A little nighttime reading


Do you love the soft, fluffy feel of down pillows, but hesitate to sleep on them? Do any of these reasons sound familiar?

“Down and feather pillows flatten down to nothing.”

“They make me sneeze!”

“I hate how the feathers poke through against my face.”  

For sure, there are great alternative options to down and feather pillows -- particularly if you like a firmer feel or require a hypoallergenic fill. However, don’t feel the need to give up on down and feathers pillows yet. There are a number of high-quality options that give you all the benefits of this natural fill, without the downsides. You just need to know what to look for in order to find the best fit for you. Here are some things to know:

Down vs. Feather Pillows
Traditionally, all-down pillows are considered the finest and most luxurious. A down cluster is fluffy and delicate, while feathers have quills that give them more rigidity.

You’ll get a much softer, loftier feel when you squish an all-down pillow. Its feel is airy, light and plush. 

Feather pillows tend to have some structure and crispness, great for those who like a scrunchable pillow that doesn’t feel too mushy or compressible. A down-feather or all-feather pillow is more akin to the classic type of "old school" pillows you might have slept on in a hotel bed or growing up. They start out fluffy, and as the night progresses, the feathers will settle and smoosh down so you can maneuver around your head and neck.

To give you a sense of feel, we like to say:

A down pillow is like sleeping on cotton candy.

A down-feather pillow is like sleeping on a field of flowers.

A down alternative pillow is like sleeping on cotton balls.

In general, all-down pillows are more expensive, as down is rarer. You’ll notice that with high-quality all-down, the pillow will retain its loft and support longer, with the down clusters wanting to spring back into their spherical shape when compressed.

Down / feather pillows tend to flatten out sooner, as the quills start to align with each other. Given this tendency by feathers, down might be added to a pillow to balance this compacting and help it retain softness.

The differences in down and feather pillows

Fill power
Only down has a fill power. Feathers do not. Fill power refers to the level of loft or fluffiness that a down cluster has, or how much air an ounce of down can trap. The higher the fill power, the larger the cluster, and the more luxurious and insulating the down is considered. In terms of pillows, you’ll notice that the higher the fill power, the plusher and loftier the pillow is. A high fill power pillow will retain its support longer.

FP above 600 is considered luxury quality, and the rarest, most luxe is 800 FP. 700 FP is a great balance between luxurious feel, durability and cost-effectiveness. Anything above 500 is considered high-quality.

Origin matters
Some of the finest down comes from Eastern European countries. In these places, the geese and ducks are raised in great conditions and handled with extreme care. The colder climates of this region promotes stronger, thicker down from very large birds. European goose down is extremely consistent, durable and resilient.

Most down and feathers come from China, and pillows made with fill from this country tend to be less expensive. There is nothing bad about fill from China, although if you do want a more luxurious, longer-lasting down, you might want to pay more for European down-filled pillows.

When it comes to a side-sleeping pillow, it’s most important to have down that is thick, lofty and durable, as side sleepers require ample support and lift from the pillow. This is why Slumbr's Cassiopeia Luxe Down Pillow with European goose down is ideal for side sleepers.

Goose vs. duck
Wondering what the difference is between duck down vs goose down pillows? Goose down is rarer than duck down. Goose clusters are generally larger than duck clusters and typically come from older, more mature and larger birds. As a result, goose down typically has higher fill powers (which affects fluffiness and plushness). It also tends to be more resilient and durable, recovering its loft really well, remaining fluffy and plush. A high-quality goose down pillow will have a feel that remains more consistent and will last you many years with proper care. They are considered a good investment; using a pillow protector can extend the life of the pillow.

Additionally, because a duck’s diet is usually more diverse (a goose only eats grass) and because ducks chests (where down comes from) are closer to the ground, goose down also tends to have fewer odor problems than duck. If down is cleaned well, odor shouldn't be a problem; however, if you're particularly sensitive to odors, you may prefer goose down. 

Duck down and feathers can provide a very economical option to enjoy that down or feather feel. But in general, goose down is a level up in quality.

Responsible sourcing and cleaning - helps with allergies
You might have also heard that if you have respiratory allergies or asthma that you can’t sleep on down or feather pillows. Surprisingly, what most people with respiratory allergies are experiencing is a reaction to the dust mites that likely have accumulated over time in their pillow. With proper care and the use of a dust mite-proof pillow protector, it is likely possible that a down or feather pillow will not cause irritation.

Note: if you're interested in a down alternative pillow out of cost or allergy concerns, see how down, down-feather and down alternative pillows compare here

Slumbr’s down and feather fills go through a rigorous washing process, where it is washed multiple times in biodegradable, environmentally-friendly detergent and recycled water. The fill is also de-dusted and shipped in containers that prevent things like dirt and oil from contaminating it. The down and feather fills are carefully tested to ensure they’re free of chemicals and irritants. Our down undergoes a turbidity test. 400mm+ is considered hypoallergenic, and our down consistently measures 1,000mm+, indicating the fill in our pillows is one of the cleanest available.

In many cases, it’s difficult to tell how down or feathers in a store-bought pillow were sourced. The down materials used in Slumbr pillows are bluesign® approved. This is a very high standard within the textiles industry that ensures the down and feathers in our pillows were processed sustainably and responsibly. Our down is sourced with animal welfare in mind. Quality standards are governed by bird maturity, climate, breed, species, sustainability and deep concern for animal welfare.

Slumbr also uses luxuriously-soft cotton ticks (the shell that encases the down or feathers) that meet that OEKO-TEX standard for consumer safety from chemicals and harmful substances.

Note: If you're wondering if your pillow could be affecting your health or if it has toxic chemicals and other harmful things in it, find out more about what to look for here

Down vs. down alternative
Some might wonder how down alternative pillows stack up to down or down-feather options. Down alternative pillows are great if you're looking for a more inexpensive, hypoallergenic pillow that is still soft and fluffy.

However, despite its name, a down alternative pillow can provide a different experience from a traditional down or down-feather pillow. Slumbr goes more in-depth about these differences and the pros/cons of using a down alternative pillow vs. down pillow here.  

Ready for a down or down-feather pillow? 
There is nothing like the softness and plushness of sinking your head into a fluffy down pillow, or resting against the scrunchable heft of a feather one. If you’re on the fence wondering if a down or feather pillow is for you, you might want to consider upgrading to a carefully-chosen, high-quality option to mitigate the issues of inferior options.

Within its Pillow Menu, Slumbr has 3 options with down/down-feather fills. We invite you to check them out:

Cassiopeia Luxe Down Pillow ($225) - Filled with the loftiest, plushest European goose down, this pillow is our most luxuriously plump and soft. Great for side sleepers especially. This is a fantastic price for a pillow with this level of quality.

Virgo Slim + Soft Down Pillow ($125) - Cuddly-soft and filled with just enough duck down support in a thinner, lower profile perfect for stomach sleepers. Some back sleepers who like a lower pillow love this too!

Vela Down + Feather Pillow ($80) - A classic pillow with the scrunchable support of feathers at its core surrounded by soft, fluffy down. No feathers poking through against your skin. Compressible support that's perfect for those that switch between side and stomach sleeping.

Not quite sure? Slumbr tested over 250 pillow options and tested the best with real sleepers to develop its Pillow Menu. Take our Pillow Quiz to find your comfiest pillow today.

Ready to find your comfiest pillow?