Soft, fluffy, springy, and comfortable — wool pillows are everything and more. Wool is eco-friendly, long-lasting, and likely the first-ever fill material used in pillows.
What Are Wool Pillows?
Wool pillows are pillows stuffed with natural or organic wool, which is sourced from sheep and other animals such as lambs, llamas, cashmere goats, angora goats, camelids, bison, musk oxen, and angora rabbits.
The wool is mostly obtained from the animals by shearing, which is the process of removing their fleece. It’s as easy as getting a haircut. Wool grows back, which is why it is considered a renewable fill material for pillows.
Are They the Same as Hooked Wool Pillows?
Wool pillows are not the same as hooked wool pillows. The former typifies a pillow stuffing material, whereas the latter is a decorated pillow cover made with wool using a sewing technique known as “hooking.”
What Does Sleeping on a Wool Pillow Feel Like?
In many ways, the wool in pillows offers the same feel as that of polyester fiberfill. It’s springy and cradles your head comfortably. But, it doesn’t overheat. No matter how much you smush the wool, it usually bounces back. It’s soft, yet firm, and makes for a peaceful slumber.
What Is the Difference Between Natural and Organic Wool?
Natural wool, often labeled as PureGrow™ or Eco Wool is obtained from live wool-bearing animals that are raised on traditional farms and treated with unrestricted amounts of antibiotics and other medicines.
The food they consume is non-organic and the fields on which they graze are treated with pesticides and fungicides. The wool, however, is ethically sourced and considered 100% vegan (which doesn’t make sense in our opinion).
In many ways, organic wool is a greener choice because the certifications consider the land on which the sheep graze, animal husbandry, the shearing process, and even the scouring and packaging process of the wool.
Products made of organic wool are mostly traceable, which means the movement of wool can be tracked from farm to shop. Such transparency is conducive to positive animal welfare, and ethics and integrity in sourcing.
Is Wool Really Vegan?
Wool cannot and should not be considered vegan. Technically, the term refers to products that are made by exploiting animals and causing significant harm, suffering, or even death to them.
Yes, wool is usually sourced ethically, and shearing wool-bearing animals is a painless procedure.
However, this does not make the material vegan because there is still a level of exploitation in which we use an animal-derived product for our own needs and luxuries – such as a wool pillow.
Are Wool Pillows Any Good?
Wool pillows are one of the best options if you’re looking for the right pillow. The fiber comes with numerous natural properties that make it safe, comfortable, and suitable for all types of sleepers.
It’s not surprising that wool fillings have consistently made their way into the premium and luxury pillow collections. They are better than good, if not the best.
What Are Their Pros and Cons?
- Soft and springy
- Adjustable loft
- Dust mite-resistant
- Mold and mildew-resistant
- Eco-friendly and sustainable
- Suitable for any sleeping position
- Great for hot sleepers
- Doesn’t cause allergies and infections
- Might cause itching if the wool pokes out
- Not suitable for people with neck and back pain
- Difficult to wash in a washer
- Natural form tends to shrink when washed
- Tends to form lumps gradually
- Tends to go flat eventually
- Difficult to re-fluff
- Not vegan
Which Wool Is the Best for Stuffing Pillows?
The following wool fibers are considered the best for stuffing pillows:
- Merino wool – sourced from the Merino sheep that are known to produce the finest and softest wool
- Lambswool – sourced from the first shearing of lambs younger than seven months
- Cashmere wool – sourced from the undercoat of the Cashmere goats
- Mohair wool – sourced from the undercoat and guard hair of Angora goats
- Angora wool – sourced from the undercoat of the Angora rabbits
- Alpaca wool – sourced from the hair of the South American Alpaca
Are They Safe for Toddlers?
Although pillows aren’t generally recommended for toddlers less than 2 years of age, a wool pillow could be a safe option because of the following properties:
- Absence of toxins
- Dust mite-resistance
Does the Wool in Pillows Cause Allergy?
The wool in pillows is unlikely to cause allergies for two primary reasons:
- Raw wool is laden with a considerable amount of lanolin, a greasy chemical believed to cause contact allergies. But lanolin allergy has now been proven to be a myth created due to faulty patch testing.
According to renowned American dermatologist Albert M. Kligman, no successful case of sensitizing humans to lanolin has been reported yet. The positive cases are mostly false and a consequence of “angry back syndrome,” where a test subject becomes hyperreactive because of repeated tests conducted in the past.
- The wool in your pillow is processed and the lanolin in it is removed before it can be used for stuffing. The lanolin, thus obtained, is a byproduct that is extensively used in high-value cosmetic and other commercial industries.
This is a sweet irony given the bad reputation of the chemical for causing skin allergies. The good news is, even if it does, it wouldn’t be an issue to use a wool pillow because lanolin wouldn’t be present in the filling, to begin with.
Nevertheless, an old and dirty wool pillow causing allergies isn’t surprising. Don’t blame the fill material. Blame the dust mites for feeding on your dead skin cells and thriving inside the pillow.
Does It Cause Itching and Rashes?
Just like any other garment fiber, wool is capable of causing itches and rashes due to its coarse texture. The fibers protrude from the fabric and poke the skin, causing it to flare up.
However, this should not be taken as a sign of “wool allergy.” Contrary to popular belief, wool in itself is not a cutaneous allergen. This fact has been extensively discussed in an analysis published as Debunking the Myth of Wool Allergy.
Furthermore, the wool in your pillow will remain encased, preventing it from coming into direct contact with your skin. No contact means no rashes!
Does It Cause Ear Problems?
Pillows cause ear problems when they are too firm or cannot resist dust mites and other allergens.
The first aspect leads to a condition called “pillow ear” where the outer part of the ear swells, throbs, and hurts because of consistent pressure. The second aspect leads to dust mites and allergens breeding inside the pillow, which might cause ear infections.
Fortunately, wool pillows are incapable of any of these things. They aren’t too firm to cause pillow ears. Furthermore, wool can naturally discourage dust mite infestation and allergen accumulation, making the pillows safe for the ears.
Of course, poor hygiene can result in more than just an ear infection. However, this is true of all pillow types, not just wool pillows.
Does It Trigger Asthma?
As a natural product, wool is non-toxic. Additionally, it comes with hypoallergenic and quick-wicking properties. Therefore, a wool pillow is unlikely to trigger asthma.
Are Wool Pillows Good for Neck and Back Pain?
Although wool pillows offer great comfort and optimal spinal alignment, they might not be suitable for people with neck and back issues. Because of their firmness and natural loft, they often don’t make it to the top lists of pillows recommended for neck and back pain.
Are They Good for Side Sleepers?
Wool pillows are a great choice for side sleepers who typically need thick, firm pillows that can conform to the shape of the head and keep the neck and spine aligned. Wool compresses well and offers the required height and support without letting the head dip too much or pushing it too high.
Are They Good for Stomach Sleepers?
Stomach sleepers can hugely benefit from the firmness offered by wool pillows, which helps in maintaining the shape of the body without placing the head at weird, uncomfortable angles.
Are They Good for Back Sleepers?
For back sleepers, wool pillows strike the right balance between sturdiness and softness. Such pillows offer the required support as well as oodles of comfort.
Wool prevents the head from sinking too deep into the pillow or floating on top of it at a curved angle. Meanwhile, the pressure on the back is minimal, which makes for a natural and comfortable sleeping position.
Are They Good for Hot Sleepers?
Absolutely! You can sleep on a wool pillow all year round without ever feeling hot.
While wool is commonly attributed to warmth and insulation, it is, in fact, a natural thermal regulator. Its fibers come with tiny pores on the outer layer, which gives it excellent wicking properties.
Because of this ability, wool can soak sweat and moisture into its inner layers while keeping the outer layer dry, and later evaporate it all.
This is how the wool in your pillow facilitates adequate airflow and keeps you cool. For this reason, wool pillows are recommended for people who sweat a lot and tend to sleep hot.
Do They Make Good Camping Pillows?
Wool is naturally heavy, so pillows filled with it are unsuitable for travel and camping, particularly ultralight backpacking. Furthermore, such activities attract dust, dirt, grime, and sweat onto the pillows, which already warrant extra care when washing.
Nonetheless, because of the firmness and support it provides, it’s tempting to carry a wool pillow on an adventure trip. However, we strongly advise against it. If you’re looking for better and safer options, check out our detailed list of the best camping pillows.
Do They Get Lumpy?
Every wool pillow eventually gets lumpy, much to the denial and disagreement of pillow sellers. The reasons are many, including…
- Dirt accumulation
- Dust mite infestation
- Use of oversized pillowcases
- Rigorous washing in the machine
- Drying on high heat in the dryer
- Lack of maintenance and cleaning
To avoid lumping, fluff up your pillow every day, put it in a pillowcase of the right size, and keep it clean. For more information, read our article on how to fix lumpy pillows.
Do They Go Flat?
Wool is naturally springy and resistant to compression. When pressed, it bounces back to its original form. However, with use, over time, and due to vigorous machine-washing, the fibers in it tend to become loose.
This is why a wool pillow goes flat in the long run. Expect a wool-filled pillow to lose 30 to 40% of its loft within the first few months of use.
How Do You Fluff Them?
Wool pillows, once squished and felted, are difficult to fluff and reshape. Nevertheless, you can try the following tricks (some at your own risk) to restore their loft:
- Give the pillow a good shake and punch it.
- Expose it to fresh air and mild morning sunlight.
- Air-fluff it in the dryer for 10 minutes without heat by using tennis balls.
None of these methods is guaranteed to re-fluff your wool pillow. But when there’s no other option and all the possibilities that the pillow will end up in the bin, what’s the harm in trying?
Do They Turn Yellow?
For the following reasons, wool of white or natural colors tends to turn yellow inside a pillow:
- Fleece rot
- Moisture retention
- Sweat absorption
- Bacterial activity
- Bleach stain
- Overexposure to sunlight
- Degradation of the material’s natural oils
To whiten yellow wool, take it out of the pillow shell first. Now, add 1 part of 3% hydrogen peroxide to 3 parts of water. Soak a soft cloth in the mixture, blot it onto the yellowed wool, and launder it using a mild liquid detergent. Let it dry thoroughly and put it back into the shell.
Under no circumstances should you use chlorinated bleach to lighten yellowed wool. You will end up damaging the fill material. To learn more, read our article about yellow pillows.
Do They Smell?
Wool pillows are generally odorless. However, some people notice a faint smell that is more reminiscent of a hay barn than a sheep. This odor is light, non-toxic, and quickly dissipates.
Do They Attract Dust Mites, Mold, and Mildew?
Dust mite resistance is among the many wonderful natural properties of wool. The tiny bristles in its fibers make it impossible for dust mites to breed and thrive. Additionally, wool is quick at wicking moisture away, thus depriving dust mites of an important factor to stay alive.
For the same reasons, wool pillows are highly unlikely to be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. The material absorbs moisture quickly but does not hold it for long. The structure of its fibers allows the moisture to trickle down and eventually exit.
How Long Do They Last?
Considering optimum maintenance and usage, pillows stuffed with natural wool last anywhere from 3 to 5 years, while those stuffed with organic wool last from 1 to 3 years. These are still good numbers given that pillows, in general, last for only a year or two.
Is Putting Them in a Pillowcase a Good Idea?
Using a pillowcase for your wool pillow is always a good idea. However, you must use pillowcases of the right size to prevent the pillow from sagging.
Additionally, choose enveloped pillowcases over those open on one end. If needed, use multiple pillowcases. But, remember to wash them at least twice a month.
Can They Be Washed?
Of course! You can hand-wash or even machine-wash your wool pillows. However, keep the following points in mind:
- Untreated raw wool cannot be machine washed. The fill material in your pillow has to go through a lot of processing before it can be washed. It’s generally known as “Superwash® wool.” Before tossing your favorite wool pillow into the washer, make sure the filling inside isn’t raw.
- Wool is made up of keratin, an animal protein that is vulnerable to chemical damage. Be cautious of the laundry detergent you use when washing a wool pillow by hand or in a machine. The milder it is, the better. Furthermore, liquid detergent is preferable to powder detergent because it leaves less residue. Wool wash is the best option.
- As much as possible, avoid washing a wool pillow. If you must wash it, do so by hand. But if you can’t do without a machine, make sure to use a delicate cycle. Most washing machines will have it as “wool cycle” or “hand-wash cycle.”
- When washing wool pillows in the washing machine, always use cold water. Wool shrinks when exposed to heat, moisture, and agitation at the same time unless treated for shrink resistance. While it is impossible to avoid water and physical movement in a washing machine, it is possible to avoid heat. Add extra rinse cycles if possible to remove residual detergent and dirt.
- You can use lukewarm water when hand-washing a wool pillow. However, never put it in the dryer. The agitation and heat might cause material damage. Also, avoid wringing the pillow while attempting to squeeze out the water. Simply knead it gently, place it on a towel and let it dry completely in the sun.
Here’s some more information about how to wash pillows.
Why Isn’t Raw Wool Machine-Washable?
Wool in its natural form comprises keratin fibers. Each fiber comprises strands of tiny overlapping scales called cuticles, and each cuticle contains sharp barbs. Raw wool gets its loft, breathability, thermal-regulation, and moisture-wicking properties by dint of this very structure.
When abruptly exposed to high temperatures, mechanical agitation, and friction in a washing machine or dryer, the cuticles tend to open up, resulting in the barbs interlocking.
This, in turn, causes the fibers to felt together and the material to shrink in a way that it doesn’t regain its original shape. For this reason, raw wool is processed to make it machine-safe. The cuticles are removed so the barbs won’t interlock.
In other words, the wool is pre-shrunk, so it won’t shrink again. This version, usually called “Superwash® wool,” however, is less lofty and less moisture-wicking than the original form. Please note that The Wool Bureau, Inc owns Superwash® as a registered certification mark.
Can You Restore Shrunken Wool?
Shrunken wool is difficult to restore. Nevertheless, these three tricks might work:
- Soaking it for 10 to 30 minutes in lukewarm water mixed with baby shampoo or hair conditioner or mild fabric conditioner
- Soaking it in a solution of one part vinegar mixed with two parts water
- Gently stretching wet wool, especially if the fill material was from a big sheet of wool batting instead of wool puffs
Please note that none of the tricks guarantees complete unshrinking of the wool in your pillow, especially if it has felted to the fullest extent.
How Do You Spot Clean a Wool Pillow?
Wool is naturally stain-resistant to oil-based liquids like paraffin, paste waxes, and diesel. It cannot, however, resist stains from non-oil-based liquids like wine, tea, and coffee. Follow these instructions to clean any visible spot or stain on your wool pillow by hand:
For greasy spots…
- Scrape the spot gently with a spoon or butter knife.
- Place a thick layer of tissue paper on it.
- Run a hot iron over it so the tissues soak up the grease.
- Soak a lint-free cloth in white vinegar or a mild grease remover.
- Dab the spot with it and allow it to rest for some time
- Wash the pillow using a mild wool wash.
For milk stains…
- Spray the spot with a mild stain remover.
- Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Soak a lint-free cloth in lukewarm water mixed with vinegar and salt.
- Dab it on the stain and blot up the excess.
- Allow it to rest for another 15 minutes.
- Wash the pillow using a mild wool wash.
For wine stains…
- Rinse the pillow with clean water.
- Apply a mild wool wash to the stain.
- Allow is to sit for 15 minutes.
- Rinse again with clean water.
- Mix 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part cold water.
- Dab this solution onto the stain.
- Rinse again using a mild wool wash.
For coffee and tea stains…
- Soak a lint-free cloth in a mild wool wash.
- Dab the spot gently with it.
- Blot the access liquid with an absorbent towel.
- Wash with a mild wool wash.
Are They Better Than Down Pillows?
If you are looking for comfort and a luxe sleeping experience, choose a Down pillow. But, if you are looking for something more budget-friendly and durable, pick a wool pillow.
Both wool and Down pillows have their pros and cons. Both are animal-derived (wool from sheep and other wool-bearing animals, and Down from ducks, swans, and geese).
However, Down is way lighter than wool, although it is more expensive. Also, if you are a hot sleeper, you are likely to prefer wool to Down.
Are They Better Than Feather Pillows?
Wool pillows are better than feather pillows when it comes to cost and durability. The moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties of wool add to their superiority. However, the overall luxurious feeling a feather pillow offers is nowhere close to that of wool.
That being said, we must keep in mind that none of the products are vegan. Also, feather pillows come with quills that can easily poke out and cause trouble. This issue is absent in wool pillows.
Are They Better Than Memory Foam Pillows?
Wool pillows are everything memory foam pillows aren’t and more.
Both are supportive, but wool is breathable and quick to wick away moisture. Both are heavy, but wool doesn’t emit an unpleasant odor, especially when new. Both come with anti-allergy properties, but wool suits all types of sleepers – stomach, back, side, and even hot sleepers.
People looking for organic pillows can pick a wool pillow; the stuffing inside is 100% eco-friendly. On the other hand, people looking for a resilient pillow that’s easy to clean and durable can pick a memory foam pillow.
Are They Better Than Buckwheat Pillows?
However, if you want a natural, supportive, and comfortable pillow that isn’t noisy, doesn’t smell, and would suit any type of sleeper, go for wool pillows.
Please keep in mind that both are hypoallergenic, have excellent cooling properties, and are long-lasting. However, buckwheat is more expensive.
Are They Better Than Latex Pillows?
Both latex and wool pillows are organic and soft. Latex pillows are firmer, whereas wool pillows are fluffier. The former is better at conforming to your head than the latter. Also, it lasts longer and doesn’t go flat as rapidly.
Are They Better Than Kapok Pillows?
Although both wool and kapok pillows are suitable for all sleeping positions, the former is firmer, springier, and loftier than the latter.
But just like wool, kapok is breathable and good at regulating temperature. Additionally, it is quick-drying and buoyant, which makes it easier to clean.
Also, if you are looking for an extremely lightweight pillow, there’s nothing better than one stuffed with kapok, which is one of the lightest natural fibers in the world.
Are They Better Than Cotton Pillows?
Although both are natural filling materials for pillows, wool is better at retaining its loft compared to cotton. Additionally, it is stain-resistant, more resilient, and more effective at wicking moisture away.
How Do You Choose a Wool Pillow?
Regardless of your budget, look for the following aspects when choosing a wool pillow:
- The size according to the shape of your head
- Adequate loft according to your sleeping position
- Machine-washability of the pillow
- Organic certification and traceability of the wool
How Do You Tell When It’s Time to Replace It?
Replace your wool pillow if you notice the following:
- Loft gone low
- Musty smell
- Yellow stains that don’t go away
- Pillow not unfolding when folded into half
- Allergies and body pain when you wake up
In general, replace your wool pillows every 1 to 3 years because that’s their average lifespan.
How Much Should You Spend on a Wool Pillow?
A quality wool pillow will cost you anywhere from around $50 to $150 or more. Prices are dependent on a lot of factors, including but not limited to the source of wool, its type, quality, and brand.
Where to Buy the Best Wool Pillows?
To buy the best wool pillows online, visit the following sites:
- The Home Depot
Do you have more questions about wool pillows? Let us know as we’d love to answer.