads.  Polystyrene contains toxic substances such as benzene and styrene.  Benzene is known human carcinogen and styrene is probably carcinogenic for humans.   Microbead pillows have a chemical odor and they can off-gas toxic chemicals.  They are moldable and breathable like buckwheat hull pillows. However, they flatten out quickly.  Polystyrene is really bad for our environment as well since it takes at least 500 years to decompose. 

 

 

Organic Pillow Materials

Then what materials are good for pillows?  Non toxic, organic pillows come with several different materials.  The pillow filling materials include shredded latex, buckwheat, kapok, organic cotton and organic wool. Each material has pros and cons,  therefore, you should pick the one that suits your preferences and needs.  For a pillow casing material, I find certified organic cotton is the best. 

 

 

Shredded Latex 

Natural latex is harvested from the sap of rubber tree plants. It is processed using two different methods: dunlop or talalay.  Dunlop methods produces denser latex and talalay method produces softer, fluffier latex.  Some people have preferences between these two types of latex since latex processed from dunlop and talalay feel different.  Many people like Talalay’s luxurious cushiony feel. However, Talalay uses some synthetic chemicals during processing.   Also, talalay products often get mixed with synthetic latex.  Due to this reason, talalay latex is usually not GOLS certified since they often exceed harmful chemicals that are restricted for certification.  Dunlop latex, on the other hand, uses only natural way to process the latex.  Therefore, no synthetic chemicals or synthetic latex is used.  Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) is a highly regarded global standard for organic latex.   You can ensure a product contains more than 95% certified organic raw material.  You will find that GOLS certified organic latex is usually dunlop.

Latex pillows are soft but supportive. They are dust mite, mildew and mold resistant.  They spring back relatively quickly once you let go of pressure from the pillow. They are also hypoallergenic and breathable. Shredded latex pillows are also adjustable and they are more durable than pillows with other materials.  Shredded latex, on the other hand, has some cons. It can have a rubber odor which some people may not like. Some people may also be allergic to latex.  Also, they are usually more expensive than pillows that are made with other materials.

 

 

Buckwheat Hulls

Buckwheat hulls are the hard outer shells of the seeds of buckwheat grain. Buckwheat is natural and it requires no pesticides and few herbicide to grow. It also doesn’t require fertilization.  Buckwheat hull pillows are very firm and supportive.  They can be adjusted to fit the curves of your head and neck.  They are very breathable and buckwheat hulls keep your pillow cool.  Buckwheat hull pillows also provide proper support that your head, neck, and spine needs.  They mold to fit your head and neck rather than just being compressed like traditional pillows do.  They are great for people suffering from lower back and neck pain so that they can get more proper support.  They are very durable and can lasts for a long time (10-20 years).  However, some people may not be used to the pillow that is not soft or fluffy since buckwheat hulls are firm rather than being soft or fluffy.

 

 

Kapok 

Kapok fiber comes from Kapok tree (ceiba pentandra).  Although kapok trees don’t require pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers, there are organic kapok fiber available if you want to ensure no harmful chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides are used.  Kapok pillows are very soft.  Kapok is naturally anti-microbial, hypoallergenic, mold & mildew resistant and dust mite resistant.  It is also cruelty-free.  In addition, it is compostable and biodegradable.   However, kapok fiber is flammable.  Kapok pillows can also become lumpy over time.  In addition, they are not very moldable like buckwheat hull filling.

 

 

Organic Cotton

Cotton is a natural material.  However, more pesticides are used for cotton than any other crop.  Conventional cotton goes through harsh chemical processing including bleaching, dyeing, and finishing.  Toxic chemicals include chlorine bleach, azo dyes, heavy metals, formaldehyde, benzidine.  They are not only hazardous to human health but they also destroy our environment.  Residues of these  toxic chemicals can be found in the finished product.  Residue may or may not wash out with washing.  Also, conventional cotton can be genetically modified(GMO).  In fact, 96% of cotton grown in the United States was genetically modified in 2014.  Organic cotton can also be just as harmful if organic status is not certified.  Organic cotton is grown without synthetic additives or pesticides and wasn’t genetically modified.  However, it can go though same toxic chemical processing as conventional cotton without organic certification.  The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensures the organic status of textiles from harvesting of the raw materials through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing all the way to labelling.  Therefore, if a pillow’s cotton fill or casing is GOTS certified, you can be sure that no harmful chemicals or GMO has been used for the pillow in every step of the processing and production.

Organic cotton pillows have some advantages. They are hypoallergenic and breathable.  They are also compostable and biodegradable. In addition, they are cruelty-free.  However, cotton pillows can develop lumps or flatten over time. Also, they are not very moldable.  They retain moisture so they could have dust mites or mold.  As for a pillow casing, I find that certified organic cotton is the best organic material.  Most organic pillows use organic cotton as a pillow casing material. 

 

 

Organic Wool

Wool comes from sheep and it is a natural material.  However, conventional wool can go through harsh chemical processing.  In order to process wool from the sheep in to yarns, wool goes through cleaning, scouring, dyeing, finishing which involves harsh chemicals.  Wool has many contaminants and contaminants are removed by scouring with a combination of detergents, wetting agents and emulsifiers.  Detergents used in wool scouring include alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs).  APEOs are known endocrine disruptors.  Also, many producers of wool use chlorine (which is highly toxic) to prevent shrinkage of wool.  In addition, toxic dyes such as azo dyes can be used for colors.  Azo dyes derived from benzidine which are carcinogens.  Some azo dye pigments such as dinitroaniline orange, ortho-nitroaniline orange, or pigment orange 1, 2, and 5 are mutagenic and carcinogenic.  Acid dyes are most popular dyes used on wool.   Most azo dyes are not acid dyes.  However, many acid dyes are azo dyes. Wool can also have toxic chemicals such as formadelhyde, chlorine bleach, heavy metals, ammonia, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) from various treatments such as stain-resistant, shrink resistant, etc.  Waste water from wool processing also pollutes and destroys our natural environment.  If you want to ensure that your wool product doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals, you can look for GOTS certified organic wool.  All chemical inputs are evaluated through all stages of wool and the use of toxic chemicals are prohibited.

On top of toxic chemicals, animal cruelty is also conducted at some sheep farms.  First, sheep is literally dipped in a liquid formulation of insecticide and fungicide to prevent parasites and preserve their wool.  If you search for ‘sheep dip’ on Google image, you will see how this is done.  Sheep have only their head held out of toxic liquid with a farmer trying to keep them in the liquid solution with a crook.  Sheep can easily ingest this toxic chemical solution.  They can actually have negative health effects from ingesting toxic chemicals or even die from it.  Sheep also go through many harsh inhumane treatments at the farm including tail docking, mulesing (without any pain relief), castration, shearing and invasive breeding procedures.  Therefore, if you would like to avoid animal cruelty, you may avoid wool products.

As for organic wool pillows, they have some advantages.  Wool helps regulate body temperature so organic wool pillows keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  Wool is also breathable and hypoallergenic.  It is also naturally anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and dust mite resistant.   In addition, wool is a natural fire retardant.  However, wool pillows can get lumpy or flatten over time.  Some wool pillows may also have an unpleasant odor.  In addition, wool isn’t easily moldable.  

 

 

Organic Pillows

 

Shredded Latex

 

Savvy Rest Shredded Latex Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling:  A Blend of GOLS Certified Organic Dunlop latex and Cradle to Cradle Gold and FSC-Certified Talalay latex. 

Pillow Casing: GOTS certified Organic Cotton Flannel 

Certification:  GOTS, GreenGuard Gold, Eco Institut, Cradle To Cradle 

Flame Retardants: None 

Made In: USA

 

 

 

Plushbeds Organic Shredded Latex Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling:  GOLS & USDA Organic Certified Organic Dunlop Latex (shredded)

Pillow Casing: GOTS Certified 100% Organic Cotton

Certification: GOLS, USDA Organic

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: USA

 

 

Avocado Green Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling:  GOLS Organic Certified Latex and GOTS Organic Certified Kapok 

Casing: GOTS Oganic certified Cotton

Certification: GOLS, GOTS, GREENGUARD Gold certified, MADE SAFE certified

Flame Retardants: None 

Made in: Handmade in Los Angeles, USA 

 

 

 

PureTree Organic Shredded Latex Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: GOLS Certified Organic Natural Latex

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton & 100% Cotton Lining

Flame Retardants: None

Certification: GOLS, GOTS

Made In : USA

 

 

Organic Lifestyle Natural Shredded Rubber Latex Pillow – Orgnic Pillows

Filling:  GOLS Certified 100% Dunlop Natural Latex

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Muslin

Certification: GOLS, GOTS, Eco Institut, Fair Trade

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: India or USA depending on a size of a pillow

 

 

 

 

Organic Cotton

 

Magnolia ORGANICS Organic Cotton Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

Certification: GOTS

Flame Retardants: None

Made in: Hand-Stuffed in GOTS Certified Facility In USA

 

 

Organic Lifestyle Cotton Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: Cotton Batting of ertified Organic Fibers from the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative 

Casing: Sateen Fabric of USDA Certified Organic Cotton Fibers.

Certification: Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, USDA Organic

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: Handmade In USA

 

 

 

Naturepedic Organic Cotton PLA Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling:  Non-GMO Plant Based PLA Batting

Casing: Certified Organic Cotton

Certification: Organic Content Standard OCS100 Certified, GreenGuard 

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: USA

 

 

 

Kapok

 

Savvy Rest Organic Kapok Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: GOTS Certified Organic Kapok

Casing:  GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

Certification: GOTS, GreenGuard Gold

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: USA

 

 

 

 

Magnolia Organics Kapok Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: GOTS Certified Organic Kapok

Casing: GOTS Certified OrganicCotton

Certification: GOTS

Flame Retardants: None

Made In:  Hand-stuffed in GOTS Certified facility.

 

 

Bean Products Standard Organic Kapok Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: 100% Kapok

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton with Sateen finish 

Certification: GOTS

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: USA

 

 

 

Organic Textiles Kapok Filled Pillow with Organic Cotton Cover – Organic Pillows

Filling: 100% Natural Kapok

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

Certification: GOTS

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: California, USA.  Kapok fiber originates in Indonesia and organic fabric for the cover from India.

 

 

 

Organic Buckwheat

 

ComfyComfy Buckwheat Hull Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: Certified Sustainably grown US Buckwheat Hulls.  
             They are air cleaned without the use of chemicals or fumigants. 

Casing: Texas Department of Agriculture Certified Organic Cotton 

Certification: Texas Department of Agriculture organic certification

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: Handmade in USA

14 x 23   14 x 26. 20 x 26  20 x 30

 

 

Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: 100% US Grown Organic Buckwheat Hulls

Casing: 100% Natural Unbleached Cotton

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: USA

 

11 x 16.  14 x 20. 20 x 26. 20 x 30  20 x 36  

 

 

Hullo Buckwheat Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: Buckwheat Hull Grown and Milled in the USA

Casing: GOTS & OEKO-TEX 100 Certified Organic Twill

Certification: GOTS, OEKO-TEX 100 

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: USA 

 

14 x 20  20 x 26. . 20 x 36

 

 

Organic Wool

Savvy Rest Organic Wool Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: Certified Organic Wool

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

Certification:  GOTS, GreenGuard Gold

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: GOTS approved Facility in USA

 

 

 

Savvy Rest Organic Wool-Natural Latex Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling: GOTS Certified Organic Wool & Natural Latex

Casing: GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Flannel 

Certification:  GOTS, GreenGuard Gold

Flame Retardants: None

Made In: GOTS approved Facility in US

 

 

 

 

Plush Beds 100% Pure Virgin Handmade Wool Pillow – Organic Pillows

Filling:  100% Pure Virgin Wool that never chemically treated.  No dipping, harmful shearing, mulesing is used which can be very cruel to sheep.  No carbonizing, chemical crimping or bleaching is used on the wool so wool is free of harmful toxins and chemicals.  Biodegradable detergent is used.

 Casing: GOTS Certified 100%  Organic Cotton

Certification: GOTS 

Flame Retardants: None

Made In:  USA

 

 

Final Thoughts

Each pillow material has pros and cons.  There is no one pillow that is perfect for everyone.  Since everyone has different needs and preferences when it comes to a pillow’s firmness and support, it’s best to find out what you prefer.  For my husband and me, we would like to get shredded latex pillows.   We both like medium firm type of pillows rather than very firm buckwheat hull pillow or soft kapok pillows.  I really like PlushBed’s Organic Shredded Latex Pillow and Avocado Green Pillow.   We use pillows everyday.  Therefore, finding a comfortable pillow with non toxic, organic materials are very important.  Pillows with harmful chemicals can lead to negative health effects from years of nightly exposure to toxic chemicals.  Organic materials are not only healthy but also better for our environment.  Organic pillows I listed above can prevent you from being exposed to volatile compounds and chemical residues while you sleep.  

 

 

For organic mattress, read my post, ‘Non Toxic, Organic Mattress – The Best Organic Latex Mattress Brands‘.

Find out how mattresses can be toxic by reading my post, ‘Non Toxic Mattress Guide – Chemical-Free, Organic Mattress‘.  

For non toxic, solid wood platform bed frames, please read my post ‘Solid Wood Bed Frame – What To Look For When Buying A Solid Wood Platform Bed‘.

For non toxic sofa companies that you can shop from, please read my post, ‘Non Toxic Sofa Guide – Which Sofa Brand Is Non Toxic?

For non toxic dinnerware, please read my post, ‘Non Toxic Dinnerware – Which Dinnerware Is Lead-Free?‘ 

 

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH YOUR FRIENDS OR LEAVE ME A COMMENT! 🙂

 

 

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