As folks lay their heads down to sleep, they may not ever think about what's inside of the pillow under their heads. Pillow stuffing comes in several varieties, depending on the type of pillow. While none of the materials are out of the ordinary, some may trigger an unpleasant or allergic reaction, so it's a good idea to become aware of what's inside your pillow.
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Most pillows are stuffed with a material that has a specific function--to support whatever is resting on them. That could be a head, neck, shoulders or someone's behind, if they happen to be sitting on the pillow. Other pillows are purely decorative and serve no other purpose than to look good.
One of the softest pillow stuffing materials is down, or an array of goose or other feathers, which are often used for bed pillows. Foam is another key component in many bed pillows. The foam can be one solid block the size and shape of the pillowcase, or be smaller strips or chunks that are stuffed inside the pillow's cover. Pillow stuffing, usually made of some type of polyester, is another option.
Some people do not get a good night's sleep on pillows that are too soft or not supportive enough of a sore neck or other body parts. Down is also known to cause allergies, making people cough, sneeze, itch and be plagued with watery red eyes. But feathers are not the only type of stuffing that could cause a reaction. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to any of the synthetic materials widely used in lower-grade pillows. Lots of dust, dust mites or other debris that can settle in an old pillow may also cause itching, sneezing or coughing as well.
People looking to make their own pillows can easily buy the stuffing needed at many fabric or craft stores. Pillow stuffing is also sold online, either by the piece or by the pound (see Resources below). Do-it-yourself stuffing options range from feathers sold by the pounds to a soft, spun silk polyester.
Pillows should usually not just be thrown in the washing machine if they need to be laundered. The high velocity of a spinning washer can rip open the pillow's outer coating. Washing machines have also been known to mangle the foam, resulting in bumps, bulks and pillows that no longer lay flat. This can be especially true for the pillows sold as pet beds. Pillows should be washed gently by hand and allowed to air dry thoroughly to keep them clean.