How to Choose a Nontoxic Pillow (and What’s Wrong with the Pillow You Have Now)

Written by:

Maia James


Updated: 09/29/2023

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In high school, I had a memory foam pillow that I loved so much I took it with me when I had a sleepover at a friend’s house. Now, of course, I know that memory foam is some of the most toxic stuff in our homes and definitely not something you want to press your face against all night.

What About Pillows Made of Down/Down Alternatives?

I happen to love down pillows, and from a toxicity perspective these are fine, but when you learn about the way that some down feathers are pulled from live birds, it makes this a less appealing option. If you’re buying a down pillow, you’ll always want to find out where/how the down is sourced.
Down alternative (such as Primaloft) are made of polyester, which is a type of plastic, so also not the Good Stuff (although it’s unclear if polyester really poses a significant off-gassing risk).

What you Do WANT in a Pillow?

Natural pillows come in a range of different materials, and depending on your needs/sleeping preferences, you’ll want to select one of the following:

  1. Cotton: A firm pillow that offers good neck support and is great for back-sleepers.
  2. Kapok: These are good for side sleepers and also great for people who like down. White Lotus Organic Cotton Sleep Pillows from Gimme the Good Stuff(Kapok is a nut-fiber from a rain forest tree.)
  3. Shredded latex: This feels the most like down to me, and really conforms to your head and neck, making it perfect for side sleepers. Make sure you select a pillow made of 100% shredded natural latex, not a latex blend. Latex does have a faint rubbery smell which may bother some sensitive individuals.
  4. Wool: Wool is insulating (keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter) and absorbs moisture, so a wool pillow is good if you get hot or sweat during sleep. This pillow is very firm and will compress over time. Make sure you choose a pillow made of untreated wool because conventional wool can be doused in insecticides.
  5. Buckwheat: This is a heavier pillow that’s popular in yoga classes. It provides lots of neck support, and is great for back sleepers.

Stay sane,

Maia, Founder & CEO

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Leave a Reply

  1. Cristina Brossa Vidal Avatar
    Cristina Brossa Vidal

    Hi Maya, what about the treatments post manufacturing of the raw materials? The pillows you recommend, do they have any anti bacterial or anti mites treatment?

  2. Kelly Avatar

    I just bought an “I love my pillow” 100% polyurethane pillow, then saw the bad news about foams. The manufacturer website refers to it as a safe “water based polyurethane”. I haven’t found much online about this. I found “According to the EPA, polyurethane mattresses contain cured or finished diisocyanates that are not hazardous to health.”

    What are your thoughts on this? It sounds fishy to me.

  3. Asia O Avatar
    Asia O

    I have a poly pillow I got for Christmas and absolutely love… is there a safer way of at least keeping it on my bed?

  4. Laura Avatar

    I’m also trying to find a pillow for my toddler, but all of the affordable options (<$30) are poly fill. Is there any way that’s non toxic?

    1. Suzanne Weaver-Goss Avatar
      Suzanne Weaver-Goss

      Unfortunately, poly is not Good Stuff. The best is to search for a sale on feather pillows or make your own.

  5. Marilyn Avatar

    I have searched and searched. And still can find nothing about polyester fiber off gassing. Anyone know how can we find out if Dacron/poly pillows off gas?

  6. Sarah Avatar

    Hi Maia, we are looking for an totally organic pillow that has natural materials that would make a good pillow for our toddler. Any suggestions on a brand and type?

  7. Robin J Avatar
    Robin J

    Yes! You are truly amazing, thank you so much! So glad I found your site a few years back, the work you do is incredibly helpful to so many.

  8. Robin J Avatar
    Robin J

    Hi Maia,
    We have a Kapok pillow from White Lotus with the zipper so we could remove some stuffing until our toddler is older. But I am searching for a pillow protector (he’s a drooler). Any recommendations? I’d like to keep the pillow free of moisture, accidents, etc. thanks!

    1. Maia James Avatar
      Maia James

      Hi Robin-
      Would this fit the bill?

  9. jodie Avatar

    Hi! We have bought soaring heart mattresses and pillows through your site, but my almost 2 year old is getting to the age where i’m thinking of getting him a toddler pillow, are there any toddler pillows you recommend? I’m not having a lot of luck with soaring hear and naturepedic:( thank you!

    1. Maia James Avatar
      Maia James

      this looks like a good option:

  10. Dorothy Barnett Avatar

    Hi nice tips! i was wondering if you know the Coco-Mat brand. i joust bought 2 natural latex pillows and i absolutely loved them. they are made completely with natural materials and they can be customized to your secific needs in order to offer you the greatest support. i would think you should make a review on Coco-mat, i would be really thrilled to hear your own opinion about it.

  11. Judy Jackson Avatar
    Judy Jackson

    What do you know about MyPillow brand? Any organic certification?

    1. Maia James Avatar
      Maia James

      I keep seeing this advertised, and need to investigate!

  12. mitch Avatar

    We’ve been looking into purchasing organic latex pillows and we’re hoping you can help…do you know anything about the organic latex pillow offered by organic textiles? It says from their website that it “pillows meet the GOTS certification requirement which include the use of organic soil, organic growth and proper harvesting techniques.” I can’t find much on the company when researching them, however I also do not see any recommendations for specific brands of pillows like you have for many other product lines. In the mattress companies you recommend, Savvy rest has a similar pillow, however they are charging $200+ and their pillows are not returnable!

    Any guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated…

    1. Maia James Avatar
      Maia James

      I am sorry but I don’t know that brand of pillow (Organic Textiles). If you want a latex pillow, this is the one I like (and have):