Most of us don’t like to think about the bugs that party away in our pillows, but they could, in fact, be making you ill.
Although invisible to the eye, dust mites love to reside in the warm, cosy depths of our bedding. Here, they snack on dead skin cells, multiply by the thousands, and go about their business undisturbed – potentially, for years.
According to Allergy UK, dust mites, or to be precise their toxic waste, are one of the most common causes of respiratory problems. Morning sneezing, itchy eyes, eczema and sinus issues can all be blamed on the microscopic menaces that reside right where we rest our heads.
The good news, though, is this: regularly washing pillows on a 60C heat can blast the majority of mites. Better still, you can choose anti-allergy or hypoallergenic pillows that exist to keep these nasty bedfellows at bay.
So, what to look out for? Most bug-busting pillows are labelled as such. A hypoallergenic pillow is when its material and design is found to be less likely to attract dust mites and trigger allergies or sensitivities. If a pillow is described as anti-allergy, it means it’s been treated and tested to combat mites and protect against their allergens.
For peace of mind, pick a pillow that’s been given the “seal of approval” from Allergy UK/ the British Allergy Foundation. To receive this gold-standard status, approved pillows have been put through scientific lab tests created by leading allergy experts, to ensure they have reduced allergen content.
With the matter of the mites in hand, you can focus on the thoroughly pleasurable purpose of your pillow: the safe, comfy spot where you sink your head to have a deep, restful sleep. We’ve done much of the hard graft for you and snooze-tested this healthy selection that left us snuffle and itch-free when waking.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Woolroom deluxe washable wool pillow: £47.99, Woolroom
Wool-filled pillows are an increasingly popular choice, with fans of this natural fabric declaring that once you “go wool” you won’t go back to the synthetic variety. It’s a material that boasts moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties so will keep your head cool in summer and cosy in winter, as well as being naturally hypoallergenic.
Woolroom’s deluxe pillow has clusters of wool balls sourced from British down breeds of sheep, stuffed inside a 200-thread count organic cotton outer. The pillow has the all-important approval from Allergy UK as it’s naturally resistant to mould, mildew and the mites that can cause allergies. You can also bung it in the washing machine.
Our pillow arrived looking plump and was ultra-supportive, yet comfy when we bedded down. Wool fillings do result in a firmer feel, but if you take the Goldilocks approach to your pillows, “too firm”, “too flat”, or “too soft” can be easily remedied. We loved being able to unzip the pillow and whip out handfuls of wool and disperse the clumps until we hit our comfort sweet spot (store the surplus wool in the natural calico bag that the pillow is delivered in). If you prefer your pillow with even more firmness or loft, there’s a bag of extra wool to buy so you can stuff and adjust until it feels “just right”.
Fogarty anti-allergy pillow pair: £10, Dunelm
Fogarty is a go-to for quality bedding that won’t break the bank and the brand’s anti-allergy offering didn’t fail to impress us. This pillow is endorsed by the British Allergy Foundation, thanks to its microfibre cover and treated polyester filling that’ll protect against bacteria, fungi and a dust mite invasion.
We tested the medium set of pillows, which we found to be on the softer end of the support spectrum, but loved its sink-your-head-in comfort and how the shape bounced back to perfectly plump after eight hours of kip. The bonus? It’s a twin pack, so great value for the price.
Casper the pillow: £65, Casper
Mattress maker Casper has gained somewhat of a cult following for its two-layered pillow-inside-a-pillow that provides great spine alignment and optimum neck support. It’s a thick pillow, so it might not suit if you like to lie on your front, but for back and side sleepers it’s a perfect loft and weighty enough to keep its shape and place throughout the night.
The pillow’s percale weave cover houses a supportive inner core surrounded by a soft outer shell – the result is a durable, breathable, hypoallergenic pillow that felt fresh and cooling when we tested it on a warmer than average evening.
Marks & Spencer anti-allergy pillow: £15, Marks & Spencer
This healthy pillow from the high street giant is a squishy, lightweight option that will combat mites thanks to specially blended fibres and a pure cotton cover. And don’t just take our word for it – its ability to keep your bed allergen-free has been endorsed by the British Allergy Foundation. We tried the medium support pillow and can attest it feels like sleeping on a marshmallow, but for those who prefer a more supportive snooze, the firm option may be more suitable.
Kally adjustable pillow: £39.99, Kally Sleep
Ever got a pillow home to find it’s really not the right feel for you? The adjustable pillow from Kally Sleep does what it says on the tin; a versatile design means it meets the demands of different sleepers.
Inside the zip-opening quilted cover, you’ll find a stack of four polyester-filled pillow pads. Use just one for a low loft that’s fitting for front snoozers, or load it with all four for a firmer, higher pillow that’s better if you doze on your side. We found using two pads put us in the perfect sleeping position, but the beauty of this pillow is you can try out several feels.
And for anyone prone to allergies, the adjustable pillow promotes healthy mite-free sleep and maximum breathability, thanks to a hypoallergenic filling and outer mesh that boasts improved airflow.
Sainsbury’s Home anti-allergy pillow: £7.33 for two, Sainsbury’s
Here’s an Allergy UK approved pillow that you can pick up along with your weekly shop. Not only is this the cheapest mite-defender on our list, but two pillows come in the bag, making it a no-brainer if you’re busting bugs on a budget. There’s only one choice of support – medium, so it might not suit all sleepers, but it is packed with active anti-allergy fibres to prevent an allergy flare-up. We recommend it as a good “secondary” pillow set on the bed, or perhaps an option for the spare room. Although we can’t vouch for how the pillow stays in shape over time, or after several machine washes, for the price it’s certainly worth a whirl.
Silentnight anti-allergy pillow 2-pack: £14, Argos
This pillow is a favourite among allergy and asthma sufferers. It’s stuffed with a hollowfibre filling that is 100 per cent anti-bacterial as well as earning the thumbs up from Allergy UK, for its ability to prevent pesky mites and the growth of mould. It offers medium support, and we noted how soft and weightless they feel on the bed – back and side sleepers may need to use two for extra support during the night. Easy to clean, these will survive the 40C washing machine cycle and a bounce around in the tumble drier. The two-pillow pack and reasonable price point get our nod of approval – you can buy a few and pile ‘em high.
Sealy Geltex pillow: £45, Next
It’s pricey, considering you only get one in the bag, but sink your head into this pillow and you’ll soon understand why Sealy is the British bedding brand of choice for plenty of posh hotels and cruise ships. This is a Geltex pillow, which is an innovative gel-infused foam that’s highly breathable for a better night’s sleep. The growth of fungi is prevented by the pillow’s Purotex microcapsules that release friendly bacteria into the fabric so dust mites can’t survive. The result is an anti-bac pillow that offers the firm-feel support and bounce-back pressure relief of this unique foam/latex combo. We loved it – feeling fresh and not at all bunged-up when we woke, and Allergy UK loved it, awarding it their full approval for protection against toxic allergens.
Otty deluxe pillow: £54.99, Otty
With a memory foam pillow, you don’t get that soft, cloud-like-feel of a polyester-fill, but you do get a supportive pillow that respects your natural sleeping position. We liked how this pillow moulds to the body to fully protect the neck and help prevent aches and pains. The deluxe pillow mirrors the clever design of the brand’s award-winning mattresses, with cooling gel infused in its foam and invisible airflow perforations that regulate temperature. The result is a hypoallergenic pillow that will keep you cool in the night, and reduce skin allergies and breathing problems.
The verdict: Anti-allergy and hypoallergenic pillows
We were sold on the comfort factor, natural bacteria-busting and dust-mite repelling properties of a wool-filled pillow, so Woolroom’s deluxe pillow wins our best buy accolade. If memory foam is more your thing, the Otty pillow is standout supportive. A special mention for versatility goes to Kally Sleep’s adjustable pillow.