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Synthetic pillows (memory foam), and why you should use wool instead.

Synthetic pillows (memory foam), and why you should use wool instead.

Our wool pillows are entirely free from synthetics and chemical adulteration. Why? To explain, let's start with what synthetic pillows are and how they ultimately aren’t the right choice if you’re looking for a quality, healthy, and comfortable pillow. 

At The Woolshire we make quality pillows using 100% wool encased in organic cotton. Our wool pillows are entirely free from synthetics and chemical adulteration. Why? To explain, let's start with what synthetic pillows are and how they ultimately aren’t the right choice if you’re looking for a quality, healthy, and comfortable pillow. 

Understanding Synthetic Pillows

Synthetic pillows have become increasingly popular in recent years primarily due to their affordability and durability. When you walk into a Bed Bath and Beyond or search for “Cheap Pillows” on Amazon, these are the types of pillows you will most likely see. Specifically, two of the most popular forms of these types of pillows are synthetic down and memory foam. 

Memory Foam

Memory foam was popularized because of its unique feel and compression characteristics (remember the commercials with the undisturbed wine glass on the mattress and kid jumping up and down?)

However the downside of memory foam pillows is that they are entirely artificially made. The sleep foundation explains that memory foam is made of the following materials: 

Polyols are the basic building blocks of memory foam. These are molecules that contain more than one alcohol chemical group, called a hydroxyl group. Polyols are organic compounds and can be found in everything from sugar to plastic.

Diisocyanates are a type of chemical compound that chemically reacts with polymers to produce polyurethane foam. Toluene diisocyanate (TDI) and methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) are the most common diisocyanates used in memory foam.

Blowing agents are used to help create the chemical reaction that makes the foam. Most current companies use water, which is less toxic than traditional chemical-based blowing agents.

Many substances used to make memory foam are derived from petroleum, and some shoppers express concern that their memory foam mattress may be toxic.These materials are often treated with chemicals to enhance their properties, such as moisture-wicking or flame-retardant capabilities.”

Synthetic Down

Synthetic down doesn’t fair much better as a non-toxic pillow alternative. Because these pillows are often treated with the same chemicals that the memory foam ones are, they have the same risks. 

There was even an interesting study that shows how real down pillows are treated with chemicals and could “pose a major risk to human health”. 

In addition, synthetic pillows can trap allergens, dust mites, and other irritants, which can exacerbate allergies and respiratory issues. This is because synthetic materials are often tightly woven and do not allow for proper ventilation. Also, it’s usually not possible to replace the fill material for synthetic pillows. As a result, these pillows can become a breeding ground for bacteria and other microorganisms.

Health Impacts of Pillow Choice 

We sleep for nearly a third of our lives - what we put under our head while we sleep is important! Synthetic pillows shed microplastics, contain chemicals such as formaldehyde, and because of their flammable nature, they are required to contain flame retardant. All three of these have been linked to be both endocrine disruptors (messing with hormones) and carcinogenic (linked with cancer). Synthetics have become the standard in only the last few decades, so we are unsure of their long term health effects, but we do know that the chemicals that are used and that offgas from synthetics are not healthy to human health.

Wool and organic cotton on the other hand are produced without any chemicals and are fibers that have been used for thousands of years. Our wool is cleaned with organic soap and carded into wool batts. Our cotton is grown organically without the use of pesticides and is entirely free from chemical treatment. 

Environmental Impact

Beyond the potential harm from these pillows (you’re basically sleeping on a ball of artificial chemicals) they aren’t good for the environment. It makes sense that since synthetic pillows are a mix of plastics and artificial chemicals they don’t easily break down and aren’t recyclable. After their short lifespan they end up in landfills and can take centuries to breakdown. Wool pillows don’t suffer the same fate as the material can be easily recycled. The wool can be turned into textiles or cleaned and reused in a variety of uses. Wool also composts very quickly once returned to the earth. Though we’re confident that you won’t need to recycle our wool pillows anytime soon because they are built to last.

Furthermore, synthetic pillows are produced by energy intensive machines in large factories contributing to pollution. On the other hand, wool pillows are produced by… you guessed it– sheep in green fields. What’s more is that our wool is sourced from sheep that aren’t exposed to pesticides or chemical additives in their diet. In other words, they are happy sheep. 

The Morality of Production

Many pillow companies take advantage of cheap labor by importing their petroleum based material from largely unregulated chemical factories. To save the company money and provide an inexpensive option for customers, the factory workers (many in poorer countries) are both exploited and exposed to carcinogenic chemicals. Our pillows, however, have a local supply chain that supports both Montana wool growers and organic cotton Texas farmers. Our wool pillows are handmade by our family with these local American grown materials.

Durability and Longevity

The National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing your pillow every 1 to 2 years. A big part of this is because synthetic pillows absorb chemicals and allergens quickly. They can’t be easily cleaned or have their inner material replaced. Further the materials in these pillows are often not built to provide support long term. It wouldn’t be surprising if ones on the cheaper end need to be replaced even quicker. Everytime you replace a synthetic pillow, you are exposed to the initial strong off-gassing from the chemicals used in production. 

Wool pillows, on the other hand, are built to last. We expect our pillows to slightly compress over the first 6 months because of their organic nature, but we can always fill your pillow with more wool. We guarantee our pillows and will add more wool to your preferred loft should they compress beyond your liking in the first year of use. Our quality wool pillows will last you decades with proper care. 

Another nice bonus with wool pillows is their ability to wick away moisture and help maintain a balanced sleeping temperature. Wool is an excellent insulator, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It also has the unique ability to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp, which helps to keep you dry and comfortable throughout the night. But that's not all. Wool also is naturally flame retardant and actually improves air quality! Rather than adding to the off-gassing chemicals in our homes, wool purifies the air by binding to harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and destroys them at the molecular level. According to this study wool has been found to help purify indoor air for up to 30 years!

Our pillows are made with the natural fibers that are grown by the earth because that is what we were meant to sleep on. Keep the chemical factories free from your bedding and breathe easy knowing that your wool pillow from The Woolshire is the most natural pillow you can get. 

Synthetic pillows (memory foam), and why you should use organic wool instead.

Woolshire Team
Woolshire Team Author