How to pick the perfect pillow

Your guide to picking the right one
Friday, April 4, 2008 | 11:26 a.m. CDT; updated 4:27 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Pillows typically come in five sizes:


Related Articles

1. Standard (20x26 inches): Usually stands alone on a twin bed, in twos on full or queen, and twos or threes on a king

2. Queen (20x30 inches): Just a bit bigger than the standard, it pairs with mattresses the same way

3. King (20x36 inches): These need a special king-size pillowcase, but look great proportionally on king-size beds

4. Euro: (26x26 inches): Square pillows are often used as decorative pillows but offer great neck support when reading in bed

5. Travel (12x16 inches): Perfect size to throw in a carry-on bag or to keep in the trunk on road trips, these pillows offer just a little extra support when needed.


The purpose of a pillow is to align your spine properly as you rest. Both too-high and too-low pillows change the natural allignment of your neck, sometimes causing serious problems. A good pillow should:

- Be about four to six inches thick

- Fill the space between your shoulders and head

- Be comfortable ­— go ahead and try it out in the store


Believe it or not, your mattress style also affects your pillow needs. Firmer mattresses are more supportive, so you can get away with a thicker pillow, while a thin pillow is advised for softer mattresses.

Sleeping position:

The way you sleep also affects the thickness of the pillow you need. If you sleep on your:

- Back: A flatter option is the best for you to keep your neck aligned and not bent forward.

- Side: A dense pillow works best in your case. Also, a body pillow placed between your knees can help aleviate the lower back pain that’s common among side-sleepers.

- Stomach: Stick to a flat pillow, or no pillow at all, to keep your neck level and not bent backward.


Natural (feather, down or a combination)

These pillows are great if you like your cushion to mold around your head and neck and don’t mind fluffing occasionally. Down pillows last the longest and offer the squishiest and most lavish back comfort. Feather pillows are soft, too, but a little firmer, offering more support.

Synthetic (typically polyester)

Perfect for those allergic to natural fillings, these pillows are a bit more supportive and can be easier on your wallet, making them easier to part with after the recommended 18 months. Other pricier options include firmer foam pillows and microbead fillings which shift shape as you move around.

Thread count:

High thread counts don’t just make for more luxurious sheets. The more threads per square inch in your pillowcase, the better. These pllowcases, while sometimes a splurge, help you keep your pillow for longer too. They are stronger, softer and more durable, so they help keep out sweat, skin and dirt. Even better than a quality pillowcase is a zippered pillow cover. You can take it off and throw it in the wash, and it keeps your pillow free of things you’d rather not rest your head on.

How to tell when it’s time for a new pillow:

- The pillow is yellow or stained

- You can fold it in half and it stays that way

- You wake up with a sore back, knees or ankles

- The pillow is uncomfortable

- The pillow is lumpy or misshaped


Washing machine: Yes, you can wash most pillows. Just make sure to check the tag that you ripped off when you first used it. Also, it will have to dry completely, or it will become a breeding ground for mold.

Steam: Steaming is a great way to get rid of fungi in your pillow but won’t do too much for mites.

Freezing: A great way to get rid of fungi, as well as the thousands of dust mites on your pillow, is to put it in a plastic bag in your freezer for a few days. Afterward, let it thaw and again, let it dry completely.

- source:

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.