Pillow Stuffing as Filter Floss?

There have been a fair few people on Social Media asking about using pillows as a cheap source of filter floss. But there are a fair few issues with this.

Before we go further what are we looking at?

Both filter floss and cheap pillow stuffing are polyesters. There are a lot of substances that are grouped under that name, and it’s crucial to get the correct one. Some will degrade over time, some can be broken apart by water, and some may form fiberglass-like strands that may cause damage to your filter and other bits of kit.
Because of the range of products the basic molecules are often coated and treated to get them to behave how you want them to. Pillows, for example, are often coated with a silicon spray to get the bounce-back effect, and then either the fibres or the cover are coated to be fire retardant. This is why pillows have a limited lifespan, as you can wash this retardant off. This means you can wash this off into your tank if it’s in the water.
Filter floss is, or should be, completely untreated, a larger fibre that is mixed together to form a more stable mat, meaning hopefully that tiny parts aren’t washed into your aquarium. I will say that I had a batch that did break apart and caused small particles in the water. I withdrew that from sale immediately and now do a lot more to make sure we have a better source.


So pillows aren’t great, but the cost is going to mean you should consider them right. Not really, a pair of cheap pillows will set you back about £7 at a local store. They will give you roughly 35 520 cubic cm of filter floss, a 5m roll of filter floss for aquariums from Amazon, including delivery is going to be £10.99 via this link and will give you about 35 500 cubic cm. The above numbers assume that pillows don’t compress too much, so the amount could be a lot lower.
Yes, the floss is about £4 more, for months, maybe years’ worth of filter floss depending on how big your filter is. You can get it cheaper on eBay, or buy a larger roll, 10m comes in at about £15, and now is a lot cheaper per cubic cm than pillows.

-Pillows may contain harmful chemicals.
-Filter floss is a similar or cheaper price if you buy in similar or larger amounts.
-Pillows have a different type of polyester, which may not be suitable for long-term use in an aquarium.

Other alternatives.

I don’t like using polyester anyway, I prefer something that I can wash and use again, so here are a few ideas for something to trap the tiny particles.

Vet bed.

Use the original green-backed vet bed. Yes, it’s polyester, but it’s designed to allow liquids to pass through, and be washed over and over again. You can get it at pets at home, or try this from Amazon. Yes, it’s more expensive for single use, but you can use this over and over again.


Can you get hold of clean wool straight off the sheep? If so it’s a great alternative, I tend to pop it in an old sock or similar to keep the fibres together when I wash them. I throw them in the washing machine with a bit of vinegar and hey presto clean and ready for reuse.


Got some clean muslin about? Fold that up and pop it in. If it’s hemmed then you can wash it over and over again.

The point of filter floss is to trap the tiny particles, I use an alternative before and after my biological media. To stop the fine bits getting to my biomedia and clogging the holes, and afterwards, in case there is any detritus coming from the media itself. You can also add it to a separate filter to use just as a water polisher.

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Ruth McDonald

Sailed twice around the world, started my acedemic career as an archaeologist and somehow ended up lecturing on science and researching fish.

Tropical Fish Keeping UK