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Lauren Fountain

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You spend a lot of time in close contact with your pillow, so it’s important to choose a pillow made from safe and healthy materials. Organic pillows are one way to ensure this. In addition to their environmental and health benefits, organic pillows are often highly breathable and extremely durable.

Many companies who produce organic products have a close relationship with their sources, giving back to the local communities or participating in other green initiatives. Organic wool and down are produced with improved animal welfare compared to traditional means. Whether they’re made of buckwheat, latex, wool, cotton, or other organic materials, organic pillows represent a choice that’s better for you and the planet.

There’s a wide range of organic choices on the market. We’ll describe the differences between different types of organic pillows and discuss how to know if a pillow is really organic. We’ll also share our top picks for the best organic pillows available.

The Best Organic Pillows

Product Details

Birch Organic Pillow

Birch Organic Pillow
Fill:
Shredded natural latex
Firmness:
Medium
Birch Organic Pillow
Highlights:

The Birch Organic Pillow combines New Zealand wool and Talalay latex for a cool, springy feel that’s ideal for back and side sleepers and those who sleep hot.

Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who sleep hot
  • People who prefer a springy pillow

Handmade in the U.S., the Birch Organic pillow combines the advantages of organic cotton, natural latex, and cruelty-free New Zealand wool certified by Wool Integrity NZ and the PGC Wrightson Wool Integrity Program. The Birch Organic Pillow is Greenguard Gold certified for being free of harsh chemicals, and the cotton is certified organic by the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS).

The pillow has a 2-inch gusset that helps it to keep its shape and maintain enough loft for side sleepers. The tufted organic cotton cover is very breathable and helps keep a dry, cool surface. Inside the pillow is a combination of shredded wool and Rainforest Alliance-certified Talalay latex. Both materials are naturally springy, durable, and breathable.

Wool also serves as a natural fire barrier, and it helps regulate temperature thanks to its moisture-wicking abilities. The Birch Organic Pillow is made with natural materials that resist dust mites and mildew.

The Birch Organic Pillow ships for free in the contiguous U.S. and is sold in queen and king sizes. Birch offers a 100-night sleep trial and a 3-year warranty against manufacturing and workmanship defects.

Naturepedic Organic Cotton/PLA Pillow

Naturepedic Organic Cotton/PLA Pillow
Fill:
PLA-based batting
Firmness:
Medium Soft
Naturepedic Organic Cotton/PLA Pillow
Highlights:

The Naturepedic Organic Cotton/PLA Pillow is filled with PLA, a unique, fluffy material derived from sugarcane that provides gentle support for back and stomach sleepers.

Who it's best for:
  • Those who like a fluffy pillow
  • Back and stomach sleepers
  • Sleepers who prefer to avoid animal by-products

The Naturepedic Organic Cotton/PLA Pillow has a somewhat unique construction that uses a fill made of PLA. PLA is a type of polyester fiber with a fluffy and resilient feel. Although it’s not certified organic, it is derived from non-GMO sugarcane and it avoids the harsh chemicals used in other types of polyester.

The fibers compress when you lay on them, so although the pillow has quite a high loft, back sleepers should find that it provides just the right level of support. The pillow comes in standard, queen, and king sizes, and it’s also available in a standard low fill size that’s ideal for stomach sleepers.

Hot sleepers should stay cool thanks to the combination of the organic cotton cover and the moisture-wicking properties of the PLA fill. The cover has a thread count of 300, which promises softness and durability.

The pillow is certified formaldehyde-free and backed by organizations including Greenguard Gold, Made Safe, Organic 100 Content Standard, Zero Toxics, and 1% For The Planet. Naturepedic offers free shipping in the contiguous U.S., as well as a 30-day sleep trial and a 1-year limited warranty.

Avocado Green Pillow

Avocado Green Pillow
Fill:
GOLS-certified shredded latex and GOTS-certified kapok fibers
Firmness:
Medium
Avocado Green Pillow
Highlights:

Virtually any sleeper type can use the Avocado Green Pillow, made with a fully vegan Dunlop latex and kapok fiber blend with a customizable loft.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers with changing loft preferences
  • Those who prefer firmer pillows
  • Vegan shoppers

For sleepers who like having complete control over their pillow loft, the Avocado Green Pillow offers the option to customize the fill. A zippered cover grants easy access to a jersey cotton liner containing the shredded latex and kapok fill, and it’s easy to add or remove fill until you reach a comfortable height. Each pillow is delivered with an extra fill bag so you won’t go short.

The quilted cover is made of GOTS-certified organic cotton and can be machine-washed. The GOLS-certified Dunlop latex and GOTS-certified kapok provide a medium firm and slightly buoyant feel, contouring to support the head and neck. Kapok fibers are naturally lofty and breathable. They balance the latex, helping keep it fluffy and lightweight at just 3.9 pounds for a queen size pillow.

The Avocado Green Pillow is handmade in the U.S. and sold in standard, queen, and king sizes. It’s certified by Vegan Action to be free of animal products, such as wool, or byproducts that have been tested on animals. The pillow also holds GREENGUARD Gold, eco-INSTITUT, OEKO-TEX Standard 100, and MadeSafe certification. Pillows ship for free to the contiguous U.S. and come with a 1-year warranty.

Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow

Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow
Fill:
Organic cotton batting
Firmness:
Soft
Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow
Highlights:

The Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow is made entirely out of organic cotton, with a dense construction that holds the head and neck comfortably in place when side sleeping.

Who it's best for:
  • Side sleepers
  • Families
  • Allergy sufferers

Made entirely of GOTS-certified organic cotton, the Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow is densely packed to create a high loft that is perfectly suited to side sleepers. The pillowcase also has a zipper so users can adjust the fill to suit back or stomach sleeping.

In terms of firmness, the pillow has a medium feel that keeps the head and neck supported. As with most cotton pillows, the filling may compress and get firmer over time, but it can be re-fluffed to regain its loft.

The organic cotton pillowcase is tightly woven to keep out dust mites and other allergens. The pillow is handmade in the U.S. and it does not contain any chemical flame retardants or other unhealthy substances. While the pillow may have a faint earthy smell at first, sleepers with allergies should find their symptoms improve after using the pillow.

The Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow is sold in standard, queen, and king sizes. It’s also sold in a toddler size, so you can outfit the whole family with safe and healthy bedding.

Bean Products Kapok Sleep Pillows

Bean Products Kapok Sleep Pillows
Fill:
Kapok fiber fill
Firmness:
Medium
Bean Products Kapok Sleep Pillows
Highlights:

The affordably priced Bean Products Kapok Sleep Pillow comes in a range of sizes and fills to suit every sleeper.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers seeking specialty sizes or neck rolls
  • Those who prefer pillows that are free of animal by-products
  • People who want a choice of fills

Made entirely of GOTS-certified organic cotton, the Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow is densely packed to create a high loft that is perfectly suited to side sleepers. The pillowcase also has a zipper so users can adjust the fill to suit back or stomach sleeping.

In terms of firmness, the pillow has a medium feel that keeps the head and neck supported. As with most cotton pillows, the filling may compress and get firmer over time, but it can be re-fluffed to regain its loft.

The organic cotton pillowcase is tightly woven to keep out dust mites and other allergens. The pillow is handmade in the U.S. and it does not contain any chemical flame retardants or other unhealthy substances. While the pillow may have a faint earthy smell at first, sleepers with allergies should find their symptoms improve after using the pillow.

The Magnolia Organics Organic Cotton Pillow is sold in standard, queen, and king sizes. It’s also sold in a toddler size, so you can outfit the whole family with safe and healthy bedding.

What is an Organic Pillow?

Organic pillows are any pillows made from organic materials such as latex, cotton, wool, kapok fibers, or buckwheat. Organic crops are grown without chemical pesticides, with farmers attempting to use less irrigation and produce less waste.

Environmentally friendly and biodegradable, organic materials are increasingly gaining in popularity as consumers realize the impact their purchases have on the environment. What’s more, organic certification often goes hand-in-hand with improved quality of life in the places where the raw materials are sourced.

As it’s virtually impossible for a customer to tell whether a finished product is organic or not, the USDA has established a set of regulations. In addition, there are several third-party organizations you can look to for assurance. The most commonly used are the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which we’ll discuss more in detail below. Shoppers should be wary of a product that claims to be organic but doesn’t hold any certification.

Many companies advertise their products as “natural,” meaning the materials are not man-made. They are often biodegradable and less harmful to the environment than synthetic materials.  However, farmers may use pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow their crops, and the end products may contain bleach, formaldehyde, chemical dyes, or chemical fire retardants. This is why organic materials are generally considered safer for your skin and less likely to provoke allergies.

How to Choose an Organic Pillow

Within the world of organic pillows, you’ll see a wide variety of materials used. In general, you can count on organic materials to be more breathable and durable than synthetic pillows. That said, each material has its own specific benefits. In the following sections we’ll delve into the properties of different organic materials and how to choose the right organic pillow for you.

What to Consider When Purchasing an Organic Pillow

Your pillow is an important part of your sleep setup, supporting your head and providing a comfortable surface to lie on. In order to succeed at this, a pillow must have certain characteristics. Despite what pillow manufacturers may claim, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for pillows. The ideal characteristics change from person to person depending on body type and preferred sleeping position.

Organic products are particularly susceptible to greenwashing, with many companies making claims they can’t back up. Only by carefully analyzing the specs of an organic pillow can you be sure that it will deliver the benefits it promises.

Loft
To provide full support, a pillow should fill the space between the head and neck and the mattress. Side sleepers tend to need a higher pillow to compensate for the breadth of the shoulders, while stomach sleepers need a flatter pillow to minimize twisting of the neck. If you’re unsure what loft is best for you, you may want to consider a pillow with adjustable fill.

Organic Certification
The organic industry has taken off in recent years, leading many companies to exaggerate their claims as an excuse to raise their prices. Certification from a trusted third-party organization can provide assurance that a product truly is organic.

Support
The most important job of a pillow is to support the head and neck, keeping them in line with the spine. A pillow that’s too soft, too thin, or too thick won’t provide adequate support and may lead to discomfort.

Firmness Level
Firmness level is not only a matter of comfort. A pillow that’s too firm may cause pressure points, but a pillow that’s too soft may fail to provide enough support. When considering pillow firmness, don’t forget to take the loft into account. A high but plush pillow will allow the head to sink in further, which ultimately reduces the loft.

Pressure Relief 
Pillows provide pressure relief in two ways: by minimizing pressure at contact points, and by reducing pressure build-up in unsupported areas. Materials such as plush latex, kapok fibers, and cotton contour more closely and tend to provide better pressure relief.

Shape
The vast majority of pillows are made in the traditional rectangular shape, with some including a gusset around the sides to help maintain a higher loft. However, sleepers with neck pain or other problems may benefit from a cervical pillow designed to provide extra support by following the curves of the head and neck. Organic latex pillows are best for this, as the material can be formed into any shape.

Price
Organic materials tend to command a higher price, but it is possible to get an organic pillow without breaking the bank. If latex pillows and buckwheat pillows are out of your budget, you can also consider alternatives such as cotton or kapok fibers. Higher-priced options are often more durable, but most organic pillows will outlive those made with synthetic materials.

Quality Materials

For any people, “organic” is synonymous with “quality.” However, as always, it’s a good idea to check what exactly the pillow is made of, and whether it’s 100 percent organic or blended with other materials. Understanding the properties of different organic materials can also help point you to the right pillow for your sleeping style.

Moldability
One quality that many sleepers look for in a pillow is the ability to hug it or scrunch it into shape. Pillows made with fluffier fibers such as cotton or kapok lend themselves well to this, as opposed to solid latex pillows which are less moldable.

Temperature Regulation
Materials that allow room for airflow can help prevent heat build-up and keep a cooler sleep surface overnight. By nature, many organic materials fall into this category. Latex, buckwheat, kapok, cotton, and wool are all known for their temperature neutrality.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Organic Pillows?

Organic pillows can be made from a number of different materials, but most organic pillows share some common benefits and drawbacks.

Pros Cons
  • Environmentally Friendly: Organic production eschews the use of harmful pesticides and aims to minimize the use of water and other resources. Plus, organic products tend to be biodegradable.
  • Ethical: By eliminating the use of harsh chemicals, organic production is safer for the farmers and other workers involved in the production process.
  • Healthy: You can feel good about buying organic products for your loved ones, knowing that they don’t contain cancerous chemicals. Those who are sensitive to off-gassing smells usually prefer organic products as well.
  • Hypoallergenic: Most organic materials keep dust mites and mildew at bay.
  • Breathable: Organic materials tend to naturally do a much better job of regulating temperature, making them a good choice for hot sleepers.
  • Durable: Many organic materials stand up better to repeated use, which helps to offset the high initial price.
  • Expensive: Strict regulations and certification costs mean that organic materials are more expensive to produce, and these costs are reflected in a higher price-tag for the consumer.
  • Limited Choices: Unlike synthetic foams that can be engineered to take on different properties, organic pillows are dependent on the natural properties of the materials used to make them.
  • Harder to Find: The organic market is a growing market, but some shoppers may still have trouble finding organic pillows in local brick-and-mortar stores.

What Types of Organic Pillows are Available?

Common materials used in organic pillows include cotton, latex, wool, buckwheat, silk, down, and kapok. Both the cover and the fill should be organic in order for the pillow be considered 100 percent organic. Any materials that use chemicals in their manufacturing process, such as memory foam, are not considered organic.

Organic Cotton: Cotton can be woven into fabric and used to make a breathable cover, or used in its fiber form for a soft and fluffy pillow filling. While regular cotton production is problematic due to its use of water and pesticides, organic cotton uses less resources and avoids harsh dyes and bleach. Looks for the GOTS certification in both the pillow cover and filling, which indicates at least 70 percent organic materials.

Organic Latex: Latex is a springy, buoyant material favored by sleepers who like a breathable, extra-supportive pillow with moderate contouring. Natural latex is made from the milky white liquid of the rubber tree and can be processed in two ways, Talalay or Dunlop. Dunlop latex is usually the more sustainable choice, as Talalay uses more chemicals.

Organic latex is regulated by the GOLS certification, which requires that the latex be at least 95 percent natural. You may also see “natural latex,” made with a portion of synthetic materials, or fully synthetic latex, which is made of petrochemicals.

Organic Wool: Used in both the cover and the fill of pillows, wool from sheep, lambs, and goats is one of nature’s most impressive materials. Its crimped fibers provide a springy, supportive feel that’s perfect for pillows, and the material does an excellent job of wicking moisture to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Although wool can pose ethical problems, there are organizations that seek to highlight proper animal welfare and establish a humane shearing process.

Buckwheat Hulls: Dried buckwheat hulls naturally interlock to provide a firm and solid sleep surface. They are extremely breathable and offer great support, but some sleepers find they are too firm and make too much noise. They also tend to be among the more expensive models, and they may be too heavy to manipulate easily during the night.

Silk: Spun by silkworms, silk is a fine, smooth, and expensive fiber that is sometimes used as a filler for high-end pillows.

Responsible Down: The fine duck and goose plumage used to make down fill are prized for their incredible softness, although due to their high expense they are often blended with regular feathers to lower the price.

Down isn’t always a very ethical choice, as it’s often obtained from live-plucked birds. The Responsible Down Standard aims to ensure humane treatment of these animals, including rules against live plucking, force feeding, and other brutal practices. However, shoppers who object to avoid animal by-products or those with allergies may want to steer clear of down altogether.

Kapok fibers: Made from the fibers of the kapok tree, kapok has a lofty feel that’s somewhat similar to down. Kapok production is considered more sustainable than other crops as it requires minimal irrigation or pesticides.

What Organic Certifications Are There?

Various third-party organizations attempt to regulate the organic bedding industry so that consumers can rest assured they’re purchasing a safe and ethical product. The following certifications are some of the most common, indicating either that a product is organic or that it was produced with minimal environmental impact and low levels of harmful emissions.

  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS): The best organic latex pillows are certified by GOLS, a process that identifies latex sourced from organic plantations and processed into a finished product containing at least 95 percent organic material. It’s virtually impossible to make entirely organic latex, as it requires a small amount of chemicals in order to be processed.
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): The Global Organic Textile Standard certifies that a finished product contains at least 70 percent organic fiber. It also guarantees that the product does not contain toxic dyes, and regulates the treatment of wastewater from the production process.
  • USDA Organic: Working together with the USDA, the National Organic Program (NOP) ensures uniformity in the production of organic-labelled materials. For a crop or livestock to be certified organic, it must be produced using approved methods, avoiding the use of genetic engineering, antibiotics, toxic fertilizers, and other prohibited substances. Among other requirements, animals must be raised under humane conditions, with access to the outdoors, and must be fed organic food starting from the last third of gestation. The USDA does not directly certify non-food organic products, instead encouraging companies to obtain the GOTS label for the finished product.
  • GreenGuard: GreenGuard certification indicates that a product is low in volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, otherwise known as off-gassing. Standard GreenGuard certification enforces safe VOC levels to minimize indoor air pollution. There is also a stricter category, GreenGuard Gold, which guarantees extremely low or zero VOC emissions.
  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100: OEKO-TEX is an association of multiple research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan. The OEKO-TEX Standard 100 is an internationally recognized label awarded to products whose chemical levels fall within limits that are deemed to be harmless to human health. OEKO-TEX also awards other labels, among them the Made in Green label that ensures sustainability and ethical labor conditions.
  • Eco-Institut: The eco-INSTITUT is an internationally recognized organization based in Germany that tests for pollutants and emissions in mattresses and bedding.

Frequently Asked Questions About Organic Pillows

How do I know my pillow is truly organic?

The best way to check if a pillow is truly organic is by checking to see whether all the components, from cover to fill, carry third-party organic certifications. The most recognized certifications are GOLS and GOTS, which certify organic latex and organic textiles, respectively.

How much do organic pillows cost? 

Organic pillows can cost anywhere from $50 to well over $200 depending on the materials used to make them. They are one of the more expensive pillow types, although certain organic pillows such as cotton, feather, or kapok pillows may be more affordable than latex, down, or buckwheat.

How do I clean an organic pillow? 

Care instructions for organic pillows differ depending on the material, although many pillows have removable covers that can be machine-washed.

Spot-cleaning is recommended for wool pillows. Pillows made with organic fibers like cotton and kapok can sometimes be machine-washed and dried on low temperatures, but this should be done carefully to avoid the pillow shrinking or forming clumps. Likewise, one-piece latex pillows may be able to be gently hand-washed as long as they are thoroughly dried. Buckwheat hulls, on the other hand, should be dried in the sun and never soaked in water or they will lose their properties.

When in doubt about how to clean your organic pillow, always check the manufacturer’s care instructions.

Where can I buy an organic pillow? 

Organic pillows are widely available online, either directly from the manufacturer or through third-party websites that specialize in sustainable products. They are also available to a lesser extent in brick-and-mortar stores. Certain types of organic pillows, such as buckwheat, wool, or cotton-stuffed pillows, may be harder to find.

How long do organic pillows last?

Organic pillows are made with superior-quality materials that give them a longer-than-average lifespan. If properly cared for, some organic pillows can last for more than 5 years. In many cases, users can also purchase extra fill to liven up an older pillow and increase its lifespan.

Do organic pillows have an odor? 

While organic pillows don’t off-gas in the typical sense, many new organic pillows do present a mild odor. This is most common with latex, buckwheat, and down pillows. In contrast to synthetic pillows, the odors from these materials shouldn’t be bothersome. However, they may provoke allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to the materials inside.