It seems that every pillow you see nowadays is called hypoallergenic, a term which means that the product is said to not cause an allergic reaction when used by the majority of people. However, what you should know is that the term ‘hypoallergenic’ is not regulated, which is why the vast majority of pillows nowadays claim ‘hypoallergenic’ on their label because, why not? Everyone else is doing it! However if you are aware that you have allergies, dust mites and their droppings are a very powerful catalyst for allergic reactions. While no pillow is 100% allergen free, the different types of pillow stuffing can have various hypoallergenic properties which we will explore in detail below.
Synthetic Versus Natural Fill Pillows?
Despite what you might think synthetic fill pillows are not more naturally hypoallergenic compared to natural fill pillows. This is because the dust mites don’t eat your pillow, they eat your dead skin cells so they don’t care what kind of stuffing your pillow has; it’s just their home. Further, a study by the University of Manchester found that synthetic fill pillows have more dust mites and fungal spores compared to natural fill pillows, and in the case of fungus, had more varieties of fungus compared to the natural fill ones as the researchers even found fungus that you can find on your damp shower walls.
In either case however, dust mites can be killed, which also denatures their allergens by washing your pillows and bedding in temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Keep in mind that not all pillows can be washed at that temperature, in fact, some pillows can’t even be washed at all. We will mention this in our explanations of the various types of pillow fillings below. For pillows that can be washed, wash them at least once every three months.
Polyester pillows are the most common pillows that dust mites love, however they are also the easiest pillows to wash. Because there are such a wide variety of polyester pillows, there can be great variation between each individual pillow, and even variations between the washing instructions. For example, many polyester pillows can only be washed up to temperatures of 112 degrees Fahrenheit which would not be sufficient to kill and denature all the dust mites and their allergens. The conclusion is that if you have allergens, it is ok to get a polyester pillow, just make sure you wash them regularly and select those that can be washed at temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also get special dust mite covers for your pillow, if necessary.
Memory Foam / Latex Pillows
Memory foam and latex pillows (many are a blend of both), do have some allergy-resistant properties (mites cannot burrow into its surface), however they are by no means allergy-free. Further, some people might find themselves allergic to latex or the polyurethane, however this is relatively rare. And while they might be naturally more hypoallergenic, these pillows do have one drawback: they cannot be washed. This is because the memory foam properties, which make them both easily contoured yet firm, make them excellent neck pain pillows however water can fill the tiny holes found in the foam and cause it to lose its viscoelastic properties in addition to making them brittle and crumbly. Check out this awesome neck pain pillow which is the best memory foam pillow for neck pain as voted by experts. If you have a pure latex pillow you can soak in water and laundry detergent and air dry (no direct sunlight). Memory foam pillows cannot even be soaked in water and even excessive sweating can be an issue. You have to use a vacuum to maintain the cleanliness of your memory foam pillow.
Natural Cotton / Wool / Feathers / Down Pillows
Research has shown that these natural pillows have lower levels of dust mite allergens compared to synthetic polyester pillows. However, these pillows are not as easily washed as their polyester counterparts so pay careful attention to their washing instructions. Also note that some people may be allergic to the wool or feathers themselves.
Buckwheat Hull Pillows
This new organic pillows are all the rage nowadays, made from the hulls of buckwheat seeds (which is used to make buckwheat flour, a gluten free alternative). They are heavy and firm, yet easily contoured because each pillow just has thousands and thousands of hulls. And, they are naturally resistant to dust mites as well. Seems like good news, right? Except that researchers have found that buckwheat hull pillows may actually be worse for allergy sufferers, not because of the dust mites, but because of residue buckwheat flour that can often be found in the hulls, which when inhaled can trigger allergies and increase risk of asthma. Of course, the amount of residue flour may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.