Down vs. Feather Pillows: What’s the Difference?
Are you on the market for a plush pillow? If so, knowing the difference between down vs. feather pillows can help find the best one for you.
Aug 25th, 2022 •
Second only to the mattress, pillows are one of the most important components for a good night’s sleep. Down and feather pillows are two of the most common options for bed that you will find while shopping.
While most people think that down and feather pillows are the same thing, they’re very different. It’s important to consider the pillow’s materials, your personal preference, and your sleep position when selecting pillows.
We explore the differences between down vs. feather pillows with the goal of outlining their pros and cons so you can find the best pillows for a great night’s sleep every night.
Quick Summary: Down vs Feather Pillows
Down and feather pillows are very similar in feel and construction. While you can find 100% down pillows, you will not find pillows that are 100% feather. Feather pillows use a combination of down to add loft and durability.
When choosing between down and feather pillows, keep in mind that the main difference is down pillows are more expensive and fluffy, while feather pillows are cheaper and more firm.
What are Down Pillows?
- Soft and fluffy pillows
- Feels like cotton candy
- Most expensive
- Made from downy feathers of ducks and geese
- You can purchase a 100% down pillow
Down pillows are luxury pillows made from the downy feathers of ducks and geese. Down feathers make up the insulating layer of feathers found closest to a bird’s skin. Down itself looks almost like a fluffy snowflake, with soft fibers billowing out from a centralized point called a plumule.
Each down feather is referred to as a down cluster, and the cluster’s three-dimensional shape yields softness and insulation. When you lie your head on a down pillow, the downy clusters compress in on themselves, creating an indulgent cradle. Once you remove your head, you can watch as your pillow regains its lofty shape.
The resilience of down clusters yields a pillow that can remain soft and responsive for many years of use—so long as it’s properly cared for.
Types of Down Pillows
Goose vs Duck Feathers
Goose and duck feathers are both used to create luxurious, soft and fluffy down pillows. The difference is the firmness, durability, and cost. Goose down pillows are slightly more plush, durable, and expensive because they are more rare. Duck down is cheaper but still has a luxurious, plush feel.
Goose down pillows are considered to be the most luxurious and comfortable type of pillow. If you’re looking for an extravagant pillow at any cost, opt for a goose down pillow with a high fill power (800 or higher).
Down vs Down Alternative
Down alternative is a cheaper way to get a pillow that feels like a luxurious down pillow without the high price tag. Down alternative pillows are also naturally hypoallergenic, more durable to wash in the washing machine, and a good alternative for vegans or other animal rights activists.
What are Feather Pillows?
- Often combined with down to make them more plush
- You will likely not find a 100% feather pillow
- Less expensive
- Need to be cleaned carefully and avoid getting wet
We’re all accustomed to the look and feel of a feather. Feathers are relatively flat with a hard quill down the middle and soft fibers extending out to the sides. Feather pillows are firmer and don’t retain their shape as well as down pillows.
While you can find 100% down pillows, you will not likely find a 100% feather pillow. Most feather pillows are created with a combination of down to increase the plush soft fill and loft of the pillow. Most feather pillows will contain 5% or more down to increase their durability and comfort.
Enemies of Down and Feather Pillows
In order for your down or feather pillow to last its entire lifetime, your going to want to avoid the following:
- Water: Getting your feather fill wet means the potential or mold, mildew, and not to mention the feathers stick together and become less fluffy. We recommend the dry cleaning method to avoid moisture in your down fill.
- Creams and Oils: Though your nighttime skincare routine is essential to the health of your face, it could be fatal to the surface of your nice down pillow. But don’t worry, a pillowcase is an easy fix to any yellowing or discoloration caused by skincare products.
- Compression: Fluff, fluff, fluff your down or feather pillow to maintain that soft, cozy feel you’re used to.
Down vs. Feather Pillows: How to Choose?
Down and feather pillow are both great options for a luxurious, soft pillow to sleep on. They both have a similar feel to them, but down comes at a much higher price point.
So, which type of pillow should you go for? That depends on what you’re looking for. We’ll cover a few of the most important considerations when choosing between down and feather pillows including:
- Sleeping position
- Fill power and fill weight
Down pillows are more expensive than feather pillows because farming down is more expensive than farming feathers. Down pillows can cost well over $100, with some feather pillows coming in as low as $25.
A feather pillow with a relatively high percentage of down, say around 25-50%, is a good middle-ground for those looking for comfort and quality at competitive prices. Also keep in mind that goose down will cost more than duck down because it is more rare.
Pillows filled with down are warm, soft, and fluffy. In comparison, feather pillows are firm, flat, and retain less heat. While people generally prefer the feel of down, some people enjoy the firm comfort offered by feathers.
How you sleep dictates how much support you need, and with it, what type of down or feather pillow would work best for you.
People who sleep on their stomachs struggle to keep their spine neutral. While no pillow is often the best choice for alignment, some people will prefer to use a pillow when they sleep on their fronts. For these people, we suggest a down pillow with a low fill weight and fill power. This will mean a pillow that is not too lofty or firm.
Related: Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Back sleepers need more support than stomach sleepers, but less than side sleepers. Either a down pillow or feather pillow can offer the correct amount of support, just be careful not to get a pillow that is overly stuffed as this can create a kinked neck.
Side sleepers need ample support to keep their head and neck in proper alignment. Typically, the best option would be a pillow that has both feathers and down. The feathers can offer the necessary firm support while the down boosts comfort and longevity.
Fill Power and Fill Weight
There are two figures that you’ll come across when shopping for a down pillow: fill power and fill weight.
Fill power represents the size of the down cluster. The larger the cluster, the higher the fill power. And the higher the fill power, the larger the loft and spherical shape of the pillow. Higher fill power also yields a more durable pillow. Fill power usually ranges from 550 to 850, with good-quality down pillows containing 650+ fill power.
Fill weight tells you how much down is within, giving you an idea of how soft, or firm, your pillow will be. The higher the fill weight, the firmer the pillow.
Because down clusters bounce back rather quickly after being flattened, down pillows will hold their shape for longer than feather pillows. Feather pillows become flat relatively quickly without adequate down within.
Another problem with feather pillows is that the quill can stick through the pillow shell and poke you. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can result in the loss of feathers over time. To keep your high-quality down or feather pillows for years, be sure not to use them in pillow fights…no matter how tempting.
Here are a few essential steps to caring for your down or feather pillow:
- Keep your pillows dry by allowing your hair to dry before you sleep.
- Use a pillow protector or pillowcase to protect your pillow from skin and hair oils.
- Wash or dry clean your pillows on a regular basis.
- Avoid folding or compressing your pillows.
Down vs Feather Pillow FAQs
Are feather and down pillows better than other types of pillows?
The best type of pillow comes down to preference. Many people love down and feather pillows, but others opt for memory foam, buckwheat, latex, cotton, or down alternative pillows. These types of pillows each have unique pros and cons.
Can you wash down and feather pillows?
Every type of pillow requires different steps for proper care. To safeguard your pillow against oils from your skin or spills, a pillow protector is advised. While many synthetic materials are safe to machine wash and dry, down and feather pillows are not. Follow the care instructions provided, and implement these steps for knowing how to wash down pillows.
Are down and feather pillows good for neck pain?
Because down and feather pillows can easily contour to the shape of your neck, they are good for neck pain. A pillow with a customizable loft will be best for neck pain so you can adjust it to properly support your alignment.
Are down or feather pillows better?
Down pillows are more luxurious and expensive than feather pillows, but they have similar feels. The bottom line comes down to personal preference and sleep position. Side sleepers would do better with a feather pillow while stomach sleepers will find better alignment with down.
Which is better: duck or goose down pillows?
White goose down is more luxurious and expensive because it is more rare than duck down. However, the feel of these two pillows is rather similar.
When shopping for feather or down pillows, you’ll come across two main types: those that are 100% down and those that contain a mixture of feathers and down. There are few all-feather pillows because down is needed to provide loft, shape, and resilience.
The down pillow is considered the ultimate in luxury with a cloud-like feel unmatched by other materials. However, a feather pillow offers a less costly alternative with its own benefits, such as firm support. The right pillow for you ultimately comes down to your personal preference.
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