Hey, what's in these things I put my head on every night?
March 5, 2013 10:54 PM   Subscribe

Mr. K brought home 2 foam pillows for $10 from Costco, and my immediate reaction was "Gack. What do they out in them to be able to sell them for $5 each?" Then I remembered that I have actually never thought much about pillow insides.

I prefer feather pillows, but do they sweep the feathers up from the slaughterhouse floor? All these years, blissful ignorance. But now I need to know. Perhaps someone has worked in a pillow factory?

So what I'm looking for here is actual personal knowledge and/or experience. Or even unsupported opinions. I can find the history of pillows. I can find many, many claims for pillows that are on sale -- but how truthful are they likely to be? (I'm pretty sure that the worse the pillow, the more extravagant the claim.) Please tell me what you know.
posted by kestralwing to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don’t they say what’s in them? I thought that was a legal requirement, those "do not remove" tags.
posted by bongo_x at 11:02 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are two ways to get down feathers. One is live-plucking, which is a byproduct of the meat industry, and much cheaper. It is exactly as inhumane as "live-plucking" sounds.

The other way to get down feathers is from live geese kept for their down-- you catch them around moulting season when they're losing their feathers, and brush them out. Sort of like shearing a sheep. They don't like it, but it doesn't hurt them. This is pretty humane, as far as I am aware. A very small percentage of the world's down is salvaged from nests in the wild (birds use it for nest padding.)

To the best of my knowledge, it's very difficult to discover the source of your particular product's down feathers-- you're legally entitled to know the ingredients, per the "do not remove" tag, but not the source. Then again, I don't have a citation for what I just told you, so I could well be wrong. I looked into this a while back when I became a vegetarian (and chose not to use down-- for that reason and because I've met a few people who are allergic to down) so my knowledge is circa a few years ago.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:22 PM on March 5, 2013

There are rubber latex pillows that are marketed as sustainable (I saw one with bamboo fibres for the covering to make it very eco) and rubber is a renewable agricultural resource and while not a great industry for the actual workers, it is not as bad as palm oil plantations. We bought them because they are awesomely comfortable, but it's also a nice side effect.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:43 PM on March 5, 2013

No actual personal experience or experience, but these buckwheat pillows look good.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:07 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have been sleeping on a buckwheat pillow for the better part of a year because my neck was jacked up. Buckwheat pillows are the bomb! It's really important to get the proper Japanese kind, not the Amazon or chain store kind. I went to a Japanese futon store in SF where I live, but you can probably order online. It takes a few nights to get used to but it's the best sleep I have ever gotten and no neck problems. Also, you know what's in them, it's buckwheat.
posted by twiggy32 at 2:33 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Are you sure they're made of foam? I'm not willing to spend much on pillows and mine usually have some sort of batting on the inside.
posted by XMLicious at 4:55 AM on March 6, 2013

Best answer: I just bought those same pillows on Friday and so far I don't far are much about what's inside them because they are comfy as heck. If you unzip the case and peek inside you'll see a fabric mesh bag with foam pieces inside. Maybe they're leftovers from the mattress factory.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:57 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a couple of those cheap foam pillows from Costco (which sounds like what you're describing). I was curious too, so I slit one open to look, and they're filled with kibbles of memory foam. As far as I can tell, they're inexpensive because they allow memory foam pillow manufacturers to sweep up the memory foam trimmings from the slaughterhouse floor, so to speak, and sell them (I'm pretty sure the pillow insides were never literally on the floor).

If you're comfortable sleeping on memory foam in general--I personally worry a little about offgassing, but tend to buy stuff like that used and/or keep it for a long time, which I imagine mitigates any risk--these should be fine too, despite the low price.
posted by pullayup at 5:59 AM on March 6, 2013

Great answers above, but if you're worried you should definitely go buckwheat. Seriously. They're expensive, but so worth it.
posted by AmandaA at 7:18 AM on March 6, 2013

Are you sure they're made of foam? I'm not willing to spend much on pillows and mine usually have some sort of batting on the inside

I think the cheap pillows I own usually have spun polyester (or sometimes another common plastic fiber) batting. Which is a pretty innocuous material. (Though on the one hand, yeah, it's a plastic, but OTOH it's equivalent to a very few discarded drink bottles, clamshell packages, etc.)
posted by hattifattener at 10:21 PM on March 6, 2013

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