The thought of bed bugs living in your pillows can be terrifying. Nothing can keep you from getting a good night's sleep more than the idea of bed bugs crawling into your ears, mouth, nose, and eyes while you are in dreamland. And now, you are wondering if your pillows are just as good as attracting bed bugs as your mattress.
Bed bugs can live around and under pillows. They don't have the ability to gnaw through the pillow casing, so the only time that they can get inside is if there are holes or tears, or when the zipper is left open. Some pillow types seem to attract bed bugs more, like those with natural fillings.
If the conditions are right, it is possible for bed bugs to live in pillows to sleep, mate, and multiply in them.
For your convenience, I presented all pillow types and their resistance to bed bugs in the table below.
|Pillow Material||Bed Bug Resistant?|
|Shredded Memory Foam||No|
Also, check the best bed bug pillow protectors below.
Various Pillows and Their Impressions on Bed Bugs
Not all pillows are the same, and the main reason why they vary from each other is that they have different fillings.
What's inside pillows can have a considerable impact on a bed bug infestation because it determines whether or not they can be washed in hot water to kill bed bugs hiding in them.
Here are 13 types of pillows, as well as details on whether or not bed bugs can live in them.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Memory Foam Pillows?
Let's kick things off with memory foam pillows.
That's because they are extremely popular in this day and age when a lot of people are stressed and needing seven to nine hours of sleep per night — the neck support they offer helps relieve aches and pains that can make it difficult to get some high-quality Z's.
A memory foam pillow is made from a single block of polyurethane. Bed bugs do not have teeth that they can use to burrow in it. However, they can gather in the seams and folds around the zipper of a memory foam pillow's casing. They may also choose to live under it, where it is dark and warm.
While memory foam pillows are very good at providing optimum neck support, there is a downside to its use that a lot of people complain about: it tends to produce heat.
This is exactly why some bed bugs may be attracted to stay under memory foam pillows when it's not yet time to feed.
Bed bugs can thrive in both cool and warm environments. However, they prefer some warmth. After all, it is the warmth generated by your body that they are attracted to.
If you have a bed bug infestation, consider using a different pillow. You may also lower your AC's thermostat, but it will result in higher monthly electric bills.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Shredded Memory Foam Pillows?
Manufacturers of memory foam pillows are aware that their products can produce a lot of heat. This is why they came up with shredded memory foam pillows.
As the name suggests, they are filled with cut-up polyurethane. These pillows can stay cool by providing room for air to collect in between the bits of foam.
Because a shredded memory foam pillow offers lots of hiding spaces for bed bugs, it's not unlikely for them to be drawn to it. However, for that to happen, the casing needs to have a hole or tear. Bed bugs may choose to live and mate under a shredded memory foam pillow if they cannot get in it.
Switching from a memory foam pillow to a shredded memory foam pillow is a great idea if using the former is keeping you from taking a trip to dreamland without any trouble because of heat production.
A shredded memory foam pillow generates less heat, making it suitable for warmer environments.
This doesn't mean, however, that it is better at fending off bed bugs. The spaces between the bits of polyurethane can serve as the perfect hiding spots for bed bugs.
Just make sure that your shredded memory foam pillow's casing is in excellent shape to keep those pests from getting in and having a party.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Cotton Pillows?
One of the oldest pillow fillings on the face of the planet is cotton. For instance, ancient Romans and Greeks stuffed theirs with this 100% pure and natural material, usually together with straw and reed.
Because of the luxury and comfort they bring, many people prefer to use cotton pillows than any other pillow type.
It's no secret that cotton is a highly absorbent material. Aside from water and moisture, it can also absorb your sweat and skin oils, including odor-causing bacteria in them. This may attract bed bugs and gather under or around a cotton pillow, thinking that you are using it even if you are not.
There is no denying that cotton pillows are some of the most comfortable pillows out there. However, if you are trying to end a bed bug infestation using some DIY solutions, you may find cotton pillows less than ideal.
That's because washing them in hot water is not recommended by most manufacturers.
Hot water can kill bed bugs instantly. Because of this, washing items in it is one of the best home remedies for bed bugs. Sadly, hot water can shrink cotton pillows.
Although they can be washed in cold water to prevent shrinkage, it will not get rid of bed bugs hiding in the seams and folds of the casing, as well as inside the pillows themselves.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Wool Pillows?
Aside from cotton, wool is also a popular type of filling for people who want pillows that are comfortable and stuffed with natural materials.
What's really nice about wool pillows is that they can help maintain normal body temperature during summer and winter. So, in other words, they can help encourage a good night's sleep all year round.
One of the myths surrounding wool pillows is that they attract bed bugs. However, scientists deny this. But just like cotton pillows, wool pillows may attract bed bugs when they already smell like you. The key to keeping wool pillows from being bed bug life place is to keep them clean and fresh.
The problem with wool pillows is that washing them in hot water is a complete no-no because it will cause them to shrink.
As soon as the filling is no longer as fluffy as before, they may no longer be that delightful to use. The bottom line is to switch to pillows with another type of filling if you are prone to a bed bug infestation.
During the early 1900s, wool was considered as an allergen — something that can cause an allergic reaction.
However, the time came when it was eliminated from the list of potential allergy triggers. That's because it turned out that some people's skin is just easily irritated by the coarse fibers of wool.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Feather Pillows?
No pillow fight would be complete without feathers flying all over the room. What's so great about pillows stuffed with feathers is that they are not just perfect for some friendly game of hitting one another with pillows.
They are also great for getting a good night's sleep as they provide comfort like no other.
Feather pillows may attract bed bugs not because of their filling, but due to the casing that contains the filling. The folds, seams, and zippers make for superb bed bug living areas. Bed bugs may also choose to hide under feather pillows to make sure that they can get to you at night in no time.
Just like cotton and wool pillows, feather pillows should not be washed in hot water. Although heat will not cause the feathers to shrink, it may leave them damaged.
You will no longer enjoy using feather pillows once their stuffing is damaged as they are no longer as soft and springy as when you first used them.
Here's something that should be more of a cause of concern: feather pillows can attract dust mites.
Because washing them in hot water, which can kill dust mites and bed bugs alike upon contact, is not recommended, feather pillows may leave you with an assortment of unfavorable symptoms if you have dust mite allergy.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Down Pillows?
Most people think that down pillows and feather pillows are one and the same. It's true that their fillings come from birds, alright.
However, they are from different body parts of their sources. Down is obtained from the chest and underbelly. Soft and fluffy, they look more like dandelions or loose cotton balls instead of feathers.
In the case of down pillows, it's the structure of the casing that holds the filling that can attract bed bugs, not necessarily down that they are stuffed with. However, bed bugs may live inside down pillows if the casing has a hole or tear.
Trying to separate bed bugs from down can be a herculean task.
There are many advantages to using down pillows over feather pillows. For instance, down pillows are softer and do not create a rustling sound when you move.
However, due to their extreme softness, they cannot provide your head and neck with a lot of support, which may cause unnecessary aches and pain.
Down pillows are also some of the most expensive pillows in the market. Despite this, it's just as prone to accumulating bed bugs as feather pillows and many other pillows, too.
The bottom line is: when it comes to managing a bed bug infestation, both the cost and quality of pillows do not matter that much.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Synthetic Down Pillows?
Fret not if you would love to experience the lavishness that comes with having down pillows on the bed, but you are on a tight budget.
That's because there are more affordable alternatives to them, and they are filled with synthetic down. Instead of coming from birds, their down-like fillings are out of polyester or another synthetic material.
Whether the pillow is stuffed with synthetic or real down, bed bugs can live in it. This is especially true if the casing has hiding spots, like zippers and folds. The underside of a synthetic down pillow, which is dark and often undisturbed, serves as a perfect bed bug living area.
If you are trying to deal with a bed bug infestation currently, having synthetic down pillows can get in your way. It's because you cannot wash them in hot water to kill bed bugs.
Well, you can wash them in hot water, but it may damage the synthetic materials that the fillings are made of, thus causing your pillows to flatten.
The good news is that, aside from being easier on the pocket, synthetic down pillows can better support the head and neck, particularly those with high fill power.
But no matter how great synthetic down pillows are in giving support, you will still find it hard to sleep if you know that you are sharing the bed with blood-sucking bed bugs.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Latex Pillows?
Not a lot of people are aware that latex can be both all-natural and man-made. Natural latex is harvested from rubber trees.
The synthetic kind possesses the same properties as its natural counterpart, except that it's artificial and cheap. No matter the case, one thing remains true: latex pillows are bed bug-resistant.
Despite being known to resist bed bugs and other insects, it is still possible for latex pillows to harbor bed bugs. The filling is not the one to blame but the casing. However, the good news is that the rubbery foam inside, whether natural or man-made, is unfavorable for bed bugs.
Latex pillows are perfect for people with allergies. That's because they are resistant to an assortment of allergens that are commonly found in the bedroom.
Some common examples are dust mites, mold, and mildew. According to their manufacturers, bed bugs do not find latex in a suitable hiding area.
Just like many other types of pillows that we have discussed so far, it is not a good idea to wash latex pillows in hot water. And there is no reason to do so as they are bed bug-resistant.
However, you will still need to wash their casings in hot water if you are trying to rid your bedroom of a bed bug infestation without professional help.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Kapok Pillows?
Earlier, we talked about cotton pillows and how they may attract bed bugs. There are pillows having practically the same properties as cotton-stuffed ones, and they are those that are filled with kapok.
As a matter of fact, a lot of those who have tried using both types of pillows have a hard time telling them apart.
Kapok is a material that's just as absorbent as cotton. It goes without saying that kapok is also very good at absorbing your sweat and skin oils, thus making your pillow smell like you. If bed bugs love the way you smell, they may live around or under kapok pillows, or inside them, too.
Since the fillings of kapok pillows are pretty much the same as the fillings of cotton pillows, you should not wash them in hot water.
This can keep you from carrying out a more comprehensive DIY bed bug extermination approach. However, you may wash their casing in hot water just in case there are bed bugs hiding in them.
Before we start talking about another type of pillow, let us quickly check out a few other important stuff about kapok pillows. Their fillings are softer than cotton, and that's why some people prefer to use them.
They are springy, too, which requires very little to no fluffing. However, they tend to flatten quicker than their cotton-filled counterparts.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Buckwheat Pillows?
Those who cannot afford memory foam pillows but would love to enjoy the perks that come with their use may go for buckwheat pillows. As the name suggests, these pillows are stuffed with the hulls of buckwheat.
Aside from being affordable, buckwheat pillows are also long-lasting and can keep you from feeling hot.
Poor-quality buckwheat pillows may attract bed bugs and other insects. This is why experts highly recommend investing in buckwheat pillows that come with superb quality. However, the casing of buckwheat pillows and their undersides may provide bed bugs with excellent living places.
Before the hulls of buckwheat are used as pillow fillings, they are roasted first. Such is necessary to toughen them up as well as kill any microorganisms and pests residing in them.
Buckwheat hulls that are not appropriately roasted may harbor germs and critters and may cause flare-ups in people with asthma and allergies.
If the casing of your buckwheat pillow has a hole or tear, not only will the fillings escape. It can also invite bed bugs to hide and breed inside. This can be a serious problem because roasted buckwheat hulls are dark in color.
This can make it difficult for you to spot bed bugs inside the pillow when carrying out an ocular inspection.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Microbead Pillows?
Microbead pillows are named as such because they are stuffed with tiny balls which are out of polystyrene, or what most people refer to as styrofoam.
You can think of microbead pillows, which are also called "polyfill pillows," as tiny versions of bean bags with smaller polystyrene balls in them.
There is no reason for bed bugs to get attracted to polystyrene balls as they are smooth, which makes it difficult for them to crawl on. That's why microbead pillows are best when trying to get rid of bed bugs.
However, some parts of the casing of microbead pillows can be easy for bed bugs to cling to and hide in, especially those that are on airplanes and buses.
Most of the time, travelers are seen carrying microbead pillows. That's because they are usually small, which makes them excellent travel companions.
Aside from bedrooms, bed bugs can also infest airplanes, buses, and other modes of transportation, and it is possible for microbead pillows to pick up some of them.
Although they are very good at conforming to the shape of the head and neck as well as keeping you cool, microbead pillows cannot tolerate hot water just like bed bugs.
You can wash them in lukewarm water without damaging the polystyrene balls inside, but lukewarm water is not hot enough to kill bed bugs on contact.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Water Pillows?
There are mattresses that are filled with water, and there are also pillows that are filled with water. These pillows, which are called none other than "water pillows," are designed for people who complain of neck pain.
Many scientific investigations support the claims of water pillow manufacturers that their products work.
Bed bugs do not live inside water pillows for a simple reason — bed bugs do not survive in water. Also, there is a plastic casing that comes with water pillows that bed bugs cannot penetrate.
However, as with all other pillow types, bed bugs may still live in the outer casing of water pillows, which is usually out of cotton.
Water pillows also tend to be heavy. For instance, the majority of them tips the scale at almost eight pounds, depending on how much water is placed in them.
Because of this, water pillows usually remain stationary, which provides bed bugs with hiding areas underneath that are undisturbed most of the time.
If a poor head and neck support is keeping you from getting a good night's sleep, then you might benefit from the use of a water pillow.
So, it is a much better idea to first deal with a bed bug infestation before you buy a water pillow. That's because an infestation can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety, which can cause insomnia.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Gel Pillows?
Worry not if you find the idea of owning water-filled pillows too fancy but would like to benefit from their use. There are alternatives to them, and they are filled with gel.
The use of gel pillows is usually recommended for people who experience neck pain when sleeping. Those who have hot flashes may give them a try, too.
It's unlikely for bed bugs to survive drowning in gel because the thick consistency will certainly suffocate them. But since the gel filling is trapped inside a plastic casing, there is no way that bed bugs can drown in it.
One of the nicest things about using a gel pillow is that there is no need to worry that bed bugs can get in and multiply there without your knowledge.
That's because if there is a hole or tear in the casing, you will surely know about it. To deal with bed bugs that could be in the fabric casing, wash it in hot water.
By the way, aside from full-fledged gel pillows, there are also thinner ones that are placed on top of other pillows. If you are sharing your bedroom with bed bugs, using one of them is not a good idea.
It's because the tight space between the thin gel pillow and your preferred pillow may serve as a fantastic hiding spot for bed bugs.
Best Bed Bug Pillow Protectors
Some pillows can be washed in hot water, which helps reduce the number of bed bugs residing in your bedroom.
Sadly, not all pillows can be rid of bed bugs with the help of hot water because their fillings may wind up shrunk or damaged. This is when the benefit of using pillow protectors comes in.
Also referred to as "bed bug pillow encasements" or "bed bug pillow covers," these are pillow casings designed to trap bed bugs inside.
This keeps them from having access to blood for a long time, causing them to die. Because bed bugs can live for up to a year without eating, it is a good idea to keep pillow protectors on for months.
Other than trapping bed bugs inside, pillow protectors also keep bed bugs elsewhere in the bedroom from hiding in pillows.
So, in other words, they have no choice but to hide somewhere else. This helps reduce the number of potential hiding spaces, thus making it easier to eliminate bed bugs the DIY way.
You can cover your pillows with saran wrap. You can also use a sheet of plastic that you will have to secure with tape. Either way, it can eliminate breathability and cause excessive heating, which can interfere with your sleep. On the other hand, most pillow protectors are breathable, such as:
Niagara Sleep Solution Zippered Pillow Protector
What makes this pillow protector stand out from the rest is that its zipper comes with an auto-locking slider. Because of this, you can have peace of mind that there will be no accidental opening of the zipper, which can cause bed bugs inside to escape and bed bugs outside to hide in the pillow.
Allowing the product to carry out its task is a polyurethane membrane that enables air to pass through but not water — and definitely not bed bugs. You may worry that the use of polyurethane may come with health issues.
However, the reported problems associated with the synthetic material usually involve pillows that are filled with it.
- Special case backing helps prevent overheating
- Machine washable
- Comes with a lifetime replacement
- Generates a little noise
- Zipper is easily damaged
- Has a slippery surface
Everlasting Comfort Waterproof Pillow Protector
If you don't want to risk it, then consider using this product instead. That's because the material used to protect a pillow from a bed bug infestation is made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester.
Not only does the pillow protector feel soft against the skin. It also helps fend off allergic reactions as it's hypoallergenic.
The product is great for any kind of pillow, including one that is stuffed with feathers. As a matter of fact, it is designed to come with a feather-proof barrier, which addresses a common problem among feather pillows.
It is not recommended to use a feather pillow that allows the filling to escape due to an associated respiratory issue.
- Hypoallergenic and resistant to many allergens
- Machine washable
- With a lifetime warranty/replacement
- Wrinkles easily
- Creates a noise with movement
- Washable with lukewarm water only
SureGuard Pillow Protectors
To protect any accidental opening of the zipper as well as to discourage bed bugs from collecting around it, the product comes installed with a fine zipper that the manufacturer refers to as "Invisi-Zip".
This addresses the issue of bed bugs being able to squeeze through ordinary zippers, especially when they are desperate to feed.
Health-conscious people will find this product appealing, especially upon learning that it is free of vinyl and other synthetic materials that may release toxins.
However, there is one tiny catch, and it's that this product costs almost double the price tag of either of the pillow protectors we talked about earlier.
- 100% terry cotton surface
- Compatible with many pillow types
- With a 10-year warranty
- Has a strange odor after unpacking
- Generates heat
- More expensive than the other two products
If your bedroom has a bed bug infestation or is prone to it, you should consider factors other than the comfort level and price tag when choosing a pillow.
You should also check that your choice won't encourage bed bugs to live in it, which can make it more difficult to control a bed bug issue with your own two hands.
Always keep in mind the above-mentioned details about each type of pillow to make it easier to deal with and prevent a bed bug infestation. Don't let the bed bugs bite!
Photo credit: ©canva.com/Cunaplus_M.Faba
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Feruza is a mom and a blogger. She had a neck pain for 15 years, which made her interested in everything about pillows.
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