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Pillows 101

Martha Stewart Living Television

If you find yourself punching, folding, or flipping your pillow in the night, it's probably time to buy a new one. But selecting the right pillow among the many varieties available -- fluffy or firm, big or small, synthetic or filled with feathers -- can be daunting. Fortunately, if you keep a few basics in mind, you should be able to get a good night's sleep in no time, according to Mikle Muller, proprietor of Touch of Europe, a bedding store in Westport, Connecticut. Today, she offers the following guidelines for choosing and caring for pillows.

Mikle Muller, proprietor of Touch of Europe, a bedding store in Westport, Connecticut, and Martha discuss different kinds of pillow fillings and how to care for such a precious and important commodity.

Pillow Fillings

Naturally hypoallergenic cotton in its combed form is an excellent filling for people with chemical sensitivities and allergies. However, cotton filling tends to become compacted over time.

Down or down-feather blends are considered the best pillow fillings because of their natural resilience, longevity, and adjustability. Pure down -- the soft clusters found nearest a bird's breast -- makes the most luxurious pillow.

Stiffer than down, feathers are often used in combination to form firmer support. Look for down-feather (higher proportion of down), feather-down (higher proportion of feathers), and all-feather combinations.

Siliconized polyester feels similar to down and maintains its resilience over time. Commonly found “regular” polyester retains its shape but becomes compacted more quickly. Like cotton, polyester filling is a good alternative for people with chemical sensitivities and allergies.

Foam Rubber
Latex foam rubber gives good support and never loses its shape. However, foam rubber crumbles over time.


The ticking -- a pillow's basic cover -- should have at least a 260-thread count to provide an effective barrier to down and feather fillings. Shy away from thread counts that are less than 200 for other fillings.

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