50 Questions About Cotton Pillows Answered

Soft, comfortable, and environmentally sustainable, cotton pillows are a great natural solution for people looking for something breathable to sleep on.

This article answers the top 50 frequently asked questions about them show

What Are Cotton Pillows?

Cotton Pillows

Cotton pillows are pillows stuffed with cotton. They are hypoallergenic and made entirely of the natural material that cotton is.

Cotton absorbs water because of cellulose’s negative charge, which attracts dipolar hydrogen atoms and absorbs them.

Popular for its moisture absorption properties, cotton makes for one of the most suitable fill materials for pillows.

Check out the best cotton pillows to buy online

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What Are Their Pros and Cons?

Cotton has been among the most popular pillow materials since ancient times. However, they have been overtaken by synthetic pillows, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Here are some pros and cons of using cotton as a pillow stuffing material:

  • Toxin-free
  • No odor
  • Cruelty-free
  • Biodegradable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Eco-friendly
  • Breathable
  • Soft, yet supportive
  • 100% vegan
  • Recyclable
  • Moisture-absorbent
  • High-maintenance
  • Becomes lumpy
  • Flattens quickly
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

When Were Cotton Pillows Invented?

Cotton holds a unique place in history, evolving from being more highly valued than silk and wool in the 16th and 17th centuries to becoming an everyday, comfort-oriented material in today’s world.  

Cotton’s global significance arose as a result of Europe’s cultural evolution and the imperial power of the United Kingdom. As cotton fabrics became increasingly popular throughout Europe, the East India Company began importing them to the United Kingdom in 1664.

Are They Vegan?

Cotton is 100% vegan because it does not come from animals. In fact, cotton seeds, from which cotton fibers are derived, are an important byproduct of the cotton plant.

Cotton develops in the wild much like the fruit of a plant, but if it is left unharvested it has the potential to develop into a tree. 

Are They Organic?

Cotton is a natural fiber. However, it is not always organic.

Organic cotton is cultivated without using synthetic products as insecticides or growth promoters. Some farmers use GMO techniques to make them dust-mite resistant and produce regular cotton.

We will talk about this in more detail later in the article.    

What Do They Look and Feel Like?

The appearance of a cotton pillow is fluffy and smooth. However, they feel extremely soft, like a cloud. A brand new cotton pillow feels bouncier than an old one. 

Natural or Organic Pillow: Which Is Better?

Cotton pillows can be divided into two types based on their production process:

  • Organic Cotton Pillows
  • Natural Cotton Pillows

Organic cotton is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). GOTS can also certify a product with 70% organic fibers. This product, however, will not be classified as organic but still be considered natural.

Organic cotton is grown in an organic manner, which means that the crops are not genetically engineered and that no toxic pesticides or chemicals are used throughout the growing process, making them ideal for pillows.

The stronger and longer fibers of organic cotton promise durability. Using organic cotton will also keep your skin healthy since it is hypoallergenic. Organic cotton also consumes less water during production than natural cotton. 

Are They Better Than Synthetic Pillows?

In contrast to polyester and Down pillows, cotton pillows have a firmer feel. These pillows are typically free of allergens and other hazardous substances. Their breathability allows you to sleep comfortably and coolly.

However, cotton pillows tend to form more lumps over time due to compression and are also much more expensive than Down and polyester. 

Are They Good for Health?

Known for being completely organic, devoid of toxic substances, and animal cruelty, cotton pillows are popular for their breathability. Cotton is considered to be one of the oldest pillow materials.

Cotton pillows are comfortable and provide proper head support during sleep and keep you sweat-free. They are ideal for sleepers looking for organic, supportive pillows. In terms of both human health and environmental sustainability, organic cotton pillows are a good choice. 

How Much Does A Cotton Pillow Weigh?

The difference in weight depends on the size of the pillow. A standard 20” x 26” sized pillow can be filled with 35.2 oz of cotton. A pillow with more filling will be heavier than a pillow with less filling.

Are They Eco-Friendly?

Cotton is grown without the use of pesticides, making it safe for the environment. Since there is no chemical used in the production of cotton, the cultivating region is still biodiverse and insect-rich, allowing the cotton pillow industry to thrive while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. 

Are They Recyclable?

Sustainable farming methods are used for producing cotton. However, recycling some cotton-based items is difficult. 

Even though the technology of various equipment has changed over time, the wastes they make still contain a lot of good quality fiber. Scientific research conducted in Tunisia, North Africa showed that recycled cotton fibers are easy to clean, hence they can be mixed with virgin fibers.

Cotton pillows made of 100% cotton can be composted as long as they don’t include any plastic. Even if they cannot be recycled, they can be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

Do They Get Dust Mites?

Most manufacturers claim cotton pillows are naturally dust mite resistant. However, there is no scientific data to back up this assertion. 

On the other hand, there is a considerable body of scientific evidence to support that cotton fibers do not inhibit the growth of dust mites.

The results of comparative research of 53 anti-mite covers were published in the Textile Research Journal, and indicated that mites and allergies could easily penetrate cotton bed sheets.

Do They Get Bed Bugs?

Currently, there is no scientific evidence to back up the claims of cotton pillows are naturally resistant to bed bugs. As is with any other pillow type, cotton pillows, too, are capable of harboring bed bugs. However, the pests are particularly attracted to dirt so keeping your pillows clean might help avoid them.

Do They Mold?

When cotton fabric stays in a hot, humid environment for an extended time, mold grows and spreads. Mold on cotton fibers must be removed as soon as possible since it degrades cotton fabric and damages your pillows.   

Do They Turn Yellow?

A cotton pillow is perfectly capable of turning yellow. Sweat is the most prevalent cause, but there are a few more. Most people sweat a little bit while they sleep, even if they aren’t aware of it. Over time, this sweat builds up in your pillowcase and stains the pillow itself. 

Other kinds of moisture, such as the natural oils on your body, can also cause your cotton pillows to yellow. However, there are some ways to keep them from turning yellow, such as using a pillow protector.

Learn more about why pillows turn yellow and how to stop them 

Can They Cause Acne?

There is conflicting evidence about whether cotton is healthy for acne-prone skin. This is due to the misinformation spread by silk manufacturers. 

As per a published article in the International Journal of Dermatology, in comparison to synthetic fibers, natural fibers like cotton and silk have a higher capacity to wick moisture.

Cotton pillows may help in keeping the surfaces of the body dry and reduce microbe infestation. Their breathability can help you keep your skin healthy and sweat-free.

Synthetic materials, such as polyester and microfiber, are more prone to producing skin irritation in those who have acne or other skin disorders.

See the best pillowcases for acne

Are They Good For Hair?

The moisture-absorbent nature of cotton keeps your hair sweat-free at night. However, it can cause breakage and make your hair frizzy by taking away the moisture balance that keeps your hair healthy. 

However, any pillow can also cause hair damage in the presence of prolonged exposure to a soiled environment. Toxic allergens can enter your hair follicles and trigger irritation, causing flaking as well as hair loss. 

Are They Good for Skin?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends cotton pillows for skin problems and bedding. Cotton pillows are excellent due to their smoothness, which reduces friction against the skin and fine lines.

Since no chemicals are used in producing organic cotton plants. They are known to be more absorbent than synthetic materials. 

Many silk manufacturers claim that cotton can cause skin irritation. However, as per a  published report on Springer by a team of researchers, Jingwei Gu, Lingjun Yuan, Ze Zhang, Xinhui Yang, Junxuan Luo, Zifan Gui & Shiguo Chen proved that non-leaching bactericidal cotton causes no skin irritation

Are They Good for Neck Pain?

To alleviate sleep discomfort, a pillow that provides support for the neck is recommended. Therefore, a cotton pillow is suitable to alleviate neck pain. 

Moreover, it is safe to say the most crucial thing about a good pillow for maximum comfort is that it has the right shape for the affected body part, so it is suggested to look for a neck-shaped firm pillow.

An extensive study on Sleep Habits and Sleeping Symptoms Relating to Pillow Comfort and Support at Kyung Hee University in Korea confirmed that the main contributing component to sleeping symptoms like head tiredness, cervical pain, and shoulder discomfort that had an impact on sleep quality was the design of the pillow. 

However, people suffering from neck pain will appreciate the extra support and comfort provided by synthetic pillows like latex and memory foam.   

Are They Good for Back Pain? 

The right pillow height can offer enough assistance for the neck and shoulders to ease pain and improve sleep quality while reducing pressure on the back and neck while relaxing the body muscles. 

Choosing a high loft cotton pillow for maintaining your cervical curvature will help you sleep better if you’re suffering from chronic back pain. 

In order to keep the head in a neutral position, these pillows are solid enough to provide support, but they are also soft enough to alleviate stress in all the affected areas when sleeping.

However, they tend to get flattened over time. In that case, a buckwheat pillow is a great natural alternative.  

Are They Good for Side Sleepers?

Cotton pillows, because of their softness and support, provide utmost comfort to side sleepers. They can benefit greatly from using these pillows since they keep the sleeper sweat-free without causing a “Pillow Ear.” However, cotton pillows are not popular for their firmness.

Are They Good for Back Sleepers?

Those who prefer to sleep on their backs would be well-served to invest in a cotton pillow. Lower back pain or discomfort can be avoided with the use of a medium-firm cotton pillow, which helps keep the spine aligned properly. 

Are They Good for Stomach Sleepers?

Choosing a naturally soft and breathable pillow is best for stomach sleepers because of the benefits it provides in terms of lumbar balance and reduced neck stress. Therefore, a cotton pillow, particularly one with a low loft, will keep them happy. 

Are They Good for Hot Sleepers?

Cotton pillows are soft and offer maximum comfort. The cotton fibers are naturally breathable and allow for optimal air circulation while keeping hot sleepers cool all through the night. This is essential if you tend to sweat a lot when sleeping because a pillow that isn’t breathable might make you uncomfortable.

Are They Washable?

Cotton pillows are washable. However, look for specific instructions before tossing them into the washer to avoid ruining them. Their cleaning depends on whether they’ve been labeled dry-clean only, spot-clean, hand-washable, or machine washable.

Avoiding cleaning instructions can decrease the pillows’ longevity and make them lumpy. To understand the procedure better, see our detailed article on “how to wash your pillows“.

How Do You Machine-Wash Them?

Here are a few simple steps to keep in mind while machine-washing your pillows:

  • Pull out the pillowcase.
  • Start your washing machine and fill it with cold water.
  • Add 1 cup of detergent and a little fabric softener.
  • Place your cotton pillow in the washing machine.
  • Dry the cotton pillow at a low heat setting.

Pro-tip for drying a cotton pillow:

  • Add 2-3 tennis or dry balls to the dryer to avoid clumping. 
  • Make absolutely sure the pillows are dry. Deeper layers can be damp despite their dry appearance. 
  • If the pillow is not completely dry, fluff it by hand and repeat the drying cycle.

How Do You Hand-Wash Them?

Here is a step-by-step procedure to hand wash your cotton pillows:

  • Remove the pillowcase and wash it separately.
  • Fill a tub with enough cold water to soak the whole pillow.
  • Add a cup of mild detergent to the cold water. 
  • Let your pillow soak for a few minutes and flip it gently after some time. 
  • Squeeze your pillow to take out the extra dirt.
  • Rinse it until the water runs clear.
  • Wring the pillow to take out excess water.
  • Use a dry towel to soak up extra water.
  • Hang the pillow outside in the sun to air-dry.

How Do You Spot Clean Them?

Learn how to spot clean your cotton pillows in 6 simple steps:

  • Use a rolled white cloth or sponge to absorb any recent stains. 
  • Soak a white towel in warm soapy water. 
  • Squeeze the wet towel before using it on your pillow. 
  • Gently rub the soapy towel on your stain to remove it.
  • Once the stain disappears, use a wet cloth to absorb the soapy water. 
  • Let it air dry for a while.

Pro tip: If you have old stains that are too stubborn, use a mixture of baking soda and hot water and apply it to the stains. Leave it for a few minutes, and rinse it off with a clean wet towel.

Can They Go Into the Dryer?

Yes, you should dry your cotton pillows on a low setting in the dryer. By using tennis balls in your dryer, you can keep your pillows’ fluffiness and drying time in check.

Should You Put Them In A Pillowcase?

Keeping your cotton pillows in a pillowcase will keep them clean since they safeguard and preserve the cleanliness of your pillows.

While we sleep, our pillows accumulate dead skin cells, grime, oil, saliva, and sweat. Pillowcases block some of these irritants from directly contacting us. However, sweat and saliva might still seep into the pillow. Moreover, they also minimize allergen accumulation, helping people who are prone to allergies.

How Do You Make A Cotton Pillow At Home?

Here’s a step-by-step process to make a cotton pillow at home:

  • Choose a soft, high-thread-count cotton fabric.
  • Measure your existing pillow.
  • Cut a piece of fabric to fit that measurement.
  • Cut two more pieces for the back and leave an extra 5 inches for overlap.
  • To finish the back pieces, turn under one of the long edges and hem it.
  • Overlap the hemmed edges of the back pieces and pin them to the front piece.
  • Stitch together all four corners.
  • Turn your pillows inside-out and pull the corners.
  • Stuff your pillow with cotton to achieve the desired loft. 

Do They Go Lumpy?

With continued use, your cotton pillow might become lumpy. This happens because the cotton inside might have accumulated dirt, moisture, and other particles. 

Cotton pillows are excellent at keeping moisture from accumulating in your bed because of their ability to absorb sweat. Dirt, debris, and moisture combined can cause the cotton stuffing to clump. 

However, there are other reasons that can make your cotton pillows look lumpy. Putting them in the machine on a high-temperature setting and using dryers to dry them are some of them. 

The good news is they can be fixed if properly taken care of.

Here’s our detailed article on why pillows turn lumpy and how to fix them

Do They Flatten?

Over time, cotton pillows become flatter. This happens because of compression. As you lay your head every night on your soft cotton pillow, the filling inside gets compressed because of the pressure applied to it. 

Cotton pillows, however, can be reshaped by hand, machine-drying, or by adding more filling and frequent fluffing.  Read more about this in the upcoming question. 

How Do You Fluff A Cotton Pillow?

Here are three ways to fluff a cotton pillow easily at home:

  • Hand-fluffing: Hold the opposite ends of the pillow firmly. Move the filling on the edges in and out. Then, using your hands, reshape the pillow so that it sits properly on the bed. To smooth things out, you can hit it a few times. 
  • Hitting: You can squeeze the pillow to fluff it. After pressing, shake and reposition the cotton inside. Thump the pillow with your hand on all sides to balance the fill and eliminate small lumps. 
  • Low heat drying: Place your pillow along with drying balls on a low heat setting in the dryer after rinsing it with cold water. Make sure to dry it completely by leaving it outside for a while. 
  • Adding more fill: Buy cotton filling separately and insert it to get the required loft. Give it a shake after properly stuffing the pillow. 

How Do You Unclump A Cotton Pillow?

Using your fingers, you can massage the clumps in your cotton pillow. Pressing the lumps and gently squeezing them with your palms helps reshape the pillow.

You can also try placing a tennis ball with your lumpy pillow in the dryer on a low setting since tennis balls help beat the lumps in case you don’t want to manually.

Which Is Better: Cotton Pillow or Silk Pillow?

Here’s a list of features of silk pillows and cotton pillows: 

Cotton PillowSilk Pillow
VeganAnimal product
More breathableLess breathable
Less smoothSmoother
Might cause frizzy hairReduces frizzy hair and breakage
Highly absorbentLess absorbent
Can be eco-friendlyAlways eco-friendly
Less expensiveMore expensive

Considering the pros and cons, cotton and silk pillows, silk pillows are better in terms of comfort, softness and lightweight whereas cotton outperforms them in price and breathability. To tell which one is better is not fair since each has its own qualities. 

Which Is Better: Cotton Pillow or Down Pillow?

Both cotton and Down pillows are known for their air circulation, softness, and popularity. Here is a comparison of their best features: 

Cotton PillowDown Pillow
VeganAnimal product
SupportiveNot as supportive
OdorlessCarries mild odor
More breathableLess breathable
Suitable for hot sleepersNot suitable for hot sleepers
Clumps over timeDoesn’t clump easily
Flattens with useDoesn’t flatten
Lasts 2-3 yearsLasts 5-10 years
More expensiveLess expensive
Can be eco-friendlyAlways eco-friendly

Taking into account the benefits of cotton pillows like breathability and support over Down, they are a better option. But, if you’re looking for a long-term investment and pocket-friendly solution, Down is a superior choice. However, cotton is a vegan option, whereas Down is not. In our opinion, to choose which one is better is a personal choice. 

Which Is Better: Cotton Pillow or Microfiber Pillow?

Microfiber is a perfect synthetic alternative to buckwheat pillows in terms of support. However, cotton is more breathable. Let’s check out their best features together: 

Cotton PillowMicrofiber Pillow
Less supportiveMore supportive
OdorlessCarries mild odor
More breathableLess breathable
Clumps over timeDoesn’t clump easily
Highly absorbentLess absorbent
Lasts 2-3 yearsLasts 3-4 years
More expensiveLess expensive

Therefore, it is evident that cotton outperforms microfiber in terms of being environmentally friendly and moisture-resistant, whereas, in terms of longevity and maintenance, microfiber wins. However, your personal preferences will decide what suits you best. 

Which Is Better: Cotton Pillow or Polyester Pillow?

Cotton pillows are softer than polyester pillows. However, polyester pillows offer better support for your head, neck, and shoulders. 

Cotton PillowPolyester Pillow
Natural materialSynthetic material
No off-gassingOff-gassing
SofterLess soft
More aerationLess aeration
High maintenanceLow maintenance
Can be fluffed regularlyDoesn’t need regular fluffing
Become lumpy easilyDoesn’t become lumpy
Free of chemicalsContain chemicals 

Considering the affordability and low-maintenance of polyester pillows, they’re a perfect choice if you’re looking for a supportive pillow. However, they both have the same lifespan of 2-3 years. 

Moreover, both types have pros and cons. Neither is superior to the other. 

Which Is Better: Cotton Pillow or Memory Foam Pillow?

To find out who wins between cotton and memory foam pillows, let’s see their top features:

Cotton PillowMemory Foam Pillow
Absorbs more sweatAbsorbs less sweat
HypoallergenicAttract allergens
More breathableLess breathable
Organic MaterialSynthetic Material
No odorsMild chemical odors
Non-toxic  Can be chemically toxic

The natural benefits like moisture absorbance, breathability, softness, and non-toxicity of cotton make it superior to foam pillows. However, if you’re on a budget, choosing a foam pillow would make more sense. 

Which Is Better: Cotton Pillow or Feather Pillow?

Cotton PillowFeather Pillow
VeganNot vegan
Naturally absorbentNot highly absorbent
Doesn’t make noiseCan be noisy
HypoallergenicMight trigger allergies, however very rare. 
Suitable for neck and back painNot suitable for neck and back pain
Less malleableMore malleable
Lasts 2-3 yearsLasts 3-5 years
Cruelty-free Bird feathers

As an alternative to feather pillows, cruelty-free and breathable cotton pillows are a better choice. Moreover, cotton pillows are naturally absorbent and 100% vegan. 

Do They Cause Allergies?

Due to their hypoallergenic properties, cotton pillows are an excellent choice for people who are more prone to allergies.

Regular cleaning and washing of your pillowcase can also help in getting rid of dust mites that can cause irritation and allergies in the long run. 

Are They Toxic?

Cotton pillows are harmless, as they do not include potentially hazardous substances common in other types of pillows. They’re also odorless, compostable, and break down naturally. 

How Long Do They Last?

As a general rule of thumb, cotton pillows last about 2-3 years. However, with appropriate maintenance, they can last a year longer.

The durability of cotton pillows depends on various factors like thickness, material quality, and how often you use them. Additionally, the fabric of the outer case must be strong since frequent friction weakens the natural pillow fibers.

To maximize the durability of a cotton pillow, try to get one with a zippered pillowcase so the filling can be removed and cleaned when needed.

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Replace It?

It is time to replace your cotton pillow if…

  • It’s more than 3 years old.
  • You’re waking up with neck pain.
  • It has a strange smell.
  • There are visible lumps.
  • It has gone flat.
  • It doesn’t spring back. 
  • It no longer offers support.
  • There are visible yellow stains that don’t go away even after washing.

How Much Do They Cost?

A standard 21×36” organic cotton pillow can cost as little as $20 and as much as $750. The cost varies according to the size, weight, thread count, brand, hypoallergenic and cooling properties of the cotton pillow. You can also consider buying them with or without a pillowcase, which will affect the overall price. 

Why Are They So Expensive?

Cotton pillows are expensive because they are generally organic and require more work than many other materials. The cost of manufacturing cotton thread has been rising over the last few years. 

However, the comfort provided by cotton pillows is unparalleled. They are also environmentally sustainable and non-toxic. 

How Do You Choose A Cotton Pillow?

Look for the following things while purchasing a cotton pillow:

  • Adjustable zippered shell
  • Price neither too expensive nor too cheap
  • Firmness level
  • Cotton pillowcase with thread count of at least 230

Where to Buy A Cotton Pillow?

You can buy a cotton pillow of your choice from any of these websites online: