Stuffing Your Pillows with Cattail Fluff. Is It Worth It?


Cattails are a common wetland plant found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. They are identifiable by their tall, brown, cylindrical flower spikes. Once dried, the fluff or “down” from the flowers can be used as a natural stuffing material.1 This soft, hypoallergenic fluff has historically been used to stuff mattresses, pillows, comforters, and even life jackets.2 Today, there is renewed interest in using cattail fluff as an environmentally-friendly alternative to materials like goose down. This article explores the properties, harvesting, and use of cattail down for stuffing pillows.

Properties of Cattail Fluff

Cattail fluff refers to the soft, fluffy material inside the seed head of the cattail plant. This fluff has some unique properties that make it useful for applications like pillow stuffing.

One of the defining properties of cattail fluff is its incredible fluffiness and buoyancy. The fluff is made up of hundreds of tiny, lightweight seed hairs that give it an airy, downy texture resembling cotton or kapok. According to Common Cattail, the fluff “has good insulating qualities and buoyancy” due to the tiny air pockets between the seed hairs. This makes the fluff very soft and lightweight.

In addition to being fluffy, cattail fluff also has great insulating abilities thanks to the air trapped within it. The fluffy seed hairs retain heat and can insulate against both hot and cold temperatures. This helps explain why cattail fluff has been used traditionally for stuffing items like mattresses, pillows, and even diapers. The fluff helps provide cushioning and insulation for comfort and warmth.

Harvesting Cattail Fluff

Cattail fluff should be harvested in late spring or early summer when the cattail heads have turned brown and are bursting with pollen-like fluff. According to this source, the best time is just before the fluff starts naturally dispersing from the cattail head: Early spring Cattail Fluff.

To harvest the fluff, grab the brown cattail head and shake it into a bag or container. Don’t pull too hard or you may uproot the entire plant. Gently swirl the cattail head to release the soft, downy fluff inside. You may need to use your hands to lightly compress the head and extrude more of the cotton-like fluff. Continue shaking over the container until most of the fluff is extracted. For thorough instructions, see this guide on how to harvest cattails.

Store the freshly harvested cattail fluff in paper bags or mesh bags that allow air circulation. The fluff needs to fully dry before it can be used for projects like pillow stuffing. Spread out the fluff in a single layer instead of clumping it together. Keep the fluff out of direct sunlight to prevent bleaching.

Preparing the Fluff

Once the cattail fluff has been harvested, it needs to be properly prepared before stuffing a pillow. The key steps are drying, cleaning, and sanitizing the fluff.

Cattail fluff needs to be completely dried before using it as pillow stuffing. According to Simply Homemaking, the freshly harvested fluff should be spread out thinly and allowed to dry for several days, turning it periodically [1]. A warm, dry environment works best for drying. The fluff is ready when it feels light and fluffy.

Next, the dried fluff should be carefully cleaned. Remove any debris, seeds, or coarse fibers. Simply Homemaking recommends gently pulling the fluff apart and lightly shaking it over a basket or sheet to allow the fine fluff to fall while removing the coarser fibers [1]. The cleaned fluff should feel soft and feathery.

Finally, it is important to sanitize the cattail fluff before inserting it into a pillowcase. Reddit users recommend placing the dried, cleaned fluff into bags and freezing it for 48-72 hours. This helps kill any bacteria, mold spores, or insects [2]. The frozen fluff can then be stuffed directly into the pillowcase.

Making a Pillow

To make a cattail fluff pillow, you’ll first need to harvest and prepare the cattail fluff as described in the previous sections. Once you have a large bag of fluffy cattail down, you’re ready to stuff a pillowcase.

The simplest way is to take a standard pillowcase made of cotton, linen or other natural fabric and loosely fill it with the prepared cattail down. Don’t pack the fluff too densely or else the pillow may become lumpy and uncomfortable. Lightly fill the pillowcase until it is the desired fullness and firmness.

For a more polished look, you can sew a custom pillow cover using fabric like cotton calico, linen or even an old bedsheet. Leave one end open for stuffing the cattail fluff. Refer to this guide on hand-sewing a basic pillow cover.

Once stuffed, sew the open end closed using a whip stitch or slip stitch. Make sure not to sew too tightly so you can remove stitches later if needed to fluff up the pillow over time.

Benefits of Cattail Fluff Pillows

Cattail fluff has some excellent natural properties that make it a beneficial filling material for pillows. Here are some of the main advantages of using cattail fluff:

Natural and Sustainable – Cattails are abundant wetland plants that grow very quickly and prolifically. The fluff can be sustainably harvested without damaging the environment. Cattail pillows provide a natural and renewable alternative to synthetic pillow fillings.1

Hypoallergenic – The fluff contains no irritating oils or proteins that can trigger allergies or asthma. This makes cattail pillows a good choice for people with sensitivities.2

Breathable and Cooling – The fluffy fiber structure creates airflow and reduces heat buildup. This helps sleepers stay cool. Cattail pillows won’t get clumpy or compacted like some other natural fills.

Comfortable Cushioning – Cattail down provides soft, springy cushioning that gently supports the head and neck. The pillows adapt to the sleeper’s shape.

Biodegradable and Compostable – Cattail pillows can break down naturally at end of life, unlike synthetic pillows. The materials will compost rather than end up in a landfill.

Downsides of Cattail Fluff Pillows

While cattail fluff can make an eco-friendly stuffing material for pillows, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind:

Cattail fluff may degrade over time. Since the fluff is organic plant material, it can break down and compress over months or years of use. This may lead to flat, lumpy pillows that need regular fluffing or replacement stuffing (Source).

There is a limited supply of cattail fluff available. Cattails only produce the fluffy seed material for a few weeks each summer, so large scale harvesting for pillow stuffing may not be feasible or sustainable. The supply would be restricted by location, season, and accessibility of cattail wetlands (Source).

Cattail Pillow Alternatives

While cattail fluff can make a unique and eco-friendly pillow filling, there are several other natural materials that are commonly used as pillow stuffing. Some popular alternatives to cattail fluff include:

Wool: Wool from sheep is a traditional pillow filling that has natural moisture-wicking abilities. Wool pillows maintain their shape well. They can be an option for people who want a firm pillow. However, wool may not be suitable for people with wool allergies. According to Your Guide to the Best Natural Pillows for Back, Stomach and Side Sleepers – Greenopedia, wool pillows provide good support.

Cotton: Organic cotton is a soft, breathable and hypoallergenic pillow filling. Shredded cotton pillows mimic the feel of down pillows while being more environmentally sustainable. Cotton compresses well and regains its shape after use. One downside is that cotton pillows tend to be heavier than other fill options. As mentioned by The 10 Best Natural Pillow Alternatives – Apartment Therapy, cotton pillows work for all sleeping positions.

Kapok: Kapok is a silky, lightweight plant fiber that creates very soft and fluffy pillows. The fiber is naturally water-resistant and has thermal insulating properties. However, kapok pillows tend to be more expensive. Kapok provides good support for side sleepers, according to Extra Pillow Filling (Different Options) – Organic Textiles.

Examples of Cattail Pillows

There are some great examples of handmade cattail fluff pillows shared online, showing the finished look and providing reviews on comfort and durability:

This DIY cattail pillow project shares step-by-step photos of the harvesting and pillow-making process:

On craft site Etsy, sellers offer handmade cattail pillows for sale, like this rustic 16″ x 16″ cattail and cotton pillow from LaughingCoyote:

Reddit users have shared their own homemade cattail pillows and report the pillows being lightweight yet supportive. However some note over time the fluff compacts down. Maintaining fluffiness may require occasional re-fluffing.

Overall, when harvested and prepared properly, cattail fluff can make a unique, all-natural pillow filling. With some DIY effort, people have crafted their own pillows using this free material from nature.


In summary, cattail fluff can be a viable filling material for pillows, but it has both advantages and disadvantages compared to more mainstream pillow fillers like down. On the plus side, cattail fluff is free, all-natural, and sustainable. It has insulating properties that allow cattail pillows to remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Cattail fluff is also hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for people with allergies.

However, cattail fluff compacts and loses its loft more quickly than materials like down. This means cattail pillows need to be re-fluffed or refilled more frequently. The fluff can also be somewhat dusty and messy to work with. Proper cleaning and preparation of the fluff is essential. Additionally, finding enough cattail fluff to make pillows takes time and effort.

Overall, cattail fluff can be a creative, eco-friendly way to make pillows if you have access to cattails and don’t mind the extra work involved. But mainstream pillow fillers tend to be easier to use and last longer. For most people, cattail pillows are an interesting novelty but not a long-term pillow solution.

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