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You use bed sheets and maybe even a pad or cover to help maintain your mattress and prevent dust accumulation—but what about your pillow? Pillow protectors are similar to pillowcases and shams, except they almost always have zipper closures and serve a specific purpose.
The idea is to prevent premature wear and tear of your pillow while creating a barrier against moisture, stains, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens. There are lots of cooling options, too, and some even go so far as to keep bed bugs away. Our top pick is the Avocado Organic Quilted Pillow Protector, which is a soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic option.
To help you narrow down your options, we rounded up the best pillow protectors for every budget below.
Best Overall: Avocado Organic Quilted Pillow Protector
While there are many excellent options out there, Avocado takes the cake. The brand's 400-thread-count Quilted Pillow Protector is woven from 100 percent certified organic cotton. It boasts a velvety-smooth sateen finish with a hand-stitched diamond quilting pattern.
This discrete encasement is designed to go over your pillow and under your pillowcase. Thanks to the hidden zipper and white fabric, it won't show through.
We also like that it comes in three sizes and holds various certifications, including GOTS, Made Safe, Greenguard Gold, and Oeko-Tex. This product is soft, breathable, hypoallergenic, durable, and even machine-washable—what's not to love?
Best Budget: The Company Store Standard Cotton Pillow Protector
Zipper isn't very durable
For folks on a budget, we highly recommend the 100 percent cotton pillow protector from The Company Store. This well-crafted bedding essential is exceptionally soft and comfortable.
It has a zipper closure on one side and is conveniently machine-washable. We also appreciate that the Cotton Pillow Protector comes in four sizes, including Euro to fit square decorative pillows.
Best for Allergies: Claritin Soft Cotton Allergen Barrier Zippered Pillow Protector
Protects from multiple allergens
From the brand that brings you your springtime antihistamine, the Claritin Pillow Protector is a great defense against allergens while you doze. Whether it's dust mites, pet dander, pollen, or all of the above, this affordable encasement can help you breathe easier.
Woven from 100 percent cotton, it flaunts a super-smooth sateen weave, zipper closures, and a snug fit—extra points for the lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Best Waterproof: Coop Home Goods Ultra-Tech Pillow Protector
Stripe shows through white pillowcases
Woven from a bamboo-polyester blend with a special polyurethane membrane, the Ultra-Tech Pillow Protector from Coop Home Goods is waterproof and stain-resistant. Sweat, spills, and other liquids can't penetrate the material, but it's still machine-washable on a cold cycle.
Unlike other waterproof designs, this pillow protector is guaranteed quiet—no crinkly, rustling noises when you move around. It's also hypoallergenic, breathable, and supremely soft.
Best Organic: Coyuchi Organic Cotton Pillow Protector
Dust mite protection
If you're on the organic bedding bandwagon, you can't go wrong with Coyuchi. The brand's pillow protector is made of 100 percent certified organic cotton and densely woven with a 530 thread count.
Available in three sizes, this white encasement features a luxurious sateen finish and a side zipper closure. You can count on protection from stains, dust mites, and general wear and tear.
Best Cooling: Ettitude Bamboo Pillow Protector
Calling all hot sleepers! Ettitude's Pillow Protector is woven from sustainable and naturally hypoallergenic bamboo. The fill within the box-stitch quilting is bamboo as well, which makes for an all-around breathable and inherently cooling encasement.
In addition to helping regulate your body temperature, a thermoplastic lining keeps sweat stains and spills off your pillow.
Best for Bed Bugs: All-in-One Pillow Protectors with Bed Bug Blockers
Ultrasonically sealed seams
Not very breathable
If you're dealing with bed bugs, go with All-in-One Pillow Protectors. The unique fabric is designed to prevent an infestation from reaching your pillow.
Thanks to a multi-layer microporous barrier, triple-seal closure, and ultrasonically sealed seams, it also blocks dust mites, pollen, and pet dander while keeping moisture out. We appreciate that this waterproof pillow protector is machine-washable and non-crinkly.
Best for Night Sweats: Brooklinen Pillow Protectors
Zipper isn't very durable
While Brooklinen is well-known for its luxury bedding, the brand makes some great utilitarian products. These pillow protectors are loomed from 100 percent long-staple cotton with a 500-thread-count sateen weave.
The dense fabric is designed to safeguard your pillow from sweat, oil, makeup, and spills. Available in packs of two, the encasements also provide natural protection from dust mites while extending the life of your pillow.
Our number one pick is the Avocado Quilted Pillow Protector (view at Avocado). This organic cotton encasement features a smooth sateen finish and offers naturally breathable, hypoallergenic protection. For something more wallet-friendly, we recommend The Company Store Cotton Pillow Protector (view at The Company Store), which is soft, comfortable, breathable, and effective.
What to Look for When Buying a Pillow Protector
When buying a pillow protector, you'll want to pay attention to the material. Many options are 100 percent cotton, a naturally airy and moisture-wicking textile. Some are woven from bamboo lyocell, which is also breathable and moisture-resistant but generally more sustainable.
However, water-resistant and waterproof protectors typically feature some sort of polyethylene membrane or outer shell. The thermoplastic polymer offers excellent protection from spills, sweat, oil, makeup, and other substances that may stain a pillow.
Many protectors come in standard, queen, and king sizes to accommodate different sizes of bed pillows. However, some only offer standard and king. While queen pillows are a few inches longer than standards, the idea is that they're close enough to fit the same cases. You might also see additional sizes, such as Euro (for square throw pillows) and body (for body pillows).
Some encasements are designed to help regulate your body temperature while you sleep by way of cooling, breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. Cotton and bamboo tend to be best for this, and lower thread counts will allow more air to pass through. While there are some exceptions, pillow protectors with polyethylene layers generally won't be as breathable.
We also suggest looking out for various certifications, which can verify the quality of the textile and ensure it's produced ethically or sustainably. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifies organic bedding, and the Standard 100 certification by Oeko-Tex confirms a material is free of harmful substances.
Similarly, the Made Safe seal tells you a product was created only with safe ingredients and is free of chemicals that could harm your health. Certified Fair Trade bedding is made by farmers, artisans, or production workers who are treated ethically and paid a fair wage.
Products certified as Asthma & Allergy Friendly by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) should do a sufficient job of keeping allergens out. Then there's Greenguard Gold, which ensures a fabric won't pollute indoor air, though it's not as common for textiles.
What is a pillow protector?
A pillow protector is similar to a mattress protector or mattress pad in that it safeguards the insert from various substances while extending its lifespan. They're typically made of cotton or bamboo and may feature a polyurethane layer for extra moisture resistance.
People often use them as allergen barriers because they can help keep dust mites, pet dander, and pollen out of your pillow. This type of encasement usually has a zipper closure and might feature specially sealed seams to keep liquids and bed bugs out.
Do pillow protectors help with allergies?
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), certain pillow protectors can help keep symptoms at bay. The organization says the fabric should be breathable but also densely woven to keep dust mites, pollen, and various other allergens from passing through. Having said that, one of the reasons an encasement can be helpful is that you can wash it often to remove irritants from the surface.
Are pillow protectors hot to sleep on?
Some pillow protectors aren't as breathable as others, and breathability is key to preventing night sweats and overheating while you sleep. If you tend to run hot, look for a 100 percent cotton or bamboo lyocell pillow protector.
Encasements with water-resistant membranes are more prone to trapping heat. However, many brands have managed to make them plenty breathable while keeping moisture out.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in textiles, home design, and lifestyle. For this piece, she researched all aspects of pillow protectors, including the various types, materials, features, and certifications. She considered dozens of encasements from myriad brands and retailers, ultimately selecting products that held multiple critical qualities (breathability, organically grown fabric, water resistance, allergy protection, etc.). Theresa has been contributing to The Spruce since 2019, where she writes full reviews of home-tested products and "Best of" roundups.