Your complete guide to pillows 


Decorative pillows are used for styling your bed. They come in different sizes and shapes.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Don’t buy a pillow with sponge or cloth filling, you are better off sleeping without a pillow at all.
  • You could injure your neck and back if you sleep on decorative pillows for long. 

The average adult spends seven to nine hours in bed, sleeping on their pillows.  Despite the many hours we spend on our pillows, we don’t know much about these handy, necessary yet simple accessories. Consider this your complete guide:

Size of sleeping pillows

These are used for sleeping. They are all rectangular, and come in different sizes. A standard pillow measures 20 by 26 inches. However, some sleeping pillows here in Kenya are not made to these international dimensions. Some are 17 by 28 inches, others 19 by 29.This difference is why some locally made pillows don’t properly fit into some second-hand pillow cases.

Two standard pillows fit neatly along the headboard of a four by six foot bed. There will be some spillage on a three by six foot bed.

A queen pillow is bigger than a standard pillow. This is because it is made for a queen bed. A queen pillow measures 20 by 30 inches. Again, there will be some variations in these dimensions when you buy them locally versus abroad. A king pillow is the biggest. It is made for a king bed. It measures 20 by 36 inches.

If you are having your pillows custom made, specify to the craftsman exactly what dimensions you want. Their default is to make a standard pillow.

Lastly, there is the body pillow. It is a long pillow that is mostly used by pregnant women. A body pillow is for the body – it snakes around your contours to fit into the achy nooks and crannies. It measures 20 by 54 inches, and takes up a lot of room on the bed.

Decorative pillow sizes

Decorative pillows are used for styling your bed. They come in different sizes and shapes.

They are square and large, and when you are styling your pillows on your bed, they go first against the headboard. You can have some decorative pillows that measure 24 by 24 inches, and others measuring 26 by 26 inches.

Lumbar pillows are also decorative. They are oblong and small, and measure 14 by 20 inches. When styling your bed, they sit furthest away from the headboard.

Square pillows are also decorative pillows. They are square, and measure 22 by 22 inches.

European, lumbar and square pillows are designed and made for decorating your bed. You could injure your neck and back if you sleep on them for extended periods.

Pillow case sizes

Pillow cases are usually two inches smaller than the pillow that will go inside them. They are smaller so they can fit snugly and have a neat, polished finish on your bed.

Sleeping pillow cases have different tailoring. Some have one end open, others have a flap. Flaps are better because they hide the pillow, and keep it from slipping out of the case. You will also find some pillows with press studs or buttons. Rarely will you find Velcro.

Other pillow cases have decorative borders, others a plain border.

Decorative pillows usually have zippers. As I mentioned, they are not made for sleeping so the zipper is not a safety issue for you.

Most decorative pillows have piping to enhance the styling. The smaller decorative pillows may have pompoms, tussles, buttons, embroidery and faux leather.

Pillow filling

The most common filling for pillows is synthetic polyester fibre. Fibre is affordable, comfortable and fluffy but it flattens with time. It flattens much faster than other pillow options. A sleeping pillow with fibre filling goes for between Sh500 and Sh800.

For a more luxurious filling for your sleeping pillows, go for feathers. They are more expensive but they give better sleep and go for longer before they flatten. You will spend between Sh1,600 and Sh3,000 for a feather filling pillow.

Another option is a memory foam pillow. Memory foam contours gently around the shape of your head. It knows when you are sleeping on it and when someone else sleeps on it. They are firm pillows to sleep on, and cost between Sh3,000 to Sh8,000. Don’t buy a pillow with sponge or cloth filling. You are better off sleeping without a pillow at all.

Pillow hygiene

Sleeping pillows collect drool, hair oil, loose strands, skin cells, face oils, sweat and a host of other body particles and fluids. After some weeks or months of use, your pillows will stain yellow-brown and emit an unmistakable odour.

It is also around this time that they begin to flatten. This is your cue to either get new ones or to clean them at home using good old direct sunlight, baking soda or white vinegar, bleach and lots of patience and care.


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