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Are Latex Pillows Safe? What about the smell?


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Sufficient sleep is important to your overall health. Given we spend at least a third of our lifetime sleeping, that’s a lot of time to spend on a pillow.

When you look at it that way, pillows play a significant role in our lives. It’s important we always put safety at the forefront of any pillow we sleep on.

So, what’s the deal with latex pillows? Are latex pillows safe and why do they smell?

Latex pillows are ideal to have; they’re especially safe if you have allergies because they’re hypoallergenic and don’t contain carcinogens that can cause diseases. Thus, there is no toxic off-gassing. The rubber-like smell that latex pillows have can be treated within a few days.

What Are Latex Pillows?

Pillows are produced using various materials, from synthetic and feathers to foam, gel, and latex. Latex is a natural substance that comes from the sap of rubber trees. That makes them sustainable.

Latex can be combined with fillers like foam and chemicals to make pillows and mattresses. That creates synthetic latex. There’s also 100% natural latex, which can be an alternative to foam. Some people are allergic to latex or do not like the latex smell. 

How to Get Rid of the Latex Smell

The rubber-like smell that comes from latex pillows can be unpleasant. This odor is trapped within the packaging container that the pillow comes in and within the pillow itself. That is necessary to keep the pillow clean and protected before you purchase it.

Although smells dissipate over time, you may want to be rid of them sooner than later. To do this, treatment for solid latex pillows and shredded latex pillows may differ slightly.

  • Shredded Latex – To remove the odor from a shredded latex pillow, use the care instructions as directed on the label. 
  • Solid Latex – Non-washable solid latex pillows take a little longer to off-gas and may require a little more treatment. Since these are non-washable, air the pillow on a clothesline on a cloudy, dry day. That is important, as the sun can break down and discolor the natural latex. The pillow can also be placed in front of a fan or open a window to speed up the process.

Another solution is to put the pillow in a clean, dry bathtub and sprinkle baking soda on both sides of it. After a while, you can vacuum the naturally deodorizing powder. 

Covering your pillow with a protective cover will help with any lingering odor after that, but you should remove it daily to let the pillow breathe until the smell is completely gone.

What About If I Have a Latex Allergy?

A latex allergy is when your body’s immune system overreacts to certain kinds of proteins found in natural rubber latex. There are three types of latex reactions:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis: This is the least threatening type of reaction, and happens due to repeated exposure to chemicals in latex gloves. That leads to dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and skin problems. It usually takes effect 12 to 24 hours after making contact with the latex.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This is more of a delayed reaction, taking as long as up to four days after contact, and has the same reactions as with the irritant contact dermatitis, but with more severity. It spreads to different parts of the body and lasts longer.
  • Immediate allergic reaction: This is more serious and can show up as a nasal allergy with hay fever symptoms, pink eye, cramps, hives, and severe itching. More severe symptoms can also take place that can be life-threatening.  

There is no known cure for a latex allergy. The best prevention if you know you’re allergic is to avoid contact with latex. 

What About Dust Mites?

Can-dust-mites-live-in-memory-foam-pillows-or-mattresses

Our pillows can be home to many mechanisms that can trigger conditions like asthma, eczema, and hay fever for many people. Dust mites are a major cause of this.

Dust mites tend to live in warm, humid conditions and munch on dead skin cells. That is why pillows are such a major trigger for people who have allergies. Our pillows collect dirt, oils, and dead skin cells; and dust mites, molds, bacteria, and fungi have a field day. Who knows what’s living in there when you’re sleeping.

Latex pillows are hypoallergenic, which should eliminate the need for dust mites living in your pillow, but dead skin cells can grow on any pillow and if we’re not properly taking care of our pillow, that can cause problems down the road.

Here are some tips that can not only reduce the risk of allergens in your pillow but can also keep sleep space clean:

  • Wash your pillows and pillowcases often — at least every couple of weeks.
  • Use pillow protectors and wash them often also.
  • Replace your pillows when necessary. How often you replace depends on the type of pillow, but most pillows should be replaced within two to three years.
  • Keep your pillows dry to avoid mildew. When you wash them, make sure they dry thoroughly; never sleep on a damp pillow.
  • Vacuum and dust your bedroom often.
  • Keep pets off the bed.

Does Natural Latex Off-Gas?

You’ve probably experienced that new scent smell when you purchase a new product. Off-gassing occurs when new, manufactured items release volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs, and other chemicals.

That off-gas smell can come in our new cars and from many of our household products like cabinets, tables, sofas, and even what we sleep on like our mattresses and pillows.

Everything off-gasses. Some pillows, mostly memory foam, emit carcinogens such as benzene and naphthalene from off-gassing that have health risks associated with it. A carcinogen is a substance or radiation that promotes cancer formation or carcinogenesis.

When breathed in at high levels, some of the effects of these carcinogens can lead to dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, lack of appetite, nausea, blood in the urine, and cancer, among other things. However, once the pillow has had the time to off-gas, it is deemed safe again. In most cases, the off-gassing doesn’t last long enough to negate high levels of exposure. 

While everything off-gasses, latex pillows do not off-gas toxic chemicals. Latex pillows often have a rubber-like smell that comes from the plastic packaging they’re wrapped in. 

The Benefits of Latex Pillows

Latex pillows offer many benefits that include:

  • Hypoallergenic: Natural latex pillows are naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites. Many people (around 20 million) have dust mites allergies, which makes latex pillows such an ideal choice for them. Latex is also antimicrobial and resistant to mold and mildew. 
  • Non-toxic: Latex pillows are less toxic than most other pillows because they are natural. The carcinogens found in other pillows can be harmful to your health and cause many illnesses, including death if breathed in at high levels for a long period of time. That is not a concern with 100% latex pillows.
  • Excellent Support: Since we spend a good amount of our time sleeping, it makes sense that we use a pillow that provides comfort and conforms to the natural shape of our bodies. That is important because it helps to maintain proper body posture while we’re sleeping. Latex pillows mold according to your shape to give the best support to the upper portion of your body. They are ideal for providing additional support to your spine. Latex pillows are also resistant to impression and can stay in their proper shape for years. 
  • Breathability: Natural latex pillows have an open cell structure that allows for excellent air circulation. That makes them more breathable than most other pillows, and this also helps to maintain a comfortable temperature. This means the material doesn’t get too hot or too cool, no matter the season.

Conclusion

If you’ve never felt the need to ensure safety in your pillows, rest assured in latex pillows. Latex pillows are an ideal choice for most people. When it comes to the inhalation of toxic chemicals and most allergies, latex pillows have proven to be safe and offer many other benefits, as well.

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas and I'm the author and content operator at The Bedding Planet. I've always had a big interest in bedding and more specifically sleep. If I find something that makes me sleep better, whether that's a lifestyle change or a better bedding environment, I'm ready to share it with the world!

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