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Polyester vs. Cotton Pillows: What’s The Difference & is One Better? – The Bedding Planet

Polyester vs. Cotton Pillows: What’s The Difference & is One Better?

This post is a part of the complete polyester pillow buyers guide

Pillows are part of our bedding, and they are very effective in giving us a good rest that relaxes our bodies. However, pillows exist in different sizes, shapes and with additional filling materials. Cotton and Polyester pillows are the common types in the market, and you might get confused over which one to buy.

After reading this post, you will know the difference between the pillows and determine which one suits you better.

What’s the difference between polyester and cotton pillows? Polyester pillows are made with polyester which is a synthetic fiber, the same fiber that makes up PET-bottles. This makes them inexpensive and easy to replace. Cotton pillows are made with natural cotton and are more comfortable and loftier, making them a bit pricier than polyester pillows.

This post provides detailed information on why one is better than the other. Keep reading to find out what pillow you might want to use.

The History of Polyester and Cotton Pillows

From the books of history, pillows were used by people as early as 7000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The early Egyptians used pillows carved from stone, and wealthy Asians also liked hard pillows made from metal, stone, wood, and porcelain.

The wealthy Asians believed that sleeping on soft pillows would drain an individuals’ energy while sleeping on hard pillows would transfer energy to the human brain from the hard materials.

Greeks were the first to use soft and comfortable pads built from feathers, cloth, reeds, feathers, or stuffing straws. Over time, other societies and cultures made lofty and supportive pillows from bird feathers and cotton.

Modern pillows have since used cotton and polyester as the most common fabrics besides other materials, and they are now used worldwide.

What is a Polyester Pillow?

Polyester is a material that is manufactured in a factory and is not natural. However, it feels and looks like planted natural cotton. Polyester fibers have become a common material for making pillows, mainly because they are cheaper than plant materials. Compared to organic fibers, synthetic fibers are more economical and readily available.

Polyester pillows are available in any store that sells bedding items. They exist in different shapes and sizes, they are reasonably priced, and they are easily replaceable. These pillows, however, have their advantages and disadvantages that would determine why people buy them or why they choose a different type of pillow.

Polyester pillows have shredded fiber fills or shredded clumps in them. These materials are usually light, and they weigh an average of two to three pounds. Although the fillings are from polyester material, the covers can be made from cotton or a mix of cotton and polyester.

The fillings in these pillows are purely synthetic, giving them a hypoallergenic advantage, which benefits people with respiratory conditions. Perhaps another big reason people choose to buy polyester pillows is that they are machine washable and rarely absorb smells like cotton.

Types of Polyester Pillows Available


If you prefer sleeping while cuddling a pillow, the body pillow is what you need to buy. It features a long and narrow design that allows you to wrap your arms and legs around it.


From the name, you can already tell that this type of pillow is most common in Europe. They are primarily square-shaped and come in varying sizes depending on your preferences. Most of them are used as throw pillows etc.


The king-size pillow is the biggest, designed for people who turn a lot when sleeping. The pillows are a bit longer than the standard size pillows and nearly the same size as queen size pillows.


A queen-size pillow is somehow sizeable than a standard model, but not by a considerable margin. Such pillows are suitable for people who move a lot when they sleep. They efficiently serve those who do not find comfort in the ordinary pillows.

Super standard

This is the best pillow for people who find the standard size pillow to be small


This is the most common pillow sold everywhere. It is cheaper and the actual size for many users. A standard pillow is also more compact than other pillows.

What is a Cotton Pillow?

A cotton pillow has cotton fiber fillings on the inside. Cotton is organic, and they last longer since they are harvested from plants. Cotton has been harvested and used across many civilizations, and up to date, it is still a broadly used material.

Given that cotton pillows contain 100% cotton, they are substantial and somehow maintain their softness. They retain their shapes and loft well, giving you much better support when you sleep. These pillows are well suited for side and back sleepers.

Cotton allows for breathability and heat absorption, which is essential for hot sleepers’ body temperature. Additionally, most organic cotton pillows are free from allergens, chemicals, and synthetics, making them comfortable for any user. There are cotton pillows that are washable in the machine, which means that you can easily take care of your pillow once in a while.

Polyester Pillows vs. Cotton Pillows: A thorough comparison


Polyester pillows are made to mimic the softness of cotton pillows, only that they use synthetic fibers for fillings. When buying the pillows, they feel fluffy and look thick when you place them on the bed. When you lay on a polyester pillow, it can easily take a unique shape to support your head and neck adequately. The pillow will also resume its standard form when you wake up in the morning. Polyester pillows can also feel lumpy and less comfortable than cotton pillows.

Meanwhile, Cotton pillows are softer than polyester pillows, thicker, and fluffier. The only difference is that cotton pillows are more rigid when they are still new. They offer good support for your neck, head, and shoulders, but some people may find them too hard. You can, however, fluff cotton pillows to keep them in shape for a long time.


Cotton and polyester fillings are designed to absorb heat from the body since they have spaces within to allow aeration. However, polyester pillows may get too hot and uncomfortable for people who sleep hot or in warmer rooms. Its breathability is limited, and when used over time, it may get sticky due to sweat and body fluids.

On the other hand, Cotton pillows can maintain their temperatures over time due to their organic nature. The cotton fibers tend to breathe better than the synthetic fiber in polyester pillows. This means that the pillow is suitable to use in any region or sleeping conditions.

Cost and availability

Synthetic fiber pillows are cheaper than cotton pillows for many reasons. First, the material is artificial, hence readily available. You can find polyester pillows at any store that sells pillows or beddings, and they come in different sizes and shapes, which offers variety.

Cotton pillows have become so rare due to the increased use of polyester. This means that scarcity has affected the prices of pillows, and if you have to get one, you will have to pay a premium. Also, there are only a few stores that sell legit and high-grade cotton pillows. People are often confused about buying synthetic fiber pillows instead of cotton since they all look the same.


Both pillows can be high maintenance, and polyester pillows can be washed in the machine and take a shorter time to dry. The downside, however, is that they can quickly lose their form and structure once they have become wet. Polyester pillows lose their consistency and may get lumpy, which is bad for the head and neck. Cotton pillows will start clumping and become hard-surfaced due to compressions.


Typically all pillows should be replaced at some point. What differs is how long it will take before you replace your pillow. In terms of durability, cotton pillows tend to last longer than synthetic fiber pillows. After using polyester pillows for a long time, they get clumpy, especially when not regularly fluffed. The fibers can further compress and flatten, making the pillow uncomfortable, thus the need to buy a new one.

Cotton fillings take time to compress, and even though they will go flat at some point, they can serve you for an extended period than synthetic fiber pillows. Cotton can hold weight for a long time and still maintain its softness and structure. The only thing that would interfere with the durability of your pillow is frequent washing since it might hold in moisture and lead to mildew growth.


Polyester pillows are made from manufactured synthetic material which has undergone chemical processes to create. They usually have a smell that may not be satisfactory to a majority of users. Even though some brands sell hypoallergenic pillows, some people may have allergic reactions to some of the pillows.

Additionally, synthetic fibers can easily absorb sweat, making them a perfect breeding ground for dust mites. If you are sensitive to chemicals, it is better to use a different type of pillow.

Cotton pillows, on the other hand, are more comfortable and long-lasting. The cotton fills are all-natural and organic, meaning they do not contain any chemical matter that is harmful to humans. The pillows are also odor-free and cannot easily absorb smells from outside. Hence, they can keep away mites and other bacteria that would ruin your experience.

Cotton pillows are also made purely from natural plants, meaning that no materials from animals are added. They are also biodegradable and compostable, so they won’t have any environmental effects when you dispose of them.

Polyester vs. Cotton pillows: Which one is better?

Best Affordable Pillows For All Sleeping Positions

A polyester pillow is the best option if you are looking for an inexpensive pillow that serves the luxury of a cotton pillow. These pillows are also reliable since they can be found at any retail or wholesale store.

If you like to sleep on your side or stomach or want to cuddle as you sleep, this is the best pillow since they offer more comfort. The material is also easy to maintain since you can throw your pillow into a washing machine, and they do not get soggy like cotton, so they dry faster.

Cotton pillows are good if you are looking for something pricier than the standard polyester pillows. They are loftier, softer, and provide more support. The cover material and the cotton inside are also long-lasting, so you will not have to replace them any time sooner. A cotton pillow also serves people who like to sleep on their backs or sides and feel more thickness.

Generally, cotton pillows are better than polyester pillows since they are versatile and long-lasting. These pillows do not contain any chemical contents; hence the user is assured of safety, especially if they get allergic triggers from certain smells.

Frequently asked questions

Can I machine wash a cotton pillow?

Yes. Some cotton pillows are machine washable, but you need to do it moderately to maintain the structure and loft of the pillow. Sometimes the cotton might hold in moisture when not dried properly, and this might make your pillow clumpy and flat. Be sure to keep your pillow in the sun till it is well dried, or put it in a drying machine for a few minutes after washing.

Which of the two pillows is suitable for side sleepers?

People who sleep on their side can use both polyester and cotton pillows. Cotton pillows seem to be compact and fluffy, thus offering more support to keep the spine neutrally aligned. Your head needs to be firmly placed to stay in line with your whole body.


There are countless options when choosing pillows for your bed, and many times you may have to choose between cotton and polyester.

The cost of an authentic cotton pillow may not favor many people, and they would instead choose polyester pillows since they offer the same comfort, with a few variations. You will need to spend less on a quality pillow, even though you might have to replace it after a few years.

Now that you have understood how these two pillows differ, you know the right one to lay your head on. This guide should be enough to help you make a choice.

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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