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Cheap Pillows Buying Guide

Buying a good, comfortable pillow that improves your neck, back, and shoulder health can be tricky but is so very necessary. Often consumers buy cheap pillow after cheap pillow in search of the right one while wasting a lot of money in the process.

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Why? Because there are so many price points and different types of pillows to choose from, including down, latex, memory foam, and hundreds of brands clustered under each pillow type. Retail stores tend to sell their own or generic brands and few carry the same pillow. In short, if you find a cheap pillow that you want, you'll probably only be able to purchase it from one or two places. As you can imagine, this drastically cuts down on reviews of cheap pillows, and those that do exist are typically found on only one website -- usually that of the vendor.

About.com explains that the difference between cheap pillows and expensive pillows is all in the materials used. For example, down pillows can be very pricey depending on the type of down and the percentage of down stuffing. Likewise, memory foam can be extremely expensive depending on the density of the memory foam. Also, pillows with silk covers or higher-quality cotton covers are usually found in the up-market price range.

Be on the lookout for sales. Major retailers such as Sears, Macy's, and Kohl's often run sales where you can get higher-end pillows at near discount prices thanks to offers like "buy one get one free" or "buy one get one for $1." These deals go a long way toward making many otherwise high-priced pillows actually affordable.

In our research, we found that consumers generally give good reviews to the cheap pillows they use. Experts don't back any particular brand or type of pillow over others, but they do recommend different types of pillows for different types of sleepers, such as side, back, or stomach sleepers. The following information should make your choice easier and help you find the perfect cheap pillow the first time around.

Pillows Types.

There are many different types of pillows, each defined by the type of fill; each has its pros and cons.

Latex foam pillows

are known to be comfortable and supportive, according to AllergyBuyersClub.com. These pillows don't get lumpy or need fluffing although they do have a tendency to flatten over time, and the latex foam filling provides good air circulation. Cheap latex foam pillows are hypoallergenic, anti-microbial, mildew-proof, and dust-mite resistant. And, says SleepLikeTheDead, they help reduce pain and are a favorite when it comes to user satisfaction. In fact, FoamPillows.com says they are becoming the most popular pillow on the market. Two good, cheap latex foam pillows are the Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow (starting at $24) and the Premium Natural Latex Foam Pillow (starting at $30).

Review continues below

Buckwheat pillows

are extremely durable and the second favorite pillow on SleepLikeTheDead's comparative listing. Strange as it sounds, these pillows are made from buckwheat hulls. (Buckwheat is a fruit related to rhubarb, and the hulls -- or husks -- protect the kernels.) Buckwheat pillows provide excellent support for your head and neck, which won't sink or be pushed back up. Buckwheat pillows never get lumpy, although the hulls may shift to one side over time (easily fixed by pushing the hulls back where you want them). High-end buckwheat pillows can be opened and the hulls removed to adjust the height and firmness. Most buckwheat pillows are costly, but a good cheap buckwheat pillow is the Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow (starting at $20), which can be chilled in the freezer for a cool and relaxing night's sleep.

Down pillows

are filled with the soft undercoating plucked from the underside of ducks and geese. The priciest versions contain only down or a high percentage of down fill, and typically cost about $100 each. Less costly down pillows contain heavier feathers in the center of the pillow that are wrapped by down. The St. Cloud White Down Pillow (starting at $30) falls into the Cheapism niche because it contains less down and more feathers than upscale down pillows.

Down alternative/gel pillows

, like the Ralph Lauren Down Alternative Pillow (starting at $30), are similar to down pillows in their feel but are constructed differently. Instead of down and feathers, down alternative pillows are made of polyester gel/puff fibers that SleepLikeTheDead says feel like real down. Cheap down alternative pillows can get lumpy and generally don't stay fluffed, but they're a good choice for people with allergies who like to sleep with a soft pillow.

Cotton pillows and polyester pillows

are the most common and least expensive pillow types on the market. They are made of 100% cotton or polyester and are very similar in their features, including the tendency to flatten and get lumpy over time. Although both are hypoallergenic, polyester pillows are more susceptible to dust mites. The Simmons Beautyrest Egyptian Cotton Pillow, Firm (starting at $14) and Mainstays Dream Puff Bed Pillow (starting at $11 for two) are examples of the cotton and polyester varieties, respectively.

Memory foam pillows

are made of polyurethane, a.k.a. visco-elastic polyurethane. These pillows vary in density, which is another way of referring to the firmness of the pillow. Memory foam responds to body heat, which causes the foam to mold itself to the contours of your head, neck, and shoulders. This pressure-reducing quality is supposed to significantly reduce aches and pains in your neck and shoulders. Memory foam has only recently become more affordable, but most memory foam pillows are still beyond the Cheapism range. Two exceptions are the Memory Foam Contour Pillow (starting at $18) and the Contour Products Cloud Memory Foam Pillow (starting at $30), the latter featuring a unique crescent cutout for better head and neck support. There are reasons why these memory foam pillows are cheap. The Contour Products pillow is not 100 percent memory foam -- the inner layers are regular foam and only the outermost layer is memory foam. As for the Memory Foam Contour Pillow, its three-pound density rating is lower than that of higher-end memory foam pillows. SleepWarehouse.com notes that memory foam density ranges between 2.5 pounds and five pounds -- the higher the density, the more supportive and durable the pillow will be.

Feather pillows

, like the Standard Feather Pillow (starting at $12), are made entirely of feathers or contain a small amount of down, and are quite inexpensive. The feathers come from the wings of water birds such as geese and ducks. These cheap feather pillows receive low user satisfaction ratings on SleepLikeTheDead and can cause allergies to flare up. Additionally, they tend to flatten and lose their shape quickly and frequently need fluffing or shaking.

Pillows Firmness/Support and Sleeping Position.

The firmness that you need is a mix of personal preference and what's recommended for the way you sleep. Bed, Bath & Beyond writes that people who sleep on their backs should use a medium-firm pillow to support their head, neck, and upper back; a latex, buckwheat, cotton, or polyester pillow should do the trick. Of the cheap pillows we researched, the Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow, the Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow, the Beautyrest Egyptian Cotton Pillow, and the Mainstays Dream Puff Bed Pillow are cheap medium-firm pillows that would suit back sleepers. Side sleepers need a pillow that conforms to their head and neck, and serves almost like a soft cradle; down, down alternative, and memory foam pillows are recommended. Cheap pillows for side sleepers include the Ralph Lauren Down Alternative Pillow, the St. Cloud White Down Pillow, the Contour Products Cloud Memory Foam Pillow, and the Memory Foam Contour Pillow. Cheap cotton and polyester pillows, such as the Beautyrest Egyptian Cotton Pillow and the Mainstays Dream Puff Bed Pillow, also work for side sleepers as long as they're not too firm. Finally, people who snooze on their stomachs require a very soft pillow without much support so it doesn't force the neck and head into unnatural side positions; the Standard Feather Pillow is a good cheap soft pillow option.

Pillow Covers.

According to Bed, Bath & Beyond, higher-priced pillows boast a quality fabric cover with a high thread count. The benefit is two-fold: better fabric makes the pillow cover softer and more comfortable, and the higher thread count keeps the filling inside the pillow and airborne and other impurities on the outside. Most cheap pillows that we researched feature a 100% cotton cover. One exception is the Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow, whose cover is 65% polyester and 35% cotton. Cheap memory foam pillows, including the Contour Products Cloud Memory Foam Pillow and Memory Foam Contour Pillow, often don't come with a cover at all. Among the cheap pillows we researched, the Beautyrest Egyptian Cotton Pillow leads the pack with a thread count of 400, followed closely by the St. Cloud White Down Pillow with a 375 thread count and the Ralph Lauren Down Alternative Pillow at a 350 thread count. The Simmons Beautyrest Latex Pillow Standard Size, the Mainstays Dream Puff Bed Pillow, and the Standard Feather Pillow all have covers with a 250 thread count.

Pillows Maintenance.

Maintenance can be tricky with pillows because some are easy to clean and some are not, while others need periodic fluffing and some do not. Cleaning instructions vary by pillow type and brand, so check the label. Some cheap pillows can be machine washed and others must be dry cleaned or hand washed. In general, though, the following guidelines apply: cheap memory foam pillows should only be spot treated and then completely air dried; latex pillows can be washed if absolutely necessary, and then hand washing and air drying is recommended; the hulls in buckwheat pillows cannot get wet, so only the cover can be washed (check the label first) and then completely dried before putting the hulls back in; down pillows usually need dry cleaning, while down alternative, cotton, polyester, and some feather pillows can be machine washed and dried. Regardless of the pillow type or the cleaning instructions, experts recommend that you clean your pillows regularly (although none mention how often constitutes regularly) and buy a pillow protector to zip over your pillow, followed by the pillow case. Wash the pillow protector and pillow case as often as you wash your bed linens.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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