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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pillow Talk: The Series

Bed made with white bed linen. Four fluffy pil...Image via Wikipedia
Pillows are a source of comfort when they're clean and supportive.  Since I love pillows (I sleep surrounded by at least 4-5 of them) I've decided to do a "mini-series" of articles on them.  Since most people sleep on at least one pillow, some, if not all of the information in these articles should be helpful to you.  I will tell you the importance of replacing pillows and how often you should do so and why.  I will also cover how to choose pillows, including information on the various types, e.g. organic vs. hypo-allergenic, etc.  Also, I've had requests from some of you to provide suggestions on recycling or repurposing pillows.

Please feel free to comment with any suggestions on any pillow-related topic you're interested in knowing more about.
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Pillow Talk: 7 Ways To Reuse Your Old Pillows

Now that you have some ideas on how often you should replace your pillows, you may be wondering what you should do with your old pillows.  With millions, if not billions, of old pillows in landfills right now, taking up lots of space, with years to go before they are completely broken down or degraded, you won't want to throw them away.

There are several ways that you can recycle or repurpose your old pillows by making them into other useful items.

First things first:

  • Always wash and dry your old pillows before recycling or repurposing them.*  I recommend washing them in warm or hot water, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar instead of chlorine bleach for whiteness, and wash and rinse on a normal cycle.  You can then dry them using low to medium heat.  
  • Discard discolored, stained or torn pillow casings. Um, no explanation needed here.  
  • Use a dust mask when handling pillow stuffing just in case you're sensitive or allergic to the fine particles of any of the materials.
  • Collect all of the pillow stuffing and put it in a large box or other container so that you can see how much raw and recyclable materials you have.
7 Ways to Repurpose Your Pillows:
  1. Give them to your pet.  Save your money!  Instead of buying an expensive pet bed, let your pet cuddle or take a nap on the pillow.  It will have your familiar scent on it which will be especially comforting to it.  If you're feeling really industrious, you can use the pillows to sew a pet bed.  Note:  Some pets aren't healthy enough, like those with arthritis, to sleep on any old bed.  If you're unsure, please check with your vet.
  2. Re-stuff old worn stuffed animals.  Does your child (or pet) have a favorite stuffed toy that's been loved to pieces?  You can use the stuffing from your old pillows as new filling to repair these toys.  Just open the toy along the seam, add in the stuffing and stitch it back up.  You can then wash the toy either by hand or machine, then it'll be as good as new!
  3. Throw them in the car.  Put some old, but clean pillowcases on the pillows and keep them in your car.   They can useful for many occasions.  Passengers can rest their heads on them on long road trips.  If you go on picnics, you can sit on the pillows instead of the hard ground.
  4. Take them trick-or-treating.  Most of you have probably heard of using pillowcases to hold the candy from trick-or-treating.  Why not use an unstained pillow covering instead?  That way when it gets all sticky and yucky from the candy you won't feel bad about it.
  5. Use them as packing material.  You can use old pillows and pillow stuffing in moving or shipping boxes to keep your fragile items safe.  You can also use the stuffing to pack away your Christmas decorations that are breakable.
  6. Make new pillows.  Need new throw pillows? You can always upcycle the material into new throw/decorative pillows.  Find some inexpensive fabric with a pretty pattern and use the stuffing from the old pillows in the new ones.
  7. Give them away.  Join your local Freecycle group and offer the old pillows.  You never know, someone may need them for their own repurposing project.
Do you have any other ideas for reusing old pillows?  I'd love to hear them-feel free to leave a comment.

*Please note: Polyester, latex and down pillows can be laundered in the washer and dryer.  Pillows that are filled with cotton, wool or kapok will not keep their shape when laundered, so these should be aired and sunned.

Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.
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Pillow Talk: How Often Should You Replace Your Pillows?

Replacing Your Pillows

You’re groggy. You’ve had another restless night - tossing and turning, but are unable to get comfortable. What to do?

A good pillow will help you get better sleep, because it provides a soft cushion for your neck and head,  and can also directly affect your spine. Since most pillows often get lumpy (or fall apart) when washed in the washing machine, you may wonder: “How long should I keep my pillows before replacing them?”  Well, look no further! I've done the research for you and what I found out may surprise you.

Allergens & Other Gross Things

If you're an allergy sufferer, like me, you want to do everything you possibly can to lessen your symptoms.  I previously mentioned helpful hints, such as, washing your bedding frequently in hot water to reduce allergens in my article, 10 Tips For Dealing With Spring Allergies.  But is washing your pillowcases enough?  You may ask, "Should I wash my pillows, too?"  or wonder if you should be replacing them altogether.  

Pillows collect body oils and skin flakes over time, even when covered by a pillowcase.   These accumulations can attract dust mites, a common allergen. Dust mites, along with bacteria, mold and mildew, and human factors such as perspiration and drool, can make pillows become unhealthy.  Experts recommend that allergy sufferers replace their pillows every 1 to 3 years, however, using a pillow cover in addition to the pillowcase can double that amount of time.  

A pillow cover, sometimes referred to as a pillow encasing, looks like a basic white pillowcase with a zipper. Though it may look like a normal pillowcase, it is specifically designed to block out dust mites and other allergens. The major differences between a pillowcase and pillow cover are that pillow covers zip up tight to completely encase your pillow and are made of a fabric that prevents allergens from passing through it. Pillow covers act as a physical barrier between the inside of your pillow and allergens.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Try Household Plants for Cleaner Indoor Air

Peace Lily, image via Wikimedia Commons
If you have a green thumb, keeping your household plants alive is as easy as 1-2-3. However, if you have a "black thumb" like me (a.k.a. the "thumb of death) this is a tall order.

Indoor plants actually act as natural air filters, improving indoor air quality by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. Additionally, scientists say that they can contribute to clean air by absorbing nasty pollutants such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide.

Sounds great, right? Before you go shopping, you need to know which plants are the best at keeping indoor air at its best. Research has shown that the following 7 plants are the most effective in contributing to balanced indoor humidity, as well as combating off-gassed chemicals:

1) Boston Fern
2) English Ivy
3) Peace Lily
4) Rubber Plant
5) Areca Palm
6) Gerbera Daisy
7) Spider Plant

I think I'm going to try the Areca Palm, since they are supposed to be hardy plants that require little to no expertise; just medium to bright light and enough water to keep the soil moist. That shouldn't be too hard, right?