A great pillow can do wonders for your sleep quality but they can also be costly to buy and replace. So, to prolong its life, consider getting a pair of pillow protectors.
These nifty items are basically covers that go over your pillow but under your pillowcase to improve the hygiene of your bed. Their main benefit is that they offer an additional layer of protection against wear and tear as they can be removed and put into the washing machine alongside the rest of your bedding each week. But, depending on the fabric you choose and the treatment it’s gone through, they can also protect your pillow from sweat and drool, grease from your face and hair and even bed bugs and dust mites.
There are two main styles of pillow protector. One is a single layer of fabric, just like a second pillowcase but without any decorative features, and these are suitable for most pillows. But, if you’re looking for a bit more padding, or have feather or down pillows, quilted pillow protectors will offer better comfort.
When it comes to closure, you also have two options: envelope or zip. If you’re looking to create a dust mite-free zone in your home, and especially if you suffer from allergies, a zip one is preferable as they completely cover your pillow. However, they may need to be replaced more frequently as weekly washing will wear down the zips faster. Envelope-style openings are better for securing your pillow in place so they don’t become twisted in the cover during use.
As for fabric, cotton and polyester are the most common options. Cotton is generally considered to be more breathable and is recommended for hot sleepers. Polyester has the benefit of being slightly cheaper, can produce super-soft fabrics and won’t need any ironing to keep its shape. However, it does produce more static, which can cause frizzy hair. You can also get other treated or special fabrics that offer better moisture wicking for those who sweat a lot, and even waterproof styles to protect pillows against drooling.
We tested a whole range of pillow protectors featuring different fabrics, styles and closures. We looked for how easy they were to put on and take off soft and firm pillows, how straightforward they were to clean, whether they rustled when we laid on top of them and whether they kept their shape after washing (we washed just one of the pairs for this). Here are the ones that passed the tests.
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 to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best pillow protectors for 2021 are:
Best overall – Dunelm hotel downproof pillow protector, pair: £7, Dunelm.com
Best for total protection – Slumberdown Teflon protection pillow protector: £10, Argos.co.uk
Best for snag-free zip closure – Tradelinens cotton zipped pillow protector, pair: £9.50, Tielleloveluxury.co.uk
Best for extra padding – Dorma pillow protector, pair: £12, Dunelm.com
Best budget buy – Wilko supersoft quilted non-allergenic pillow protector, pair: £5, Wilko.com
Best for allergy sufferers – Slumberdown allergy protection pillow protector: £11, Argos.co.uk
Best for preventing wear and tear – Soak and Sleep luxury quilted pillow protector: £20, Soakandsleep.com
Best for everyday use – Dunelm freshnights anti-allergy pillow protectors, pair: £6, Dunelm.com
Dunelm hotel down proof pillow protector, pair
Size: 74cm x 48cm (29” x 19”)
Dunelm’s hotel downproof pillow protectors resemble a crisp white shirt when you first open the wrapping. Each one features just a single layer of non-allergenic fabric, made from 100 per cent cotton woven into a herringbone pattern, giving it a dense, reassuringly durable feel. The fabric can be machine washed at 30C on a synthetic setting followed by a cool tumble dry and a warm iron if desired.
After washing, the shrinkage was minimal – it came to around half an inch shorter in length and width. Unlike some of the other pillow protectors, we had zero issues with putting this on either the firm or soft pillow and it was satisfyingly easy to zip shut. The casing also retained its shape well, which made folding it away for storage a pleasure. Although you can iron the fabric for a pristine finish, we felt the wrinkling wasn’t severe enough to require this.
Buy now £7.00, Dunelm.com
Slumberdown Teflon protection pillow protector, pair
Best: For total protection
Size: 74cm x 48cm (29" x 19”)
Slumberdown’s Teflon protection pillow protector is ideal for those who want to protect their pillow from drool, sweat or anything else that might stain. The top cover is made from 100 per cent polyester that’s been treated with Teflon to make it water resistant. We poured water from a mug to test this and were pleased to see the liquid sitting on the surface of the fabric. It will feel damp to the touch when you wipe it off but the liquid doesn’t penetrate the fabric so it doesn’t actually get wet. The interior fabric is 100 per cent polypropylene, while the large quilting is filled with 100 per cent polyester. To clean, it’s machine washable at 40C on a synthetic cycle and then line dry.
Like other synthetic casings we tried, there was zero shrinkage after washing, although the manufacturer warned that it can change size and shape over time. Thanks to how well it has maintained its shape – it looks exactly like the unwashed version and is incredibly soft to the touch – we had zero issues putting it on and taking it off our pillow, although we did experience some static.
Buy now £10.00, Argos.co.uk
Tradelinens cotton zipped pillow protectors, pair
Best: For snag-free zip closure
Size: 74cm x 48cm (29" x 19”)
These Tradelinens pillow protectors are made from 233 thread count white cambric cotton – a dense, plain weave fabric with a smooth surface. We tested the standard size pillow protectors but they are also available in square and superking. Fresh from the bag, the single layer of 100 per cent cotton gives a soft rustle when you move it around. On one end is a zip opening where you insert your pillow. Unlike some of the other zippable casings, the fastening on this doesn’t extend right to the edge of the casing, which means a bit more wriggling when you’re putting the pillow in.
The pillow protector is machine washable at 60C and can be tumble dried and ironed. After washing, the casing shrank by a good inch in length – there was no difference in the width – and the fabric was pretty wrinkled. No matter, it can be ironed to restore that hotel luxury feel and it’s still roomy enough for firm pillows. The soft rustling stayed, but it didn’t affect our sleep quality; if you are a particularly soft sleeper, it might be one to avoid though.
Buy now £9.50, Tielleloveluxury.co.uk
Dorma pillow protector, pair
Best: For extra padding
Size: 75cm x 49cm (29.5" x 19”)
Dorma’s quilted pillow protectors come in a pair, bagged neatly into a zippable clear plastic storage bag. The exterior fabric is made from a 230 thread count crisp, white cotton that’s soft to touch but is quite stiff and gives a noisy rustle. The interior fabric is 100 per cent polyester, with 100 per cent polyester hollowfibre sandwiched into the large quilting between the two layers. Its fairly large size will happily fit most pillows and the envelope closure on this is easy to access.
To clean, it’s a machine wash at 40C on the synthetic setting followed by low temperature tumble dry. After washing, the casing shrank by just over an inch in length and around half an inch in width. This meant the casing was a much tighter fit on our firm pillow, and in turn made it even firmer. This doesn’t affect the usage too much – the envelope closure means it’s still easy to put on and slip off. Although it’s less rustley after washing, we think super-soft sleepers may still struggle.
Buy now £12.00, Dunelm.com
Wilko supersoft quilted non-allergenic pillow protector, pair
Best: Budget buy
Size: 75cm x 50cm (29.5" x 19.5”)
Wilko’s budget-friendly pillow protectors are large and spacious with an envelope closure. The exterior fabric is 100 per cent soft to touch polyester, while the interior fabric is polypropylene – a stain and mildew resistant fabric that’s quite stiff and helps the casing keep its shape. The covering is finely quilted, with a light filling of polyester, so won’t add much to your pillow’s natural cushioning. To clean, it’s machine washable up to 40C and tumble dry on low.
After a round in the washing machine, the casing retained its shape with zero shrinking thanks to the synthetic fabric. The envelope closure made putting the pillow protector on really easy, and it was just as easy to take it off. We did experience a fair bit of static when removing the pillow so you might want to avoid it if you have damage-prone hair.
Buy now £5.00, Wilko.com
Slumberdown allergy protection pillow protector
Best: For allergy sufferers
Size: 74cm x 48cm (29" x 19”)
Slumberdown’s allergy protection pillow protector has a 100 per cent cotton cover, while the interior fabric is 100 per cent polypropylene. Stuffed between the large quilting is a 100 per cent polyester filling that’s been treated with a substance called dimethyloctadecyl 3-(trimethoxysilyl)propyl ammonium chloride to give it its anti-allergy properties – these pillow protectors have Allergy UK’s seal of approval as well. The synthetic fabric interior means it must be machine washed on a synthetic cycle up to 40C, and it can’t be tumble dried or ironed.
After washing, the casing lost around an inch in length and half an inch in width – the manufacturer warned that it can change size and shape over time by as much as 5cm. We found the shrinkage made it a lot more snug on our pillows although the envelope closure meant that it was still easy to put on and take off.
Buy now £11.00, Argos.co.uk
Soak and Sleep luxury quilted pillow protector
Best: For preventing wear and tear
Size: 75cm x 50cm (29.5" x 19.5”)
Made from off-white fabric, Soak and Sleep’s luxury quilted pillow protector is zippable and suitable for most standard pillows. The top layer of the fabric is 100 per cent cotton, while the under layer is 100 per cent polyester. Stitched together with fine quilting, the middle is filled with 100 per cent cotton to help maintain its breathable and moisture wicking properties, which is ideal for warm weather and hot sleepers. The casings are machine washable at 40C on a gentle cycle and can be tumble dried on cool.
After washing we found there was slight shrinkage due to the way the fabrics naturally wrinkled. This made it a bit harder to put it on the pillow and the zip got caught a couple of times as a result. It’s not a major concern for softer pillows – your pillow will just fit more snugly – but you may struggle to squeeze firmer pillows into the casing without stretching it out by hand a little first.
Buy now £20.00, Soakandsleep.com
Dunelm freshnights anti-allergy pillow protectors, pair
Best: For everyday use
Size: 74cm x 48cm (29" x 19”)
Dunelm’s freshnights pillow protectors are made from 100 per cent white cotton, plain woven and in a single layer. The fabric has been treated with dimethyloctadecyl 3-(trimethoxysilyl)propyl ammonium chloride, the aforementioned biocidal chemical that’s frequently used in anti-allergy clothing. It helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and makes the pillow protectors dust mite resistant. The casing is machine washable up to 40C, can be tumble dried on cool and will be fine under a warm iron.
After washing – and we’d recommend it before use for any chemically treated fabrics – this casing shrank by about an inch on the length and width. Slipping it onto a firm pillow required a bit more negotiation. But, while it was a lot more snug, it was still a good fit and didn’t affect the use at all. The one thing to note is that the fabric for the zippable casing is very thin, so isn’t ideal for pillows that need heavier protection.
Buy now £6.00, Dunelm.com
The verdict: Pillow protectors
Dunelm’s hotel downproof pillow protectors looked luxurious and, we felt, would offer the most protection for your pillow for a single-layer cover. For a padded alternative, Slumberdown’s Teflon protection pillow protector will save your pillows from all manner of sins.
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