2nd August 2021
There are three main types of pillow: feather and down, microfibre and memory foam. Prices vary widely depending on the type of filling and how much of it there is – some pillows can cost more than £100, while others are less than £10. Price isn’t everything – what's most important is finding something that you find gives you support and is comfortable.
Comfort is so subjective that you and your partner may find that the same pillows don’t suit both of you. Just like a mattress, it's best to try out pillows before you buy them where possible.
Read on to find out the pros and cons of each type of filling, as well as expert tips to help you decide which type of pillow to buy.
Almost a third of our members opt for feather/down pillows, and it’s clear why. While they are a little more expensive than synthetic fibre pillows, they have a longer lifespan, meaning they will stay supportive and retain their height for longer. They are mouldable and soft – ideal for snuggling into.
The ratio of feather to down can vary greatly, although as a rule if it is sold as a ‘feather’ pillow, it must be made of at least 30% of the exterior feathers of the bird. Down pillows must be at least 70% down. If you go for a feather pillow you should find that you don’t need to turn the pillow over to the cold side as often, as they are cooler than both down and microfibre. Down retains more heat, and it doesn't have hard quills to poke through and spike into you, like feather pillows.
Downsides to this natural option include that they can become flattened quickly and will need regular fluffing to retain their shape. You might find that they have a musky smell at first too, and you could find the crunching noises of feather pillows grating. As with most natural bedding, they require professional cleaning. Some premium types of feather and down, such as Hungarian goose, can be very expensive.
About one in five of our members choose hypoallergenic, affordable and lightweight microfibre. These pillows are easy to take care of, and can be washed at home (on a 30 degree wash). They come in a variety of shapes and heights, so you can choose the best for your sleeping position.
However, they’re not as malleable or breathable as other options, and have the shortest lifespan of all pillows – it's recommended that you replace them every few years. That said, they are a great basic option if you’re shopping on a budget and want to be able to clean your pillows at home.
This modern addition to the pillow market is good for those looking for strong support. Roughly 15% of our members choose to use a memory foam pillow. They are easy to take care of, like microfibre, but many find them to be too dense and firm, and too hot to sleep on in summer.
They are a great option for those looking for neck pain relief, as the memory foam contours to your body and offer even support.
Like their mattress counterparts, latex pillows are a less common choice, this is likely to be because they are often so expensive and can cost in excess of £100. However, there are still plenty of reasons to consider them.
They have a similar feel to memory foam pillows and will contour and spring back to support your neck. Unlike memory foam pillows, they don’t suffer from overheating – in fact, they’ll help you maintain a neutral temperature all night so you won't need to flip the pillow over to the cool side.
They’re durable and hold their shape well, longer than any other type of filling, and are naturally resistant to mould and dust mites, too.
These are a more traditional equivalent to synthetic fibre fillings. Their natural resistance to dust mites and mould mean they can be a good choice for allergy sufferers. Their firmness can be good for side sleepers, who need greater support than people who sleep on their backs. Like latex, they can help you stay cool during the night as well.
They flatten quickly, so you’ll need to regularly fluff them back up for them to retain their shape. They also tend to be heavier and more expensive than synthetic fibres.
Hypoallergenic doesn't equal anti-allergy, so it's important to know the difference before buying.
Hypoallergenic means that the actual material and filling of the pillow isn't made of a known potential allergen, like feathers, wool or latex. But other allergens like dust mites can still develop on these types of pillow.
Anti-allergy means the filling and casing will have been treated to resist and combat the development of dustmites. You might find that this type of pillow is good for you if you have asthma, eczema or rhinitis, all of which could be exacerbated by allergens.
But whichever bedding you buy, dustmites can be killed, and their allergens removed, by washing at temperatures of 60°C and above. If you're looking for bedding to help with allergies, it's therefore important to check that it can endure repeated washing at this temperature or higher – roughly once every one to two months.
To know if you should consider an anti-allergy pillow, you should check to see if you have the symptoms of dust mite allergy.
If you are sensitive or allergic to them, you may have:
Make sure you buy the right pillow for your preferred sleep style:
Back sleeper: Choose a thin pillow, as it won’t throw your head too far forward, putting stress on your neck. Memory foam can also be a good choice, as it will mould to your neck's curve, giving consistent support.
Side sleeper: A firm, high pillow is best, as this will help keep your spine and neck aligned. You may also benefit from sleeping with a pillow between your knees, as this can help to prevent pain in the lower back.
Front sleeper: Whilst sleeping on your front isn’t recommended, some simply prefer it. For front sleepers, a thin, almost flat pillow is best. Consider tucking one under your stomach, too, to avoid lower back pain.
Mixed or combination sleeper: Unfortunately, if you toss and turn between positions in the night, no pillow will completely meet your needs. A medium height pillow is the safest bet, offering support for side sleeping but also the shallowness needed for back sleeping.
If you have a king-size bed, king-size pillows and pillow cases are available to really fill the space and keep your bed looking in proportion.
A standard 50cm x 75cm pillowcase is sometimes called a housewife pillowcase. The name is an artefact from the late 19th century, when the Housewives’ Co-Operative adapted pillowcases to include a lip which you could fold over the pillow inside, keeping it secure inside. This is taken as standard now, so standard and housewife pillowcases are the same.
Oxford pillowcases fit standard housewife pillows, but have a trim or border around the edges.
V-shaped pillows are intended to support those who suffer from shoulder and back pain, but can also help those who snore, front-sleepers, or those who need a bit more elevation while sleeping. U-shaped pillows, or pregnancy pillows, help support your body in a variety of different positions.
Contour pillows have a raised and rounded long edge which fits snugly to your neck with your head in the dell – this is great for those looking for extra neck support.
Depending on your needs, you might want to consider various speciality pillows. These are designed to alleviate particular pains or annoyances that affect your sleep.
Our April 2018 survey of 3,839 Which? members revealed that some brands produce a much more comfortable pillow than others. So if you're not sure which make to go for, we can help: read our guide to the ,
To work out customer scores, we asked what brand of pillow members owned, whether they were satisfied with it, and whether they would recommend it to a friend. We also asked them to rate their pillow for comfort, value for money and how well it matched the description.
When buying a pillow, make sure you're handing your money over to a reputable seller. Check the retailer's returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews. For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty products, see our .
Tempur, Argos, Dunelm and John Lewis are some of the most searched-for pillow retailers at the time of writing. We’ve included links to these retailers handpicked because of their stock availability, best value price or warranty options.
Last checked: April 2021.