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[Review] Natural Foam Pillows and how they compare to Tempurpedic

Not all natural Foam rubber based pillows are made equally, we reviewed several Natural Foam pillows available in Canada, USA and how they compare to Tempurpedic.

Here are my tips for you to consider when selecting a foam rubber pillow that best fits your needs:

  • Does it contain synthetic latex foam?
  • Is the foam pillow chemical and odor free?
  • Where and how was the foam rubber made?
  • Is the pillow you want independently certified?
  • Do you need an allergy-free pillow (no wool, dust mites or synthetic latex)?
  • Is the pillow available in the size and loft that I need?
The table below gives a quick comparison of some important factors as you consider each of these brands and how they compare to Tempurpedic.
 TempurpedicEssentiaOrganic LifestyleNaturaObasan
OptionsMemory foam, variety of shapesNatural memory foam, regular and contourShredded foam, solid foam, contour solid latex, travel and toddler size.Memory foam, Shredded foam, solid foam, contour solid foamShredded foam, solid foam, contour solid foam
MaterialsMemory FoamNatural Memory FoamNatural Latex FoamNatural Latex FoamNatural Latex Foam
Rubber Manufacturing Process
Neither Dunlop nor Talalay, I was told that it is a company secretDunlopDunlopTalalayDunlop
Use of Synthetic Latex?YESNONOIn some pillowsNO
CertificationsNoneGOTS and EuroLatex ECO-StandardGOTS and Eco-InstitutOeko-Tex and Certified OrganicIncomplete GOTS and Eco-Institut
HypoallergenicNot chemical freeYES - naturally dust mite resistant, wool and synthetic latex free

YES - naturally dust mite resistant, wool and synthetic latex free

Wool linings in most pillowsYES - naturally dust mite resistant, wool and synthetic latex free
Fragrance Free?Probably notShould have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not daysShould have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not daysNot sure but should have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not daysShould have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not days
      

 

In this review, I will cover options for healthier pillows without potential negative side effects. I've included reviews of each of following companies whose pillows are made in Canada: Essentia, Organic Lifestyle, Natura and Obasan.

 



Tempurpedic, with NASA ‘memory foam' technology,' offers sleepers a pillow that molds to their head and neck, offering increased support and pressure relief. For those with down, dust mite, or mold/mildew allergies, Tempurpedic and other foam pillows offer an allergy-free alternative. While internet articles abound about complaints of off-gassing, chemical odors, allergic reactions to Tempurpedic mattresses and pillows, Tempurpedic stands by their claims that their products are "VOC-free, manufactured with no harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde and CFCs." If that's the case, then what do other ‘organic', ‘all-natural' and ‘chemical-free' foam pillows on the market offer that is different from Tempurpedic? What are the differences between latex pillow types and shapes in terms of neck and head support?
 


Essentia seems to position themselves as an all-natural alternative for those that want a memory foam pillow, minus the concerns about complaints of chemical odors and reactions. Essentia states that its own ‘Natural Memory Material' is the only natural memory foam in the world, and highlights common chemicals (see Essentia's table below) used in all traditional memory foam manufacturing viscoelastic processes.
 
It seems that Essentia's memory foam gets its feel from rubber tree sap treated with organic essential oils, plant extracts and water. In its Essentia vs. Memory Foam comparison article, Essentia states their foam is 80% more breathable than a synthetic memory foam pillow, thereby reducing heat and discomfort. Like Tempurpedic, Essentia also claims to be VOC-free, however Essentia backs it up with internationally recognized certifications.

Essentia has four different shapes of solid foam rectangular pillow, but they do not come in different sizes. Some of their pillows come in a beautiful stripe pattern, which implies colored dyes. When I called to ask about the dyes used, the representative stated that the dyes are organic and GOTS certified, which means they can't contain carcinogenic or toxic chemicals and they must meet standards for biodegradability.
 


In addition to solid foam and contoured foam pillows, Organic Lifestyle offers a Natural Shredded Foam Pillow for side-sleepers who like the self-molding characteristic of memory foam but have found that it's perhaps not high enough to place the neck in a neutral position. Perfect for those who like the feel of a down pillow, the Natural Shredded Foam Pillow comes in three different lofts (slim, medium, and high) and you can move the bits of shredded foam around to support your head and neck exactly as you need.

If you prefer solid foam, the regular and contoured pillows offer excellent support, and the contoured version offers additional neck support for those that need it.

All three varieties of Organic Lifestyle pillows come in three sizes (standard, queen and king) and all of their natural foam pillows have Eco-Institut and GOTS certifications. Finally, Organic Lifestyle has a detailed pillow buying guide on their site as well as a graphic representation of the range from soft to firm that different pillow types provide.
 
 
Natura also has a wide variety of pillows including granulated foam, memory foam and solid latex foam. The footer of their website has links to all of the certifying bodies for organic, VOC-free and ecological products, but I advise buyers should do their due diligence on each pillow they are considering, eg., Natura's Talalay solid latex pillows have an Oeko-Tex certification, but no mention of certification is made for the memory foam or the granulated latex, and only some of the pillows have organic cotton covers and organic wool linings. It appears that most Natura foam pillows use wool for the lining, so may not work for someone with a wool allergy. A final important note is that there is concern that the Talalay process in rubber manufacturing might not be as environmentally friendly as the Dunlop process (refer to definitions below).
 


Obasan has been around for at least a decade serving both Canada and the USA. Known for their high quality and good construction, they have three types of foam pillow: shredded foam, regular solid foam and contour foam in three sizes: standard, queen and king.

Their website is missing information about certifications, but when contacted they stated that they were in the midst of the GOTS and Eco-Institut certification processes and that certifications would be on their website once complete. Obasan's, like all natural shredded and solid foam pillows, do not off-gas and will not induce complaints from sleepers about chemical odors.
 
 TempurpedicEssentiaOrganic LifestyleNaturaObasan
PositioningWorld's most well-known memory foam brand and pioneer of memory foam technology in pillowsNatural memory foam alternative to Tempurpedic, only memory foam is available, certifiedVariety, certified, affordableVariety and quality, but read carefully to distinguish those pillows that are actually organic or naturalQuality, with a focus on luxury market, only available for purchase in-store
Country of OriginUSACanadaCanadaCanadaCanada
Warranty3 years3 years3 yearsUnknown3 years
      
Fragrance Free?Probably notShould have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not daysShould have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not daysNot sure but should have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not daysShould have the natural smell of rubber which dissipates in hours if not days
Free Shipping?Offers free shipping promos sometimesFree ShippingFree Shipping$15 ShippingNot applicable
Buy OnlineYesYesYesYesNo
 

Definitions for terms used in this article:

Dunlop - Dunlop is a method of producing molded pieces of natural latex foam rubber. The thick rubber sap, or serum, is whipped into a froth in a centrifuge, poured into a mold, covered, and steam baked. Natural sediments in the mixture settle to the bottom of the mold. How does it compare to Talalay? The Dunlop process produces a latex foam that is more dense, while the Talalay process produces a latex foam that is lighter and has more air in it. Using a cake as an analogy, Dunlop would be like pound cake and Talalay would be like angel food cake. If you were to weigh each as latex cores, the Dunlop would be heavier because it has more latex in it. Pick Dunlop because it's dense cell structure will hold the shape of the pillow better over time and will be less prone to sagging or indentations especially if you're a back sleeper and prefer a firmer feel.

Dust mite - House dust mites are a common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms worldwide. The mite's gut contains potent digestive enzymes that persist in their feces and are major inducers of allergic reactions such as wheezing. The mite's exoskeleton can also contribute to allergic reactions. To avoid dust mites in the bedroom, a foam mattress and hypoallergenic bedding are recommended.

GOTS - Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is an organic certification standard for textiles used in clothing. The standard defines world-wide recognized requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer. The salient features of GOTS are: 1. Certification of the entire textile supply chain, 2. Environmental Criteria (eg., All chemical inputs (e.g. dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meeting basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability. All chemical inputs must be procured from GOTS certified suppliers.) 3. Environmental management (eg., Waste water from all wet processing sites must be treated in an internal or external functional waste water treatment plant before discharged to surface waters.) 4. Storage, packaging and transport (eg., Organic textile products must be stored and transported in such a manner as to prevent contamination by prohibited substances and commingling with conventional products or substitution of the contents.) 5. Record keeping & internal quality assurance 6. Technical Quality and Human Toxicity Criteria 7. Social Criteria (eg., sweatshop free) 8. Quality assurance system 9. Testing of Technical Quality Parameters and Residues 10. Principles of the Review and Revision Process. 11. On-site inspection and certification of processors, manufacturers and traders performed by independent specially accredited bodies is the basis of the GOTS monitoring system in order to provide a credible assurance for the integrity of GOTS certified textiles.

Hypoallergic - Hypoallergenic textiles are those that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Cotton bedding is often used as a hypoallergenic alternative to wool or foam bedding.

Latex - Latex is natural rubber that comes from a tree. Inside the tree it is a milky substance comprised of proteins, alkaloids, starches, sugars, oils, tannins, resins, and gums that coagulates on exposure to air. Natural rubber is the most important product obtained from latex and is often used to make mattresses and pillows that are naturally antibacterial, hypoallergenic and dust mite repellent. Latex may be natural or synthetic.

Latex allergy - Majority of latex allergies are to chemicals used to process latex, not latex itself. Having said that, there are a minority who indeed have latex allergy, regardless of it being natural or synthetic.

Oeko-Tex - The International Oeko-Tex Association comprises textile representatives from Europe and Japan that create standards for textiles and is responsible for independent tests for harmful substances. The Oeko-Tex criteria catalogue provides a uniform, scientifically founded evaluation standard for the human ecological safety of textiles. Raw materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of processing throughout the manufacturing chain are tested and certified.

Off-gas - Off-gas refers to to chemicals that are used in building or in the process of manufacturing household goods that continually give off noxious fumes over long periods of time. Culprits can include paints, varnishes, sealants and glues.

Synthetic latex - Synthetic latex is created from two oil-derivatives: styrene and butadiene. There are many manufacturers who tout their mattress as "natural" latex, when in fact it's a blend of natural AND synthetic. Dunlop and Talalay latex can be either natural or synthetic. Synthetic latex, has a tendency to break down very quickly, and in fact the average queen-sized polyurethane foam mattress covered in polyester fabric loses HALF its weight over ten years of use as its polyurethane is oxidized into the air as dust. Synthetic latex and polyurethanes also have a tendency to off-gas. Finally, synthetic latex is unable to absorb and release moisture properly, causing heat problems for sleepers, as well as growth of molds and mildews.

Talalay - Talalay is a method of producing molded pieces of natural latex foam rubber. Process - A natural liquid latex rubber base is introduced to a closed mold that has been vacuumed of air. The mold is then frozen to stabilize the cell structure. How does it differ from the Dunlop process? The formulation uses many of the same base components as the Dunlop formulation, but without gellation reagents. The result is marketed as a healthier alternative to petroleum-based foams since petroleum-based foams give off volatile organic compounds as they age. In the marketing of products such as beds that include natural latex foams created with the Talalay process, these products are sometimes characterized as 'organic' or as completely natural. However this claim may not be completely true since unspecified curing agents are used in the Talalay process and ammonia is commonly used to stabilize liquid rubber. Pick Talalay if you typically prefer pressure relief because it is less dense.

VOCS (Volatile Organic Compounds) - Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids including paints and lacquers. Health effects can include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

 

 

[*Full Disclosure - The author of this article is the buyer for Organic Lifestyle. The intention of this article is to inform consumers to see past potential greenwashing and highlight criteria consumers should be considering when purchasing a foam based pillow.]
 
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