Pillow Talk

Pillows generally last a long time, so you don’t need to buy them very often. But when you do need new ones, it’s helpful to have a few facts at hand. The most common bed pillow fillings are polyester fiber fill, feathers, down, and molded or shredded foams.  The foams may be latex, polyurethane or rubber. Each stuffing material has a somewhat different feel. Fiberfill, feathers and down all feel soft and cushiony.  Down and fiberfill are more resilient than feathers and return to shape more easily after crushing.

Latex and Polyurethane Foam Pillows:

Polyurethane is stiffer than latex. Memory foams are a type of polyurethane.  These foams return to shape immediately after crushing, but can deform with continued pressure over time.  Shredded polyurethane foam tends to feel somewhat lumpy unless stuffed fairly tight and covered with a heavy ticking fabric.  Latex gradually stiffens and crumbles on exposure to oil and air.  Latex will last about 10 years if coverings are washed regularly.

Down and Feather Pillows:

When purchasing down pillows, look for at least 80% down and 20% feathers.  If you can feel quills, there isn’t much down in the pillow.  Pure goose down can be a real sleep inducer, but it is the most expensive type of down pillow. Often, different kinds of feathers may be mixed in the same pillow.

It is not easy to compare one down pillow to another unless you compare weights.  There should be a label attached to the pillow or in the packaging. Down and feather pillows sometimes irritate persons with allergy problems, whereas polyester and other synthetic fiber and foam pillows do not. Sniff a pillow for odor before you buy it.  If dust or lint appears as you pound or pat a pillow, this is a clue it could cause problems.  Down will last a long time.  They are usually dry-cleaned, but when washable, the pillows need careful drying to prevent mildew.

Polyester:

Fiberfill pillows can be easily laundered.  Stuffing can sometimes shift, but you can expect polyester fill pillows to keep their fluffy resilience at least five years.

Washing Feather Pillows:

If you want to wash your feather pillows, make sure the ticking is in good condition before washing. We would also suggest slipping the pillow into a pillow case and basting the case shut, for additional insurance against the ticking failing and releasing the feathers.  Fill the washer with warm water and the regular amount of detergent for a normal load, gentle cycle, agitate to dissolve the detergent.  (Dissolving the detergent is not as critical if a liquid detergent is used.)  For a balanced load, wash two pillows at the same time or one pillow and enough bath towels to balance.  Immerse the pillows in the sudsy water until they are completely wet.  Wash using the gentle or soak cycle for 10 minutes.  Rinse the pillows twice.

To dry, tumble in the automatic dryer using the warmest setting for one hour; reduce the heat and finish drying.  Or, in warmer weather, hang the pillows on a clothes line in a gentle breeze – occasionally “fluff” or move the feathers around within the pillow.  This will take a few hours – then finish drying in an automatic dryer.

Now you can sleep peacefully, enjoying the fresh scent of your clean pillows.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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