Credit: iStock

Natural latex pillows last long, repel dust mites and offer a great sleep


Part of a series of reviews on natural-fibre pillows by Carmen Spagnola

Natural latex pillows are pricier than their synthetic counterparts, but will give you 10 years of good service. Natural latex retains its loft superbly well, meaning it will last years before it starts going flat.

A shredded natural latex pillow is filled with natural rubber made from the sap of the rubber tree. A rubber tree is tapped for its sap (also called milk), much like maple syrup. When the bark is scraped, it releases an antibacterial agent, just like our own bodies do if we sustain an injury. This antibacterial mixes in with the milk, and this is what repels dust mites.

Natural latex's inherent dust mite resistance makes it a good choice for people with sensitive respiratory systems like asthma and allergy sufferers.

A shredded-style latex pillow means you can not only mold the pillow to your head or around your shoulder—perfect for side sleepers—but also means you can smooth it down quite flat, making it ideal for back sleepers and those hard-to-please stomach sleepers.


Washable pillows?


Another wonderful feature of the shredded latex pillow, which has come in handy at our house this flu season, is that they are entirely washable! The whole pillow can go in the washing machine, though you mustn’t put it in the dryer; air drying takes about a day or two.

Natural latex also comes in solid varieties. Density varies dramatically by manufacturer so make sure you try it out for at least half an hour in the store. Try it out according to how you actually sleep. It’s amazing how many people will go into a mattress store and try a pillow lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling, when they actually sleep on their sides!

Solid natural latex pillows need to fit you well because they don’t have as much "give" as the shredded ones.



Real vs fake latex: Don't be done in by the imposters


A few things to watch for when it comes to natural latex pillows is tricky wording and suspiciously low prices. The rubber industry, much like the organic labelling industry, is a bit of a Wild West—largely unregulated and unmonitored.

In many cases, manufacturers will make the claim of "natural latex" when in fact only a small percentage of the latex is natural, it is just one ingredient in the pillow’s blend and the rest is petroleum-based synthetic latex.

In that case, not only are you sleeping with your head on a pillow laden with toxic chemicals, but synthetic latex is not breathable and attracts dust mites, mold and mildew: the worst situation for asthma and allergy sufferers!

Look for labels marked "100% pure natural latex" and research the manufacturer online before you buy. If necessary, send them an email and ask directly, “Is your natural latex blended with any synthetic latex whatsoever? Is there any ammonia used in the rubber production? Are there any other ingredients other than natural latex rubber?” If they can’t give you a clear answer—or won’t—move on.

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Natural latex is an extremely tedious harvesting process; producing about one cup a day of milk, it takes a tree an entire year to make a queen-sized mattress.

The final product, natural latex foam, is also very heavy, so shipping from equatorial countries where rubber trees are grown is very expensive.

Finally, if the pillow cover is not organic cotton, I would be skeptical that the latex is pure. Why go to the trouble and expense of top-of-the-line materials inside and then encase it in conventional cotton or a blend?



Natural latex pillows available at:


InBed Organics in Vancouver

Organic O Canada in Vancouver

Eclectrix in White Rock

The Good Planet Company in Victoria



Read more reviews on natural-fibre pillows by Carmen Spagnola