A good pillow can only withstand so much use before the wear starts to become apparent. If you’re anything like me, and cling to your favorite pillow that cradles your head and neck just the right way, you’ll probably want to buy a pillow protector to give it an extra layer of safety and protection. We tested everything from synthetic fabric options to traditional cotton and even silk encasements to see which are the best of the best.
In this roundup, Brooklinen(available at Brooklinen) came through yet again—the company makes our favorite bed sheetsanddown pillow—impressing us with its high quality, silky smooth pillow protector that resisted our best efforts at staining.
These are the best pillow protectors we tested, ranked in order:
National Allergy Allersoft
Target Room Essentials
Claritin Ultimate Allergen
Niagara Sleep Solution
Protect-a-bed AllerZip Pillow Covers
SmartSilk pillow covers
Coop Home Goods
Brooklinen Pillow Protectors
The Brooklinen pillow protector impressed me from the moment I removed it from its plastic sleeve. Though most of the products we tested looked nearly identical, this one from Brooklinen managed to stand out with a pleasing, silky texture. While I’m not sure I could pick it out with my eyes closed, the sateen fabric was distinct enough that it was the only pillow protector I could readily identify when surveying the dozen products we tested.
When I slept on it, I didn’t notice it was particularly noisy or that it made my head feel warm. It also didn’t annoyingly (albeit entertainingly) balloon like a handful of the more airtight pillow protectors did when I lay my head down. In other words: This pillow protector was great in part because I didn’t notice it at all.
In lab testing, it stayed the same size after five wash cycles with warm and cool water temperatures, and five runs through the dryer on the ever-popular “tumble dry low” setting. It retained a faint stain from the pomegranate juice we subjected each pillow protector to, but it was so light that I had to examine it a few times before I was sure that it actually was stained. Essentially, it faded enough that I wouldn’t see it underneath a pillowcase.
It’s hard to beat Target’s Room Essentials line in terms of price, but value and quality came through with the brand’s pillow protectors. If you’re anything like me, you may not want to dump more than $10 into a product that won’t, or shouldn’t, ever see the light of day.
Enter the Room Essentials pillow protector. Target claims it has allergy protective properties, and while we aren’t sure of that, we are certain you can’t get a better bang for your buck. At less than $5, it was the cheapest pillow protector that we tested. Not only that, it ranked higher than all but two products after testing.
As with Brooklinen, the highlight was that I didn’t notice it at all while sleeping. It didn’t make me feel warmer or produce any annoying rustling overnight. Its zipper was among the easiest to use—it was smooth and easy to grasp, making putting this protector on a breeze. What’s more, it was roomy enough to fit a variety of pillow sizes without being excessively large or gaping on a standard pillow.
Though it didn’t feel like the highest quality product I got my hands on for this project, it also didn’t feel cheap. We think that it will have an ample enough lifespan even with its bargain price tag. And hey, if its zipper eventually fails, it’s only a few bucks to replace.
Though lots of pillows advertise allergy-protective qualities, there aren’t many that can be taken at face value. The Allersoft pillow protector, on the other hand, is a great option that has passed the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America’s (AAFA) rigorous testing.
Importantly, I didn’t notice it as I slept thanks to its low profile. It fit my moderately fluffy pillow, and would work well with any that are reasonably filled—though I’m not sure how well it would fare on uber-firm pillows that are, say, more than 5 inches deep. There was no need to tug the zipper and it didn’t snag.
On top of its allergy-proofness, this pillow protector was one of just a few that really resisted staining. Most of the others we tested had at least a faint pomegranate juice stain that lingered after washing and drying; the National Allergy Allersoft Pillow Protector remained stain-free.
One of the only downsides is that this pillow protector has a propensity to wrinkle—but as pillow protectors go inside your pillowcase, we didn’t account for that in our scores. Your pillow may look a little less put-together if the wrinkles are visible.
We wanted to be sure we assessed every aspect of pillow protectors, from how they stood up to washing and staining to how they might change someone’s sleep experience—they have a reputation for being noisy, after all. Here’s what you need to know.
I’m Lindsey, the sleep writer here at Reviewed. I cover all things sleep—from products as big as mattresses, to things as little as Bose’s Sleepbuds, and as invisible as pillow protectors. I devote myself, day and night, to the mission of maximizing each and every hour I spend asleep so that I can help you sleep better, too.
We put each pillow protector through three rounds of testing. We started with lab-based wash and stain tests, as most people will launder pillow protectors before using them. Afterward, well, I slept on each for a few nights. I looked for common issues that people have written about in reviews, like noise and zipper quality, as well as questions based on my expertise, like whether the pillow protector sleeps hot. We also assessed them in general terms, like comfort and whether they changed my sleep. (Spoiler alert: Only one of them took an extremely noticeable toll.)
Following an at-home stint, the pillow protectors were subjected to an additional stain test, and we ran each through the washer and dryer five times to check its longevity and if it shrank at different wash temperatures. I also checked every product’s zipper by opening and closing it 20 times.
What You Should Know About Buying a Pillow Protector
What Is a Pillow Protector?
One common misconception is that pillow protectors and pillowcases are one and the same. Though they’re both made of fabric, a pillowcase is part of your typical bedding set. A pillow protector goes on your pillow before the pillowcase and provides an additional buffer for your pillow from dirt like makeup, sweat, and other things. You'll want to use both to keep your pillow in the best shape possible.
Pillow protectors are among the lowest tech things found in a bedroom. They’re perhaps one step above sheets—add a zipper to fabric and viola! Nonetheless, they can serve many purposes, including as protection for droolers to keep their pillows in tip-top shape, and for those with allergies they can help decrease symptoms. For everyone else, a pillow protector prolongs a pillow’s life—a win-win in my book.
Not all pillow protectors are equal when it comes to allergens. Most of the products we tested claim hypoallergenic properties on their labels, though it doesn’t actually mean much. In fact, the word “hypoallergenic” doesn’t have a standard definition, says Dr. John McKeon, the CEO of Allergy Standards. There’s only one way to really know a pillow protector is allergen-proof: a seal from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
An AAFA certification indicates that a pillow protector passed rigorous testing that includes:
Withstanding multiple washing and drying cycles
Stretching and pulling in different directions to assess its efficacy as an allergen barrier
Checking for chemicals that can be introduced after processing and may trigger allergies or aggravate people with asthma
The AAFA certification has criteria that even pertains to the barrier created by the pillow protector’s zipper, McKeon says.
Of course, only so much can be done by the pillow protector. You also have to practice proper sleep hygiene—in a literal sense—by washing your sheets and bedding regularly. A pillow protector can only do its job if you actually launder it every so often (at least every couple of weeks, when you wash your sheets).
What Materials are Pillow Protectors made of?
Pillow protectors can be made of a slew of materials—from natural fabrics to what amounts to a vinyl plastic bag for your pillow, and everything between, like microfiber and polyester blends.
Historically I’ve opted for pillow protectors made of natural fabrics as they tend to be more breathable and I don’t like the sensation of sleeping on plastic or vinyl. You may think this would make the protector less, well, protective and allergy-proof—but it’s not always the case. A textile’s weave contributes to products’ efficacy against allergens. Tightly woven fabrics can be a sufficient barrier against the biggest allergens, like dust mites. A handful of AAFA-certified products are made with cotton and silk so it’s easy to find something that will work for you and your personal needs.
Other Pillow Protectors We Tested
AllerEase Ultimate Cotton Pillow Protector
The Allerease pillow protector, despite its name, doesn’t have the official AAFA seal and testing reputation—so if you’re looking for an allergy-proof pillow protector, there are far better options. This pillow protector was hardly stained and I didn’t notice any differences in my sleep during the nights I had it on my pillow. It wasn’t one to write home about, but it’s still a great, reasonably priced option.
It shrank slightly in our wash and dry tests, but not so much that it wouldn't work with a majority of pillows.
The Claritin pillow protector was decent, though unmemorable in terms of how it felt to sleep on. I didn’t wake up feeling excellent or terrible about it. The length was great for a variety of pillows, however, the width may be a bit tight for folks with really thick pillows.
It wasn’t as soft as the Brooklinen case, nor was it as rough as a few of the others that came in below. It didn’t shrink in washing, but had a lingering, ever-so-faint stain. It’s a great option—especially if you like cotton that’s more crisp than soft—just not a standout.
The Niagara Sleep Solution Pillow Protector was a solid performer. It fared well during the at-home portion and in the lab—though after folding it in half during the stain test, the pomegranate juice soaked through each layer of the pillow protector's fabric, and a faint mark remained on each quadrant. Relative to some of the other natural fabric pillow protectors, this one had minimal wrinkling post-wash. The fabric quality, however, didn’t impress. It felt as though it wouldn’t last, and I ultimately wouldn’t reach for it.
The first thing I noticed about this pillow protector was its size. It was an absolute monstrosity. While it may work well for king-size pillows, it felt as though I was putting my pillow into a billowing black hole of fabric. I didn’t think this would be an issue, though it was still noticeable after I tucked my pillow, protector-and-all, into my regular pillowcase. The protector was so large that the excess fabric bunched up at the end of my pillow. I could feel its spare fabric lurking beneath my head as I went to bed.
I also thought that this pillow protector’s synthetic fabric would repel liquids and was surprised when it immediately soaked up the pomegranate juice. The plasticky backing worked, however. While I could feel a slightly cooler spot from the liquid, I couldn’t detect any dampness. After the wash cycles, it didn’t retain any stain.
The Circleshome Pillow Protector fared well in our home tests. I didn’t find it irksome while sleeping, but it shrank with a few washings and became incredibly wrinkly. I didn’t notice any ill effects while sleeping with it, but it was a bit of a squeeze on my rather small pillow—which doesn’t bode well for larger or well-stuffed pillows, in particular.
Thick and nice to touch, the SmartSilk pillow protector really impressed me when I first saw it. It seemed like a really high quality option. The dimensions appeared perfect—not too big or too small for most pillows—and I was into the sense of workmanship and longevity I got from it. Plus it's AAFA-certified, so you know it will provide a sufficient barrier between your pillow and bothersome allergens.
All the good impressions quickly faded away. It was so bulky that it made a noticeable difference in my pillow's thickness (which is perfect for my sleep preferences, as it is). For folks who don’t mind, or even want to add extra bulk to their pillow, this could be a good option, but otherwise, we think you should pass.
The Sureguard pillow protector was functional but I hated the texture. Unlike smoother products we tested, this one felt more like a towel than a bed linen. It wasn’t super noticeable when I put it in my pillowcase, but it was apparent enough. Imagine stuffing a hand towel between your pillowcase and pillow. That's about what this felt like. It was so bothersome that I noticed it every time I handled the products we tested. Plus, after washing the nap had a tendency to retain strands of hair or lint from other laundry. It was, undoubtedly, clean, but it didn’t look the part.
It also stained more than any of the others we tried. Though you’re not likely to intentionally stain your pillow protectors with pomegranate juice, I can report that this one will retain a gnarly brown splotch. It will, however, prevent your pillow from getting any liquid on it thanks to the plasticky backing.
I loved this pillow protector when I took it out of the box because it felt luxe. The fabric was plush and soft, but not heavy or poofy. Despite its great first impression, this pillow protector didn’t fare well in our testing—which surprised me, given the brand is the manufacturer of our all-time favorite pillow here at Reviewed. It got a noticeable stain from the pomegranate juice that stuck through multiple wash and dry cycles. And, sadly, despite having just two components, it wasn’t easy to use: The protector’s zipper got stuck quite often. It would twist itself outward, requiring more force than one would hope to get it to zip up. Tugging it shut 10 times in a row broke the skin on my finger because the zipper was so small and hard to grasp. While it won’t likely tear your skin—who else, after all, would sit and sequentially open and close a pillow protector?—it wasn’t a great omen for longevity and could prove frustrating.
On the other hand, the Coop Pillow Protector could be a great fit for pillows that have a gusset, as it has a sewn-in gray gusset around the edge. The seams aren’t totally flat, as with most of the pillow protectors I tested, and were somewhat noticeable when I tried to sleep on it. Given it has to fit your pillow perfectly to really work, we think there are better options out there for most people.
Lindsey writes about sleep, lifestyle, and more for Reviewed. In her waking hours, she likes to spend time outside, read, cook, and bake. She holds a master’s in journalism from Boston University and bachelors' degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from the University of Utah.
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