Over your lifetime, you’ve probably tried a dozen or more pillows in an attempt to eliminate back and neck pain, sleep more deeply, and wake up feeling more refreshed. You’ve probably tried cheap pillows and expensive pillows, synthetic pillows and organic pillows, and everything in between. Regardless of your sleeping position, there are pillows out there made just for you.
Back sleepers, side sleepers, and stomach sleepers all need different kinds of pillows, and certain types have the right consistency, firmness, and malleability you need. The materials used in your pillow can greatly affect your quality of sleep, as well as the durability, health and cleanliness, and comfort of the pillow.
But have you ever wondered where all these different types of pillows came from? How they’re made? If so, you’re in the right place. Let’s find out exactly how that pillow came to be and ended up under your head.
How Are Different Types of Pillow Fillings Made?
Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam pillows are a very popular pillow type. Memory foam is also known as low resistance polyurethane foam. Polyurethane is a plastic polymer used in everything from chairs to padding inside helmets to mattresses and sofas. To make memory foam, many additives and compounds are added to polyurethane. Depending on which are used, the foam will have various densities, viscosities, and elasticity. There are two options for memory foam pillows: shredded and one-piece.
Shredded Memory Foam
To make shredded memory foam filling for pillows, large chunks of memory foam are broken down into small pieces. This makes the pillow height-adjustable. The little pieces move independently, so the pillow will react more to pressure than a one-piece pillow.
One-Piece Memory Foam
One-piece memory foam pillows are a solid pillow option. This type of memory foam pillow still contours to your head and neck like a shredded memory foam pillow, but they aren’t adjustable. Instead, they may be shaped ergonomically for certain sleepers by having a contour or a raised edge for targeted support fo the neck and head.
Down and Down Alternative Pillows
Down pillows are made by extracting the small, soft chest and underbelly feathers from a duck, swan, or goose. These little feathers are quilless so they have no sharp edges. Down alternatives are synthetic versions of the natural feathers. Some examples include cotton or polyester. Alterntives are ideal for people who are on a tighter budget, find down to be unethical, or who have allergies.
Latex pillows are made from a soft foam developed from the sap of rubber trees. The material is firm but malleable. The manufacturing process only takes about 40 minutes for this type of pillow. During the process, the latex forms tons of tiny air bubbles that create the bouncy texture that is comfortable and supportive to sleep on. Sometimes the raw materials will be combined with fillers. The latex is then poured into a mold and vulcanized and washed before heading to packaging.
Organic pillows use sustainable fillings like Buckwheat hulls or Kapok. These all-natural options are good for the environment and are allergen free for a healthy sleep. Buckwheat is commonly used for flour and cereal-type products. When Buckwheat is grinded, the hulls are useless, so they are reused for pillows. Kapok filling comes from Mexico. It is a tree with very soft flowers that have a similar feeling to cotton. These flowers are used to create filling for pillows more sustainably. There are also organic cotton pillows, organic wool pillows, organic memory foam pillows, organic latex pillows, and more to choose from, all sustainably sourced.
Cotton pillows come from cotton grown on cotton plants. Some cotton is organic, meaning it wasn’t treated with pesticides or other chemicals during its growth stage. Cotton is primarily grown in warm climates and is used on everything from duvet covers to clothes to camping equipment. When used in pillows, the cotton is combed and fluffed up similarly to polyester and tangled together to form the classic pillow shape. This process helps the pillow hold its shape over time, but it also makes it less malleable than many people like.
How Are Pillows Made in a Factory?
Before a pillow can be made, its casing must be manufactured first. The manufacturing process for pillow cases is actually fairly straightforward, but it requires large facilities and some impressive technology. Here’s how that pillow cover came to be:
- First, large bolts of a sturdy fabric like cotton and polyester blends are sent to a factory.
- After being treated, the fabric is sent to massive tables to be cut into rectangles – usually in dozens of layers at a time – by large shears or a fabric cutting machine.
- Next up is the sewing machines. While some companies use automatic machines, many still use manual labour for this step of the process. The perimeter of each pair of rectangular pieces is sewn together to connect them. There will be roughly half a foot of edging left open for the filling to enter.
Then, the pillow can be made.
- The cases are taken to a pillow machine where the filling (usually polyester or cotton at this scale) is stored in large machines. At this stage, there are two options. Either the polyester is slotted into the machine to be automatically combed and fluffed up, or workers handle this step manually.
- To fill the pillow, the opening left in the pillow casing is slid onto a tube. The filling is then blown into the pillow case until it is full.
- The filled pillow is taken to another station where a human worker will sew the opening closed. Then they can be sent to packaging and eventually will make its way to the shelves of stores or the homes of buyers.
How to Make a Pillow At Home
The best pillows are ones that fit your individual needs and preferences. The easiest way to get the perfect pillow for you is to make it yourself. While you might think that’s silly, that you’re not nearly crafty enough for something like that, think again! Making a homemade pillow is actually incredibly simple. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose any type of fabric you want. Most people prefer cotton since it is sturdy and readily available. Plus, there are hundreds of fun patterns to choose from. You’ll want to size the fabric properly for your bed pillow, decorative pillow/throw pillow, or body pillow.
- Next, choose your filling. If it’s your first time, opting for a pillow insert may be the easiest choice, but malleable fillings like shredded memory foam or a hypoallergenic organic filling may be the right choice for those with neck pain or allergies respectively.
- The next step is to sew the fabric pieces together to create a rectangle, circle, or whatever shape you want. With customizable fillings, you can also make custom pillow sizes if you have a unique design in mind – feel free to experiment with fun pillow shapes.
- Finally, add the correct amount of filling to make a soft pillow, medium-firm pillow, or firm pillow, then close up the remaining end. We recommend checking the height and feel against your old pillow to make sure you’ll be comfy and supported.