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Down Vs. Down Alternative: [DIFFERENCES EXPLAINED]

Down Vs. Down Alternative: [DIFFERENCES EXPLAINED]

Choosing between down and down alternative pillows or comforters can be tasking, especially if you cannot tell the difference. You want to consider aspects like eco-friendliness, breathability, durability, affordability, and ease of maintenance.

Down is a natural fill from the fluffy undercoat of birds like geese and ducks. Contrarily, down alternative comes from synthetic polyester that mimics the fluffiness of the Down filling.

After conducting thorough research, we found the differences between the down and down alternative filling.

down pillow

What Is Down?

Down is a soft and fluffy filling that originates from birds like geese and ducks. It differs from feathers in that it contains no sticks that poke like in feather fillings. While down products are expensive, they compensate for their longevity as they can last for more than a decade.

Down pillows are light, plush, and squishy. They can collapse to become smaller for easier transport. The downside is that it does not offer enough support for side sleepers and those who prefer firmer pillows.

When choosing a down comforter, check its fill power. Most down beddings have a fill power ranging between 300 and 900. The fill power increases with the quality of your comforter and its insulation qualities.

Is Down Animal-Friendly?

Many tend to shy away from using down since they fear the extraction process hurts the birds. There are three ways of extracting down from birds, post-mortem, live-plucking, and gathering.

Post-mortem involves removal of the down after the bird is already dead. Rearing of the birds in post-mortem methods is usually for their meat. Live plucking consists of holding down a live goose or duck before plucking down from its skin.

The gathering process involves the removal of the feathers that are ready to fall out by combing. However, accidental live plucking tends to happen when gathering down. As a result, we can never tell if the process of extraction hurts the birds or not.

What is a Down Alternative?

As the name suggests, the down alternative mimics down. Many would prefer a down alternative to a down as it is cheaper and hypoallergenic. It disperses heat and hence, is a better option for cool sleepers.

The down alternative products filling may be from cotton, rayon, and polyester. To mimic the comfort of down, companies use more synthetic materials to make them. Down alternative pillows are firm and, therefore, offer excellent support.

You do not have to worry about mold and mildew growth with down alternative products. Down alternative pillows and comforters can stay dry even if you sweat in your sleep due to their moisture-wicking properties.

Are Down Alternative Products Environmental-Friendly?

Processing down alternative products may lead to more emissions since they are synthetic. In addition, down alternative products are not biodegradable like down and may lead to soil pollution.

What Is The Best Down Alternative Fill?

Polyester is the most common down alternative fill. It imitates down clusters and therefore has a down-like feel. However, cotton and fiber are excellent options if you do not want a synthetic material.

How To Choose Between Down And Down Alternative

Down alternative duvets are heavier with fewer insulation properties, making them an excellent option for cool sleepers. Down is better for hotter sleepers as it has natural insulation. Before buying a down or down alternative, consider breathability, allergy-friendliness, and durability.


Down products have excellent breathability. Down has a soft and fluffy feeling with the lightness of a feather. To achieve the same insulation levels as the down, down alternative products require more fill. As a result, more fill reduces their breathability.


Since it uses synthetic materials, the down alternative is safer regarding allergies. It also attracts less dust and other particles, which may trigger allergies. Since down contains goose and duck products, it may trigger allergies in some people.


Since it is designed to keep birds warm and dry, down tends to retain more heat. It is, therefore, famous for making winter gear and bedding. The down alternative is a better choice for those in hotter areas as it disperses heat more.

Down products may also trigger allergies in those without feather allergies. Such happens because down attracts more dust and dirt particles, potentially allergens. Therefore, regular dry-cleaning may help reduce the number of allergens in down pillows and comforters.

Cleaning And Maintenance

When it comes to cleaning, the down alternative is the better option as it is machine-washable. For down alternative pillows, remove the pillow cover and wash the pillow with mild detergent. Remember to dry using a dryer or tennis balls to prevent clumps and lumps.


Down is more durable than the down alternative. With proper cleaning and fluffing, down beddings can last up to more than a decade. Down alternative also last years with good care. However, the down alternative is more prone to wear and tear as it is easier to wash and clean.


Due to the source of its materials, down products cost more than the down alternative. Down alternative comforters are available at prices as low as $40. Down comforters, on the other hand, will start from around $100.

Down Pillows

Stomach and back sleepers experience exceptional comfort with down pillows. When weight is put on it, down collapses to become almost flat. Stomach sleepers require a flat pillow that will not raise their neck to an uncomfortable position.

Back sleepers require a pillow with a medium firmness to keep the head in a neutral position. Adding a little more filling to your down pillow will increase its loft. As a result, it offers more support, enough for back sleepers.

Down Alternative Pillows

Down alternative pillows are firmer than down pillows, hence suitable for side sleepers. They have more loft and are firmer, offering support to side sleepers. The pillow support keeps the spine in a neutral position.

Adding more filling to a down pillow may improve its loft and support in general. However, it may still fail to offer enough support to a side sleeper. Down alternative pillows are also a better option for cool sleepers as they quickly lose heat.

Down Comforters

Down comforters are soft and light with a luxurious feel. To achieve maximum comfort, go for the comforter with pure down, as it is softer and more elegant. Down comforters are available at prices ranging from $100 to $160, depending on the size, cover material, and company.

Down Alternative Comforters

Down alternative comforters can contain different fillings from natural and synthetic materials. In addition, down alternative comforters are affordable as they retail from around $40 to $60.

However, we discourage using down alternative comforters if you are a hot sleeper as they may lead to more sweating. Most down alternative comforters contain a microfiber or polyester fill with low breathability.

sleep pillow woman

How To Maintain Down And Down Alternative Products?

Down products require more care than the down alternative. Once you purchase your down pillow, comforter, or duvet, start by reading their instructions. Most down products require dry-cleaning to maintain their fluffiness and insulation properties.

We discourage frequent washing as it may degrade the quality of the down. Also, remember to fluff your down products to maintain the soft and cloud-like feel of the down. For down alternative products, maintenance requires less attention as you can easily machine-wash it.


While down is heavier and fluffier than the down alternative, it is more expensive and may trigger allergies. Hence, whether you go for the down or down alternative, your choice will depend on your personal preferences.