Your bedroom is your refuge, your haven. It is a comfort zone where you take shelter from the fatigue and stress in everyday living.
Now more than ever, your bedroom should be designed to communicate something in the way you want to rest, to recharge. It should be a reflection of your mood and style.
We spend a third of our lives in our beds. It is crucial to have the right mattress, top-quality bedding, and a comfortable sleeping environment conducive to getting the best sleep.
Bedding might include bedsheets, blankets, pillowcases, comforters, duvets, and quilts. It keeps you warm, directly impacting sleep quality, and promotes good health and hygiene.
Pillowcases protect the pillows from dust, dirt, stains, and other contaminants while providing comfort and decoration to your bedding style.
Sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy body. It is when your body and mind rest, leaving you refreshed and energized when you wake.
Lack of sleep has been known to impair your ability to concentrate, drive, or use heavy machinery.
A comfortable bedroom and good sleeping habits are vital to enjoying quality sleep.
While the bed is the centerpiece of your bedroom, the pillows are the closest, most intimate contact your skin has when you sleep.
The Differences Between Oxford and Housewife Pillowcases
Pillows are not created equal, and neither are pillowcases. While we sleep, we might sweat, tear, and even drool!
A pillowcase is imperative to protecting your pillow while serving as a decorative addition to the most prominent piece of furniture in the bedroom.
While designs of pillowcases are vastly differing, the structure of one falls under two categories: Oxford and Housewife.
Most pillowcases you can find used across the United Kingdom are Housewife pillowcases. It is most likely the structure used in all-inclusive sets of bed sheets and is more often referred to as a “standard” pillowcase.
Housewife pillowcases are available in almost every fabric, colour, and price range. Simple and straightforward, the Housewife pillowcase typically has a tucked flap to keep it neat and enclosed.
They are the basic type of pillowcase that fits nicely around the pillow, preventing creasing, sagging and eliminating the possibility of the pillow escaping from its case.
In contrast, Oxford pillowcases are typically regarded as a higher-end, more upscale option. They have an extra border or trim surrounding all four edges of a standard case.
This extra-flat border is about 5cm to 10cm wide, serving purely decorative purposes.
While it has a back opening through which the pillow is inserted, a hidden zipper or hook and loop fastener (commonly known as Velcro) can also be used to secure closure.
Oxford pillowcases are ideal for throw pillows and are commonly made of more refined fabrics like satin, silk, or some blend of velvet.
Oxford pillowcases are known to have decorative borders in a variety of shapes and sizes. They fit perfectly onto standard pillow sizes, with the border creating the illusion of a larger, fluffier pillow, especially when it includes minor padding.
Oxford pillowcases can be categorized into two types; “true Oxford” and “mock Oxford”. True Oxford pillowcases have better-defined mitered corners, while mock Oxford usually incorporates a decorative frill around the edge.
In hotels, Oxford pillowcases are often used on top of a pile of pillows to dress the bed, while Housewife cases are more minimalistic and straightforward.
Choosing interesting patterns or high-quality fabric like silk or satin is an excellent way of dressing the bed and achieving a more refined look.
Why Are They Named Oxford and Housewife Pillowcases?
Historically, the Housewife pillowcases were invented long before the Oxford. Back in the 19th century, pillowcases simply had one opening at the end, meaning the pillow frequently fell out.
The ongoing problem of pillows that refused to stay in their cases inspired the Bolton Housewives Cooperative to design an inside flap at the end to keep the pillow in, hence, the naming of the Housewife pillowcase.
The Bolton Housewives Cooperative was a member of the Women’s Cooperative Guild, founded on a national campaign for equal pay and opportunities for women.
The Oxford pillowcase was derived from the type of fabric used in its production; Oxford cloth.
The Oxford cloth is a thick fabric commonly used to make shirts. Tough and durable, the material was chosen because of its versatility and durability.
However, the modern Oxford pillowcases are now made of sleeker materials like satin and silk.
While both types of pillowcases are functional, the Oxford pillowcase is typically used to convey decorative style, while the Housewife is minimalistic and traditional.
Experimenting with both can make a bold personal statement in your bedroom, while mixing and matching colours, patterns, and fabric can be fun.
The History Of Pillows
There are few things more pleasurable than coming home after a long day’s work and sinking your head onto your favourite pillow.
Pillows are synonymous with rest and relaxation. They provide support for your head and neck, aligning your spine and giving you a good night’s sleep.
However, pillows throughout history were not always this comfortable.
The earliest pillows were made from stone or wood, used not for comfort, but to elevate the head and keep bugs and other creepy crawlies from getting into the mouth, nose, or ears.
The origins of the word “pillow” come from the old Middle English word “pilwe”. While the first known use of the term was before the 12th century, pillows have been used for millions of years.
Some of the earliest examples of use include using inanimate objects like stones and wood to support the head and neck when sleeping.
Studies have shown that great apes began using wooden pillows millions of years ago, enabling them to enjoy more extended periods of sleep and avoid falling out of trees.
One of the earliest recorded human use of pillows dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, around 7,000 BC. Only the wealthy used pillows, and the number of pillows used signified a more affluent status back then.
Ancient Egyptian pillows were wooden or stone and found in the tombs of ancient Egypt dating back to about 2,000 BC.
The Chinese dynasties made pillows from a wide range of materials such as porcelain, bamboo, bronze, jade, and wood.
Ancient Chinese believed that porcelain pillows would ward off evil, give pregnant women boys, and lengthen people’s lives.
Today, the modern pillow is made from various materials. While the outer cover is commonly cotton or polyester, the filling material can be cotton, feather, wool, or down.
Down feathers have been known to be a controversial material in recent years. Feathers are taken from geese or ducks in a method called “live-plucking”, causing the animal significant distress and pain.
Animal activists worldwide have spoken out about this unsettling method of harvesting down, sparking retailers to pursue certification for cruelty-free down.
Because of the allergens that can be found in natural materials, synthetic materials like latex, polyester, and foam are also frequently used.
Standard Pillow Sizes in the UK
All pillows and cases in the UK are available in a range of sizes. Choosing the proper case for your pillow will help with the aesthetics of the bed as well as your comfort at night.
Pillows are available in a range of sizes.
Standard Continental / Euro
Large Continental / Euro
King Size Bolster
Super King Bolster
Standard pillows are the least expensive and most widely available of the sizes, while the king-sized pillow requires a king pillowcase.
While standard pillows are the most versatile option because they fit most bed sizes, someone remarkably big might suit king pillows that can be used as backrests or body pillows.
Pillowcases should be soft and well-fitted to get the most practical use. As a general rule, choose a case about 8 to 13 centimetres larger than the pillow..
A standard-sized Oxford or Housewife case will take pillows of 50cm x 75cm. The Oxford will be slightly larger because of the decorative trim, measuring 60cm x 85cm.
Here are some ways you can spice up your bed using the various sizes.
- Housewife - simple, plain, use comfortable fabric, experiment with patterns and colours.
- Oxford - decorative, use high-quality fabrics, and play with colours
- Continental - square pillows that can be used as cushions or backrests
- King size - an extra long pillow that can be used as body pillows, or backrests
Pillowcases Impact our Health
While both Oxford and Housewife pillowcases are available in a vast range of fabrics, some fabrics are better suited to our skin and hair.
High-quality cotton is soft and fluffy, while silk is smooth and luxurious. Eucalyptus and bamboo are highly breathable, antimicrobial, and soft, while cheap, low-quality cotton is rough and can dry out the skin.
We spend a third of our lives sleeping. That’s a lot of contact that your hair and face have with your pillowcase!
Cheap pillowcases could negatively impact the condition of facial skin. Sleep lines could develop into permanent wrinkles, while the dirt, oils, and grime from the hair can build up and cause acne or blackheads.
Our hair contains a significant amount of dirt and germs. If you wash your pillowcases infrequently, grime build-up is one of the leading causes of acne.
According to Dr. David E. Bank, director and founder of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, pillowcases, like anything else that transfers dirt and oil to your skin, can be the cause of acne mechanica. (Source)
When you don’t wash your pillowcases often enough, dirt and oil are transferred back onto your face, potentially clogging pores and causing blemishes.
Pillowcases should be washed twice a week to ensure that your face is not in prolonged contact with oil and dirt.
In addition, liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets often leave a waxy residue that can clog pores.
Fragrance-free fabric softeners also have agents that frequently cause acne.
Suitable Fabrics For Pillowcases
Lighter fabrics like silk, satin, and Tencel will suit pillowcases much better than cheap quality cotton that can result in frizzy hair, hair breakage, split ends, dry skin, and wrinkles.
Silk has properties that make it suitable for use in pillowcases. It has a naturally hydrophobic nature and inherent antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, making it suitable for people with allergies.
High-quality silk is often produced free of potentially irritating chemicals. It contains natural compounds that eliminate a variety of environmental allergens and associated skin conditions that come with dust mites, mold, and fungi.
In addition, silk lessens our sensitivity to pollutants and toxic chemicals. Domesticated silkworms are bred and raised in captivity to produce silk.
They have no predators to fear, and they are spoiled their entire lives, assisting in producing fine silk fibres with little to no chemical contamination.
Because silk can help hair maintain moisture from products and natural oils while reducing the friction that can create tangles and breakage, the benefits of a silk pillowcase are most prominent for hair.
According to Misty Eleryan, a micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology fellow at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, it's especially beneficial for curly hair, which doesn't retain as much moisture as straight hair and is more prone to breakage.
As silk does not absorb the moisture, your hair stays hydrated and is less likely to break through the night.
Silk pillowcases can be helpful as an additional treatment for acne because they provide a kinder and cleaner surface for cradling your cheek.
Silk pillowcases are gentler on the skin of people with acne or sensitive skin than rough cotton pillowcases. Cotton friction on pimple-prone skin can cause more inflammation, aggravating acne.
Silk has one of the lowest absorption rates of any fibre. Its soft, breathable texture allows oxygen flow to the skin, while the tightly woven fibres keep moisture from sweat or skin care products from soaking into the pillow.
While satin historically was made strictly from silk, it is not a type of fabric but rather, a weave. Satin can be made from any filament fibres such as nylon, rayon, polyester, or silk.
Similar to silk, satin pillowcases are beneficial to skin and hair health because of its smooth fabric.
The reduced friction allows your skin and hair to slide over the pillow instead of tugging and breaking.
The slick surface will minimize tangles and frizz while helping keep any hairstyle for days longer than conventional cotton.
In addition, satin will be way less drying than cotton, helping retain the skin’s moisture and reducing skin creases. This fabric will be well-suited for folks with sensitive skin or people prone to acne.
Eucalyptus Tencel is a type of rayon, a cellulose fibre made by dissolving the wood pulp of trees, usually eucalyptus.
Fabric made of eucalyptus is more breathable than cotton, softer than linen, and more environmentally friendly than bamboo.
Eucalyptus sheets are known to help regulate body temperatures, helping keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
They're also hypoallergenic and bacterial-resistant, ideal for those suffering from allergies or asthma.
Since eucalyptus is antibacterial and antifungal by nature, they can help relieve conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and burns. These benefits make them perfect for people with sensitive skin.
The benefits of eucalyptus sheets are numerous. The weave produces a luxuriously soft, smooth texture that resembles silk.
The environmentally conscious will love Tencel as a sustainable product. Eucalyptus trees are harvested by cutting, not uprooting.
They grow quickly back, don’t need pesticides, and can grow in relatively poor, rocky soil that cannot be used for agriculture.
All eucalyptus Tencel products are harvested from forests managed by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), ensuring minimal impact on the environment and habitat of animals that live there. Buying from non-certified sources means that you are risking that the raw materials might be endangering biodiversity and the environment, so shop wisely.
In addition, eucalyptus Tencel is manufactured in a closed-loop system that reuses 99% of the solvent called amine oxide.
Amine oxide has been classed as non-toxic for air and water, minimizing the ecological impact of production and protecting local communities from toxic chemicals and pollution so often associated with cotton.
Copper pillowcases are made with copper oxide particles woven into fabrics such as polyester or nylon.
Some research has shown that using a copper pillowcase has antimicrobial and healing benefits for acne breakouts and the potential to reduce and prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
According to one study, sleeping on copper oxide-containing pillowcases reduces wrinkle depth and improves overall skin appearance.
This effect is made possible by the copper fibres encouraging the secretion of extracellular skin proteins.
In addition, copper has naturally antimicrobial properties by nature, keeping bacteria away and preventing the spread of acne.
Hospital gowns, scrubs, and other medical fabrics frequently have woven copper to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Copper can also be used to repair damaged tissue, making it helpful for those suffering burns, wounds, or acne.
Other benefits of copper pillowcases include reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and preventing friction damage to the hair and skin.
Why Avoid Cotton Pillowcases?
Poor quality cotton is a rough, textured fabric that absorbs moisture.
The friction from rubbing the skin on cotton can irritate your cells, damaging them throughout your sleep.
Cotton is also highly absorbent, leeching off your skin’s natural oils and leaving you with dried-out, potentially itchy skin in the morning.
Because your skin is dry, it might start producing more oils, leading to clogged pores, acne, and blemishes.
The same goes for your hair. The friction generated by tossing on a cotton pillowcase leads to breakage, split ends, and tangles.
The absorbing nature of cotton also strips the hair and scalp of natural oils, leaving you with dry, brittle hair.
When you wear a cotton shirt, it keeps you cool because warm air can pass through your clothes and away from your body.
However, when you use a cotton pillowcase, the air gets passed through the case into the pillow, where it heats up and remains warm throughout the night, making for an uncomfortably hot sleep.
In addition to being detrimental to your skin and hair, the biggest problem with cotton is environmental.
The world’s most popular fabric, the conventional cotton industry is unfortunately also one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It is the world’s largest non-food crop and is grown in about 80 countries.
Cotton farming has a steep environmental cost, requiring massive amounts of water, the widespread use of harmful chemicals, and degrading soil quality.
The crop uses 16% of the world’s insecticides and 25% of pesticides. Of these pesticides, 77% of the compounds were found to contain 15 of the world’s most toxic chemicals.
These chemicals in water runoffs near cotton farming regions leak into the waterways and soil, further polluting the environment and causing serious illnesses like cancer, miscarriages, and congenital disabilities.
It takes 1,000 litres of water to produce a single kilogram of cotton. A t-shirt takes 2,700 litres of water to produce!
Yet despite the high resource consumption of producing cotton and the harmful environmental impacts of cotton farms, most of the textiles end up in landfills.
As much as 85% of textiles find their way into landfills annually, an unnecessary strain on the planet’s waste management systems that could easily have been avoided by making better purchase decisions of sustainable fabrics.
While the global textile industry produces 100 billion pieces of clothing annually, up to 85% of these products end up incinerated or clogging landfills.
With the many sustainable fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, and Tencel around, it is every eco-warrior’s hope that one day, the balance will shift away from cotton and onto more Earth-friendly fabrics.
In the market for some new sheets? Check out our handy guide to finding the perfect bed set!