White and red bamboo pillows on a bed

Are Bamboo Pillows Worth It? Pros & Cons of Bamboo Pillows

Last updated on September 1st, 2023

The average person spends about a third of their life asleep. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re always looking to improve our sleep. The priority is comfort, of course, but maybe you’ve also thought about whether your sheets or pillow are made from sustainable materials.

Bamboo pillows are a popular “green” alternative to cotton, but are they actually green, and are they worth it? As with any product, bamboo pillows have their pros and cons. For example, they might be breathable and comfortable, but they tend to compress and need regular fluffing.

So how will bamboo pillows affect your sleep, health, and home sustainability? In this article we’ll explore how bamboo pillows are made, their pros and cons, and a few of the common myths associated with them.

How are bamboo pillows made?

Despite popular belief, bamboo pillows aren’t actually made of 100% bamboo. All pillows have two parts: cover and filling. It varies per brand, but you’ll mostly find bamboo pillows that have bamboo fibers in the cover only.

This is because bamboo isn’t as comfortable as memory foam, polyester, or cotton as a filling. Bamboo fibers are rough, so not exactly something you want your head to rest on for 8 hours every day. However, the fibers can be woven into the fabric for the cover, and are suggested to be breathable, antimicrobial, and hypoallergenic.

Turning bamboo culms into fibers for use in fashion or pillows, however, is not a simple process. To make bamboo pillow covers, leaves, and culm are harvested, crushed, treated, and hardened. The fibers are then mixed with various chemicals to make them soft enough to sleep on.

Women sleeping on bamboo pillow and bamboo bedding

Benefits of bamboo pillows

Now that you know more about how bamboo pillows are made, you might be wondering if they’re the right choice for you. Keep reading to find out about the benefits of bamboo pillows!

They are breathable

Pillows made from bamboo contain the natural fibers in the casing only. Thanks to the length and structure of bamboo fibers, the material is incredibly breathable. This results in a well-ventilated pillow, which can help regulate your body temperature during the night and keep you cool.

They are comfortable

Most bamboo pillows are filled with memory foam or shredded memory foam. These fillings are widely recognized as being comfortable to sleep on.

Because the foam is flexible, it naturally molds around the shape of your head and body. Therefore, when you’re sleeping, a memory foam pillow will continuously adjust to your position. This keeps your neck, back, and shoulders supported at all times.

They are antimicrobial

Pillows are on the receiving end of all kinds of bacteria. As we sleep, we sweat, release oil, and shed dead skin cells. Research suggests this causes the average pillow to contain almost a third of its weight in dead skin, dust mites, and droppings after just two years!

As with any other pillow, bamboo pillows still require regular cleaning (we recommend every 2-4 months) to prevent a build-up of mold and fungi. However, one of the benefits of bamboo pillows is their breathability which makes them naturally antimicrobial. This means your pillow can absorb bacteria more effectively and prevent viruses from spreading.

Person holding blue plastic bottle to put detergent into washing machine to wash the bamboo pillow

They are hypoallergenic

Pillows can be an unsuspecting allergy trigger. Feather fillings are often the primary cause, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, pillows usually cause allergies because of a build-up of dust mites. These dust mites breed from dead skin cells shedding as we sleep.

All pillows are prone to dust mites, including bamboo pillows. You can prevent them by routinely washing and vacuuming your pillow.

However, bamboo pillows are unique in that the natural fibers can help repel dust mites. This means you might not have to clean your pillow as regularly. It can also help prevent you from waking up with a stuffy nose every day.

What are common issues with bamboo pillows?

Any product has its downsides. While there are many benefits of bamboo pillows, it’s important to consider the potential issues associated with bamboo pillows.

They can smell at first

A common complaint with bamboo pillows is that they can have a pungent smell when first taken out of the packaging. This is because memory foam fillings are known for off-gassing, a process where the chemicals in the product break down and disperse in the air.

While the smell isn’t known to be toxic, it could cause irritation. Some people might get headaches, nausea, or a sore throat from the smell.

To be on the safe side, you should air out your new bamboo pillow before using it.

They need regular fluffing

Because they are often made from memory foam fillings, bamboo pillows are delivered compressed and vacuum-packed. When your new pillow arrives, it will take some time to fluff it up before you can sleep on it.

The fluffing process can be quite difficult. The easiest way to fluff a bamboo pillow is to use your hands and vigorously knead the filling, taking short breaks in between.

When sleeping on your pillow night after night, the filling can start to flatten again over time. Flat pillows can cause neck pain, so you’ll need to re-fluff your bamboo pillow regularly to keep it soft.

They aren’t as eco-friendly as marketing suggests

Bamboo is well-known for its eco-friendliness. It can grow almost anywhere without artificial fertilizers. Unlike trees that take years to mature, bamboo is a fast-growing grass. Harvested bamboo stems can regrow quickly, making it a sustainable renewable resource.

However, buying a bamboo pillow isn’t always as sustainable as it seems. Most bamboo pillows are made from rayon viscose. To make rayon from bamboo, bamboo is processed with chemicals to create a toxic, soup-like substance. When formed, this substance generates significant pollution and can also be very dangerous for workers to be in contact with.

They don’t last long

If you’re interested in buying a bamboo pillow, you may think it’s an eco-friendly alternative to a typical cotton pillow. While that can be true, it isn’t always the case. Not only are bamboo pillows not always made in the most eco-friendly methods, they also don’t last long.

Unless stated otherwise, your bamboo pillow is likely made from memory foam or shredded memory foam. Because these fillings flatten over time, they only last around 2-3 years.

Becoming a sustainable shopper often means purchasing higher-quality products that last longer. Therefore, bamboo pillows aren’t often the best long-term investment.

However, with proper care, you can prolong the life of your bamboo pillow. Fluffing it every 8-12 weeks, washing it every 2-4 months, and never sleeping with wet hair can help the memory foam last longer.

Common myths about bamboo pillows

Bamboo pillows have many benefits. When weighing up the pros and cons of bamboo pillows, you may come across some myths about the products. There’s a ton of information online about bamboo pillows and, unfortunately, not all of it is true.

Here are just some of the common myths about bamboo pillows:

They are made from 100% bamboo

As previously mentioned, most people think that bamboo pillows are made entirely of bamboo. This isn’t true, as it would be near impossible to create a soft, comfortable pillow using only bamboo fibers.

Instead, it’s often only the cover of the pillow (not the filling) that’s made from bamboo. The rest is made from synthetic materials, like memory foam, shredded memory foam, or polyester.

It’s also important to note that the bamboo parts of the pillow are often made from rayon, which is a soft substance made from bamboo fibers and chemicals.

They cause acne

Another myth we hear is that bamboo pillows can cause acne. This isn’t generally true as bamboo pillows can actually help prevent and treat acne, rather than cause it.

Bamboo fibers are breathable and hypoallergenic. This can help reduce skin irritation and keep your face cool during the night. Both of these factors can promote better skin health.

Because bamboo has antimicrobial properties, they also fight off bacteria and prevent dust mites from breeding. This can keep your skin protected and prevent breakouts.

However, it’s important to note that your pillowcase often has more of an impact on your skin than the actual pillow. If you’re concerned about getting spots from your bamboo pillow, make sure you use the right pillowcase and wash it regularly.

They don’t need pillowcases

It’s rumored that because bamboo pillows have a thick, breathable, antimicrobial casing, you don’t need to use a pillowcase. This isn’t true, as all pillows should be used with a pillowcase. It can be very unhygienic not to.

When you sleep, sweat, oil, and skin cells are released. Pillowcases capture these secretions and prevent them from seeping into your pillow. You can then clean them quickly, easily, and frequently in the washing machine.

When you don’t use a pillowcase, you’ll need to clean your bamboo pillow much more frequently. Otherwise, a build-up of mold, bacteria, and dust mites can occur.

Several bamboo pillows on a white sheet

Bamboo pillows are more sustainable

Unfortunately, the textile industry has taken advantage of bamboo’s status as a renewable resource by mislabeling certain products as bamboo when they really aren’t. In particular, products made with viscose rayon have often been labeled as bamboo. In reality, bamboo was merely the plant source for the heavily chemical-based process. In fact, the process of making viscose rayon is so toxic that there are no more factories manufacturing it in the US!

That said, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cracked down on bamboo mislabeling in the textile industry. That means that rayon fabric “made from bamboo” is technically still just rayon, a toxic and unsustainable material.

But is all bamboo fabric bad? Luckily for the ethical consumer, bamboo linen is a more sustainable alternative to bamboo viscose that requires less mechanical processing. However, it is more labor intensive making it more expensive and less widely available on the market.

Are bamboo pillows worth it?

Bamboo pillows can be extremely comfortable, supportive, and enjoyable to sleep with. Even though most pillows aren’t made from 100% bamboo, they can still be considered a more sustainable alternative to some other materials, as long as they’re not made with rayon viscose.

However, the biggest benefit of using a bamboo pillow is not its eco-friendliness. Instead, it’s the impact the material has on our bodies. Because bamboo pillows are breathable, hypoallergenic, and antimicrobial, they can help us sleep and breathe easier at night.

Before purchasing a bamboo pillow, do your research into the brand and product to ensure it’s the right purchase for you and the environment.

FAQ about bamboo pillows

How long do bamboo pillows last?

Bamboo pillows last around 2-3 years because the memory foam or shredded memory foam inside the pillow will flatten over time.

Are bamboo pillows toxic?

No, bamboo fabrics are not toxic. However, you should always check for other materials used in the bamboo pillows and watch out for certifications to ensure safe use.

Do bamboo pillows keep you cool?

They don’t have a particularly cooling effect. However, bamboo fabrics are very breathable and can help regulate your body temperature at night.

Do have more myths about bamboo pillows? Or any other benefits and disadvantages? Share it with us in the comments below!
Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

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