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If you’re serious about achieving consistently high-quality shut-eye, then choosing the right kind of pillow is a vital first step.
Remember that old fable of the discerning princess who could feel a pea through a dozen mattresses?
This is a pretty close approximation of how most people feel about the pillows they use.
Indeed, a significant subset of pillow purchasers religiously opts for down pillows. Down pillows are well-liked for their softness and versatility, but the story goes well beyond that.
Today, we’ll give you an understanding of what down pillows are along with some pointers to help you pick out the best down pillow for your bed.
So, first things first:
What is a Down Pillow?
Down pillows are a special type of pillow made specifically from bird feathers. The “down” material is the outer core surrounding the feather fill, extracted from the front chest area of avian animals: ducks, swans, and geese.
The Build: What They Contain
Down pillow makers design the pillow by arranging all the feather fill in the pillow’s center core. These are the main soft bits that you fluff out every morning.
They’re extremely soft and tender in feel and bear a close resemblance to dandelion petals.
This material endows down pillows with their incredible softness and elasticity. They remain on the very highest rung of the pillow luxury spectrum.
Ordinary pillows made with minimal down are typically labeled “down-blend.” These contain as little as 10% down.
Some measures regulate how pillows can be marketed. If a pillow is made with less than 70% down, it cannot be advertised as a “down” pillow.
Understandably, a 100% down pillow is very costly: perhaps the costliest of all down pillow types.
Down Pillow Types
There are three main types of down pillows:
- Goose Down
- Duck Down
Let’s explore these types a little further.
Now here’s a luxury down pillow — indeed, the most premium form of down pillow on the market.
Accordingly, it’s also the most expensive of the three, given the care with which it’s made. Not only are the down feathers selected for the largest clusters, but it also has a higher fill power. This means that the down material fills more cubic space in the pillow, allowing it to stay soft for a long time.
True to its name, the down is extracted from — yep, you guessed it — geese, which are naturally larger and more even-feathered members of the avian species.
This type of pillow makes use of smaller down feather clusters than those sourced from geese.
Granted, they’re not as physically resilient or durable as goose down pillows, but they offer a similar level of comfort and softness.
They’re a significantly cheaper option for those who want to enjoy a down pillow sleeping experience without the premium price tag.
Just as the name suggests, down-alternative pillows are designed to resemble the standard down pillow in both look and feel.
But in reality, they’re made entirely of synthetic material; specifically, polyester fibers.
Choosing the Best Down Pillows
Here are some factors to consider before picking out a down pillow:
The sizes available for down pillows are the same for most pillows on the market:
- King: the biggest size
- Queen: large enough to suit those who toss around at night
- Standard: the most common size
- Euro: square-shaped; ideal for use as a backrest
As we’ve mentioned, given their source material, down pillows are pretty costly.
So the question you must ask yourself is: are you willing to spend $70 to $100 on a comfortable pillow?
On that note, if you’re looking for more than just a pillow — say, if you’re looking to couple it with a new mattress to boot — you can get both for a pretty good steal IF you know where (and when) to look. Lucky for you, we know the best time to buy a mattress.
Loft & Fill Power
The down pillow’s thickness (or loft) determines how soft it will be, while the pillow’s feather content determines its fill power.
The “down” material ensures that the pillow “bounces back” quickly after you lift your head from it. And the more material it has, the longer it promises to retain this quality.
As we said, the higher the down fill proportion, the more expensive your pillow will be.
If you want to drive the cost down, you should expect to buy a pillow with a lower down ratio.
And, indeed, the various brands of down pillows we’ll elaborate on below are tagged at different price points for just this very reason.
Our Top Picks for Best Down Pillows
Brooklinen Down Pillow
The Brooklinen Down Pillow boasts all of the most notable and luxurious elements that most have come to expect of down pillows. All while tagged at a surprisingly reasonable price point, considering the quality.
This pillow comes in three versions, with the softest and most expensive being the plush model, containing 100% down. The shell is 400 thread count cotton, making it a breathable and temperature-neutral option.
Helix Down & Feather Pillow
While it’s a consistently well-liked down pillow, if you’re looking for an incredibly soft option, this is not the one for you.
The Helix Down & Feather Pillow is explicitly designed for those sleepers looking for a tad more firmness — a pillow that doesn’t feel too wobbly, holding their neck and head in place.
This option mixes both down and feather pillow materials using a compact and chambered design; the outer core is soft down and the inner features dense feathering.
In its plushest version, the Helix Down & Feather Pillow consists of 5% feather fill and 95% down.
Casper Down Pillow
If you’re looking for a down pillow that’s responsibly made, this is the surest option — it’s stamped with the highest RDS certification. This means that the manufacturing process has fulfilled these requirements:
- Thorough inspection at every step of the down extraction process
- No down extraction from live birds
- No force-feeding (that is, forcefully stuffing the birds with food to fatten them faster)
With regards to its quality, the pillow innards contain 5 compacted chambers, each with 40% feather fill and 60% down — a pretty decent balance of plushness and support for the average sleeper.
Kassatex Goose Down Pillow
Right off the bat, we’ll be the first to tell you: The Kassatex Goose Down Pillow isn’t the cheapest option. But for the luxury offers, it definitely deserves a spot on our list.
First off, like the Brooklinen, it comes in three versions: firm, medium, and soft; which also represent, naturally, the amount of down contained in each.
The material used in the Kassatex Goose Down Pillow is doubly cleaned before assembly — not only to reinforce the pillow’s breathability, but also to reduce the likelihood of any allergic reactions.
Pacific Coast Double Down Medium Pillow
Another excellent choice for a down pillow that offers plushness at a decent price point.
The averagely selected down pillow will set you back quite a bit; with what is offered by even the king-sized Pacific Coast pillow, it certainly makes a good case for itself, and that’s comparing it even to the higher end down pillow brands.
Its feathered cred comes in several chambers of patented Resilia feathers; while its outer layer consists of hyper-cleaned down, which provides the pillow with a decent amount of elasticity while retaining its advertised supportive form.
To ensure the Pacific retains its full shape after all the tossing and folding during sleep, it is fitted with a 4-cm thick gusset. This way, you won’t have to fluff it open too often. In addition to the standard “medium” feel, the Pacific Coast Double Down Medium Pillow also comes in two versions: “firm”, and ”soft”.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Pillow Should Back Sleepers Avoid?
A pillow with an unsuitable loft — either too thick or too flat.
What you want is a pillow with the perfect medium thickness. A pillow that’s too thick will prop your head too far up for comfort.
And an inordinately flat pillow will sink your head too far down, which can stress your neck and back.
How Can I Tell If a Down Pillow Has Been Ethically Made?
The RDS (Responsible Down Standard) is responsible for certifying all pillows made out of animal products. This is done to ensure manufacturers do not engage in inhumane sourcing of their pillows: force-feeding, plucking of feathers from live birds, et cetera.
If you’re not sure whether a pillow was ethically sourced, check for an RDS certification stamp on the pillow’s sale tag.
How (and How Often) Should I Clean My Down Pillow?
The good thing about down pillows is that, if well kept, they don’t require frequent cleaning. If a stain occurs, for example by spilling a drink, then you should either spot clean or dry clean it.
Do NOT wash a down pillow in a washing machine. This can lead to irreversible damage to the inner material: the down and feather fill.
Likewise, using certain detergents may leave the pillow with a lasting odor.
Up Your Sleep Game
We can’t really make too strong a case for the level of luxury you gain from a down pillow.
It not only offers a plush and luxurious sleeping experience; it has proven beneficial for those with recurring sleep problems, too.
Our sleep experts here at Sleep Reviews have stocked our blog with lots of useful information. From your bedroom curtains and mattress all the way to what alarm clocks you should use – find everything you need for the perfect night’s sleep.
In the meantime, if you’re a back sleeper, check out our top five picks of pillows created just for you.