hull-filled pillows: spelt vs buckwheat?
August 9, 2018 3:22 AM   Subscribe

Have you tried both spelt and buckwheat pillows? How different are they?

I recently bought a German spelt-husk bed pillow that I LOVE. The way it forms to accommodate where I need support for my neck and can be molded for comfort as I'm sleeping and changing positions is a gamechanger – and it doesn't feel "hard" to me at all. I love it so much, I immediately bought my husband one, as well, and started thinking of maybe gifting my parents same for Christmas. However, they live in US (while I'm in EU), so I can't buy them the same pillows, and I'm also finding that generally, spelt pillows are much less commonly available in US. I'm wondering if buckwheat is very close, or significantly different? Have you tried both, and have opinions?

Plus, some beanplating grainplating: I've read that grain husk pillows / fillings from outside the US are fumigated upon entry, and I'd want to get high quality pillows that are 100% made in US (and not fumigated), and also heard that in some cases when the grains are not carefully hulled, they can attract bugs / mites. I'd rather not poison or infest my lovely elderly parents, so any recommendations about where to look / brands in US quite welcome.

(PS: Don't worry, I will definitely feel them out on this before inflicting weird pillows on them. :P)
posted by taz to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't tried spelt pillows (although I do love the bread). I will say that buckweat pillows hit all the marks you've described but they have one problem that for me is big enough to be a dealbreaker: they are loud. The husks make a crunching sound when you move your head, and it's right in your ear.

That said, my observation is based on a sample of one buckwheat pillow over a decade ago. Perhaps in the intervening years someone has invented noise-cancelling buckwheat?
posted by Morpeth at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've only used buckwheat, which I use all the time, but think that spelt husks are likely lighter and softer. Buckwheat hull pillows are heavy and solid (though not actually hard) where I imagine spelt husk pillows to be more malleable and 'gentle'. Of course, this is just my guess from knowing what grain husks are like, not from experience, and your question makes me want to try a husk pillow.
posted by anadem at 8:45 AM on August 9, 2018

Here's an Etsy shop that makes custom spelt hull cushions in the US. They do custom orders, so you could contact them and ask if if theyd make a couple of bed pillows (and confirm that their hulls haven't been imported and fumigated).
posted by Kriesa at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

This may be outside your brief, but Sobakawa now makes a pillow filled with microbeads. They are very malleable and pretty much stay how you mold them, are cool, and are much lighter than buckwheat. I've never heard the buckwheat up close, I would think the bead noise (and there is some) is quieter though. As long as your parents don't dispose of the stuffing down the sink, I think these might be a win over questionable agricultural products. Some reviews suggest the beads do compress over time, which maybe spelt will not do.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:09 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

My wife has a buckwheat pillow that she loves, but I can't stand the way it smells. Some nights I have to leave the bed. Just a datapoint that you might want to give the stuff a sniff before you commit.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2018

Unfortunately, I won't be able to sniff first, since I will have to order online from a US place while I'm in Europe. I wonder if the smell is from the fumigation thing I mentioned? Or? Some manufacturers add lavender to the hulls, which is nice if you like lavender, but probably super annoying if you don't (or if they've added too much, or whatever). Fwiw, I don't get any scent from the pillow I have. If I open it up and put my nose / face right into the spelt, I can discern a scent, but it's just a natural, light sort of dried grassy smell.

About the noise, since I didn't mention that, the spelt pillow I have definitely does rustle when shaping the pillow, but I don't hear it at all (or perhaps don't notice it!) when just moving my head normally while sleeping or resting. I'll try to notice more carefully, but it's possible it may also just be a sound that feels organic or normal to me. I have really good hearing and an overjacked startle reflex to a lot of sounds, but this doesn't trigger any annoyance, alarm or wake response while I'm drifting in and out of sleep.
posted by taz at 12:10 PM on August 9, 2018

I have a buckwheat pillow that I love, and a wife with a sensitive sniffer, and she’s never complained about the smell (and she sure as hell would have, had it been bad).
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:22 PM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have an Etsy shop where I make custom poufs, floor cushions and pillows and use spelt husk as my primary filling material. My parents use it as their filling for their meditation cushion business which inevitably gave me access to using it in my products and I love it! They specifically chose it over buckwheat for their meditation cushions after spending years developing their product for a few reasons, I'll attach a link to their website which describes the difference between the two, but here's the gist:

Long lasting
Excellent Breathability

Our spelt is bought in Pennsylvania and shipped to us in NY state and is not fumigated.

Check out my shop and send me a message if you're interested in custom pillows. I have in fact made my boyfriend a bed pillow for his stiff neck and he absolutely loves it.
posted by arayn1 at 4:53 AM on August 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

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