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Pillow shoppers today can choose from a wide range of materials and designs. Many prefer pillows that are made entirely or primarily from natural and organic materials such as latex, wool, cotton, and buckwheat hulls. Natural and organic components tend to be more durable than their synthetic counterparts. They are usually more breathable, also making them suitable for hot sleepers.
Many pillows are described as “natural” or “organic,” but for many models this label is misleading. In order to be considered truly organic, a pillow should receive official certifications such as the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and/or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). These certifications require certain percentages of natural and organic materials, and also restrict the use of synthetic fabrics, chemicals, and other manmade components.
This guide will discuss how organic pillows are produced, some pros and cons about using them, and key considerations for first-time buyers. Below, you’ll find our top five picks for organic pillows sold today. These selections are based on verified customer and owner reviews, along with our own product research and analysis.
Our Editor’s Pick, the Avocado Green Pillow, is a standout model for several reasons. The pillow contains a mix of GOLS-certified shredded latex and GOTS-certified kapok fibers, a downy-soft byproduct of the kapok tree. Owners can add or remove the fill to adjust the loft to their preferred thickness, making the pillow suitable for most sleepers regardless of their body weight or primary sleep position.
The cover is made from breathable, GOTS-certified organic cotton. The pillow’s overall feel is considered ‘medium,’ though adjusting the fill volume can make it feel slightly softer or firmer. In addition to earning GOLS and GOTS certifications, the Avocado Green Pillow has been vegan-certified by the Vegan Awareness Foundation. Avocado has also earned the GREENGUARD Gold certification, thanks to the company’s efforts to curb carbon emissions during manufacturing.
Compared to other organic pillows, the Avocado Green has a relatively low price-point. Avocado also offers free shipping and returns on orders in all 50 states, as well as a one-year warranty for the pillow.
Our Runner-Up Pick is the Saatva Pillow. While not entirely organic, the pillow is constructed with a 100 percent organic cotton cover and a core made of shredded American Talalay latex, making it more eco-friendly than pillows made entirely from synthetic materials. The Saatva Pillow also has an internal layer of plush microdenier, which has a comparable feel to authentic down.
Owners can remove the internal layers to adjust the pillow’s loft and firmness setting. When completely constructed, it has a ‘medium-soft’ feel. The latex core is ventilated to provide steady airflow, resulting in cool and comfortable temperatures for most sleepers. Prominent gussets help the pillow maintain a full shape with little to no fluffing. And because natural latex is used, the pillow’s expected lifespan is much longer than average.
The Saatva Pillow is somewhat expensive, making it a good option for shoppers with bigger budgets. Saatva backs the pillow with a 45-night sleep trial. Free shipping is also available for all orders.
We’ve selected the Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow as our Best Value pick. Its price-point is considerably lower than that of the average buckwheat pillow, but it provides the same durability and resilient support as most of its higher-cost competitors.
The pillow contains up to five pounds of organic buckwheat hulls grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Owners can increase or decrease the loft at any time by adding or removing the hulls, but regardless of volume the pillow has an exceptionally firm feel. Beans72 alo sells hulls in bulk for those who need a replenishment. The pillow’s cover is made from breathable, unbleached natural cotton.
Beans72 offers a 30-night sleep trial for the Organic Buckwheat Pillow. Amazon Prime members also qualify for free shipping when they purchase the pillow on Amazon.com.
Buckwheat pillows are a popular organic option for many sleepers. The pillows are filled with hulls, the hard casing around buckwheat kernels, which results in an exceptionally firm and supportive shape. We’ve selected the Hullo as our Best Buckwheat Pillow because it exemplifies all of the variety’s best qualities, including durability, support, and temperature neutrality.
The Hullo can contain up to nine pounds of buckwheat hulls. This makes the pillow rather heavy, but it is also very stable and won’t slip around during the night. The cover is made of organic cotton. Thanks to this breathable outer casing and consistent airflow through the interior, the Hullo sleeps exceptionally cool.
Pillow owners can purchase buckwheat hulls from Hullo in bulk. Ten- and 20-pound shipments are available.
Hullo backs the pillow with a 60-night sleep trial. The company also provides free shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S.
Many sleepers enjoy the feel of wool pillows. The material is naturally soft and durable, resulting in a good balance of conforming and support. Temperature neutrality is another key strength. Wool wicks away moisture from the sleeper’s body for exceptional cooling during hotter times of the year, but it also feels warm and cozy during the colder months.
We’ve chosen the PlushBeds Natural Luxury Wool Pillow in part because it is manufactured using cruelty-free means. The company does not bathe sheep in herbicides to rid them of pests (a process known as dipping), nor are the animals exposed to mulesing or other harmful shearing practices. In addition to the eco-wool fill, the pillow features a cover made of natural cotton sateen.
PlushBeds does not offer a sleep trial for the Natural Luxury Wool Pillow, but shipping is free for all orders within the contiguous U.S. The pillow’s price-point is very reasonable compared to other natural and organic pillows.
Organic pillows are popular among today’s sleepers for several reasons. Because they are made from natural materials such as latex, wool, and/or cotton, they tend to be exceptionally durable and resistant to wear-and-tear. Organic pillows also sleep cooler due to the natural breathability and temperature neutrality of their components.
Responsible production is another strong point. In order to be considered organic, companies must abide by strict international guidelines for manufacturing processes, carbon emissions, and the use of pesticides and herbicides. Additionally, organic pillows containing animal-related materials (such as wool) must be produced using cruelty-free means.
This buying guide will discuss requirements for organic pillows, common materials used to construct them, and some key factors first-time shoppers should take into account.
By definition, an organic pillow must receive certifications from the GOTS, GOLS, or other certifying bodies. Pillows containing these components that have not earned the certifications should be considered “natural,” not organic. Many pillow brands advertise their products as “organic,” even though they have not earned the proper certifications.
Materials that may be found in an organic pillow include the following:
Latex is a rubber-like substance derived from the sap of rubber trees. Once extracted, latex is processed using either the Dunlop or Talalay method to yield a foam that is resilient, breathable, and responsive. Many sleepers find latex more supportive than memory foam, which tends to sink more.
Some pillows contain synthetic latex, which is primarily made of petrochemicals. The latex may also be blended, meaning it contains a mix of natural and synthetic latex. According to the GOLS, latex must be at least 95 percent natural to be considered “organic.” However, it’s important to note that latex is never 100 percent organic because some chemicals are needed to produce latex foam.
The term “natural latex” is not regulated to the same extent as organic latex. Generally, natural latex contains up to 30 percent petrochemicals and at least 70 percent natural sap.
Cotton is a natural fiber that may be grown organically, meaning it has not been genetically modified and is grown without chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) oversees organic cotton certifications nationwide. According to the NOP, any product seeking certification must consist of at least 95 percent organic materials.
Other organizations oversee organic cotton certification at the international level. In order to receive the GOTS certification, a pillow must contain at least 70 percent organic materials. The remaining 30 percent is also subject to certain material restrictions, such as polyfoam and formaldehyde. The GOTs also covers “the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution” of organic textiles.
The Textile Exchange is another international organization. This entity awards the Organic 100 Content Standard (OE 100) to products made entirely from organic materials, and the Organic Blended Content Standard (OE Blended) to products containing some organic components.
Wool is commonly used as a pillow fill because it is very soft, but also fairly supportive. The material is also highly breathable, and can wick away moisture from the sleeper’s body.
Natural wool must be sheared from sheep, lambs, or goats. In order to be considered organic, the USDA lists the following conditions:
For wool producers seeking an organic certification, the USDA also prohibits the practice of dipping, which involves bathing sheep in pesticides to rid them of pests. Mulesing, or the removal of skin around the animal’s hindquarters to prevent flystrike, is also prohibited.
The GOTS oversees certification of organic wool at the international level. A product containing wool must be at least 70 percent organic to receive this certification.
Some pillows contain down, the soft inner plumage found on ducks and geese. The material is very soft and lightweight. Although some pills contain only down, most supplement the down with coarser outer feathers from the same birds.
In recent years, down and feather producers have come under fire for certain practices that are considered cruel. This includes the removal of down and feathers from live birds, which may also be known as “live-plucking” or “molt-harvesting,” as well as force-feeding and unsanitary living conditions.
The Responsible Down Standard was created to protect ducks and geese from these practices. Brands selling 100 percent down products can seek this certification, which involves an onsite audit of all farm and slaughterhouse facilities.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also regulates how down and feather products are sold. According to the FTC, a pillow or other product listed as “100 percent down” or “pure down” cannot contain any feather fill. For products with a mix of down and feathers, an accurate ratio – such as 70 percent down, 30 percent feathers – must be listed when selling the product.
In addition to latex, cotton, wool, and down/feathers, the following materials may be found in organic and natural pillows:
Lastly, it’s important to note that some materials should never be considered natural or organic, despite marketing claims to the contrary. For example, memory foam is a purely synthetic material. Although some brands tout “eco-friendly” or “green” memory foam, it is almost always made entirely from chemicals and other synthetic components.
Another material to question is “bamboo fabric,” also known as rayon from bamboo. The material is relatively eco-friendly because bamboo does not require chemical fertilizers or pesticides. However, the fabric is technically a synthetic because chemical processes are used during production.
When looking for a new pillow, shoppers may notice other green certifications for materials and manufacturing processes. These certifications do not necessarily mean the pillow is organic, or even all-natural, but eco-conscious buyers can use them to compare different models. These certifications include:
This list of certifications is not exhaustive. Consumers should take note of all certifications listed for a pillow model, then research each one to ensure they are trustworthy, unbiased, and independent.
The term “organic pillow” is fairly broad, since a pillow with this distinction can contain a wide range of different materials. The table below lists some construction details, pricing information, and pros and cons for four of the most common natural/organic pillow types.
|Construction||Pillows contain hulls, the hard outer casings found around buckwheat kernels.||Pillows contain a combination of down, the softer inner plumage of geese and ducks, and coarser outer feathers. Some pillows are 100% down, and others are 100% feathers, but most contain a blend of the two.||Pillows contain latex, a material derived from rubber tree sap. The latex may be shredded or consist of a single piece.||Pillows contain wool sheared from sheep, lambs, or goats.|
|Pros||Very supportive Consistent temperature neutrality thanks to steady interior airflow Adjustable loft by adding or removing hulls||Exceptionally soft and lightweight Very durable Sleeps cool for most people||Durable and resistant to wear-and-tear Strong temperature neutrality Comfortable balance of conforming and support||Very breathable, with moisture-wicking properties Very soft and lightweight Adjustable loft by adding or removing fill|
|Cons||Pillows are too firm and heavy for some Some odor potential||May feel too soft and be prone to excessive sinkage Moderate to strong odor potential||Pillows can be very heavy and difficult to adjust Strong odor potential||Not as durable as other organic/natural pillow materials Moderate odor potential|
|Average Price Range||$50 to $75||$70 to $100 (all/mostly down) $25 to $50 (all/mostly feathers)||$40 to $80||$60 to $90|
When shopping for an organic pillow and browsing different brands and models, here are a few factors to keep in mind:
For more information about pillows and other green bedding products, please visit the following pages on Tuck.com