If you love the soft, “pillowy” feel of natural down but you’re concerned about allergies or using materials sourced from animals, a down alternative could be right for you. These materials are designed to simulate the feel of natural down with few of its drawbacks. As an added bonus, down alternative pillows may be more affordable than natural down and they can be just as comfortable.
If a down alternative pillow sounds like the right choice for you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done the market research to bring you a shortlist of the six best down alternative pillows you can buy.
What is a Down Alternative Pillow?
Down is a natural material gathered from the undercoat of waterfowl like geese, ducks, and swans. It is known for being lightweight and fluffy, two qualities that make it a great temperature-regulating material for people who tend to sleep hot. The drawbacks of down have to do with it being a natural material derived from animals. It has been known to trigger allergies in some people and there are some concerns about it being ethically sourced.
Down alternative is a synthetic material designed to simulate the feel of natural down. It is typically made from polyester microfiber which gives it a lofty feel but it is hypoallergenic and machine-washable. Down alternative is also more affordable than natural down.
Benefits of Down Alternative Pillows
Compared to natural down, down alternative pillows are typically more affordable and easier to clean, but some people may not find it as supportive as other materials. This material is not as durable as a material like memory foam and can become lumpy over time and may need to be replaced more frequently.
Here are some of the benefits of a down alternative pillow:
- The materials are very soft, lightweight and moldable for custom support.
- Leaves no question of potential allergies or ethics in sourcing.
- They are generally machine washable and dryable.
- Usually more affordable than true down pillows.
- Traps less heat than denser materials like memory foam.
Down alternative pillows are generally a universally safe choice for most sleepers because they can be adjusted for firmness and loft without retaining the heat that materials like memory foam will or potentially triggering allergies like down may for some. However, someone who needs more support for injury or surgical pain relief, may not find down alternative the best choice for them.
What to Look for in Down Alternative Pillows
No matter what kind of material you’re looking for, there are certain factors you should consider:
- Firmness – The more filling a down alternative has, the firmer it will be, though a fluffy, soft material like this can only get so firm.
- Loft – This refers to the height of the pillow and it is a factor that is most dependent your preferred sleeping position. Side sleepers generally prefer a pillow with a higher loft than back or stomach sleepers.
- Support – The degree of support a down alternative pillow has to offer depends on its loft and firmness. Most down alternative pillows offer a medium level of support.
- Shape – Most down alternative bed pillows typically come in the classic rectangular shape but because the material is so soft and airy, however, you can easily fold or flatten the pillow as desired.
- Quality – If you’re concerned about durability or potential lumpiness over time, you may want to consider a pillow filled with a combination of materials like down alternative and shredded memory foam or gel.
- Moldability – A down alternative pillow lends itself well to sleepers who like to mold the pillow into a certain shape. The added benefit is that down alternative generally springs back after.
- Price – Decide whether you’re looking for something economical or whether you’re willing to pay a bit more for luxury features and high-quality materials.
Down Alternative Pillows: Our Top Picks
Down alternative pillows are popular among people who like a soft, fluffy pillow. There are plenty of down alternative pillows to choose from, but we’ve done the research to help you narrow down the options.
Here are our top 6 picks for the best down alternative pillows:
Best Overall: Fern and Willow Premium Down Alternative Pillows
Available in Queen and King sizes, these premium down alternative pillows come in a set of two. In addition to being supremely comfortable for those who like a softer pillow, these pillows have attractive piping around the edges which gives them a sleek and modern look. These are ideal for back and side sleepers, but they are adjustable which makes them a perfect pick for all sleepers. To adjust the firmness or loft of the pillow, simply unzip the cover and add or remove filling according to your preferences. Just be sure to massage the pillow after adjusting the filling to make sure it is even.
Another benefit these down alternative pillows offer over natural down is that they are 100% machine washable. To retain the natural loft of the down alternative, however, it is recommended that you air dry them – do not put them in the dryer.
Runner-Up: Sleep Restoration Down Alternative Pillows
Designed for breathable comfort and bounce-back support, these down alternative pillows come in Queen and King sizes. You’ll get two high-quality down alternative pillows made with 100% cotton covers, filled with a gel-infused down alternative material that helps dissipate body heat and keep you cool.
These down alternative pillows from Sleep Restoration boast a 250-thread count 100% sateen cotton cover which, in addition to giving the pillows a luxury look and feel, makes the covers easy to clean. Simply throw the entire pillow in the washing machine and tumble dry on low or no heat. Because they are dryer friendly, you can also use the dryer to refluff your pillows if they start to get lumpy.
Premium Pick: Original Casper Pillow
Designed by one of the most popular online mattress brands, this Casper pillow comes in Standard and King sizes – you can also choose between low loft and mid loft. The low loft design may be best for back and stomach sleepers while side sleepers may prefer a slightly higher loft to relieve pressure from the shoulders and neck. Casper offers free shipping and returns on orders within the contiguous United States. You’ll also enjoy a 1-year warranty on your Casper down alternative pillow.
This Casper pillow is filled with lightweight down alternative materials with a unique pillow-in-pillow design. This unique design essentially incorporates a padded removable cover over another pillow. This design helps the pillow respond to your movements without going flat, keeping you comfortable through the night. Both the inner pillow and the outer cover are machine washable for your convenience and the materials are breathable to keep you cool.
Budget Pick: Bedsure Premium Down Alternative Pillows
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, we recommend these Bedsure Premium Down Alternative Pillows. Choose from three sizes (standard, queen, or king) and two firmness levels. These are generously filled with 100% down alternative polyester filling which gives them a fluffy feel ideal for side and back sleepers. The material is encased in a microfiber cover which provides a smooth, comfortable feel.
These pillows are machine washable and can be tumbled dry on low heat. One thing to keep in mind with these pillows is that they are vacuum-packed for shipping. You should allow 24 hours for the pillows to expand before use.
Best for Hot Sleepers: Slumber Cloud Core Down Alternative Pillow
Temperature regulation is a problem with many pillow materials, especially denser options like memory foam. Down alternative is naturally very lightweight and fluffy which supports airflow through the pillow, helping keep you cooler at night. This Slumber Cloud Core Down Alternative Pillow is particularly well-suited to hot sleepers because the breathable cotton cover incorporates NASA-approved Outlast lining on both sides that helps dissipate heat.
This down alternative pillow ships free and comes with a 60-night in-home trial. You can choose from two different sizes (standard or king) and two firmness levels (soft/medium or medium/firm). Stomach sleepers generally prefer the softer pillow while side and back sleepers may prefer the medium/firm pillow. Both models feature the same temperature-regulating materials and machine washable convenience.
Our Top Pick for a Real Down Pillow: Brooklinen Down Pillow
Down alternative pillows are a great option for allergy sufferers and sleepers on a budget, but sometimes you can’t beat the real thing. This is filled with Canadian down and feathers that are ethically sourced from Hutterite Farms in Canada. Brooklinen provides two choices for size and three levels of firmness as well: plush, mid-plush, or firm.
While stomach sleepers may prefer a very plush pillow and side sleepers may prefer the firm pillow for its added support, we generally find that the mid-plush pillow offers an agreeable combination of comfort and support. All three firmness levels come with the same smooth and soft 100% cotton sateen shell featuring double-stitched edges for added durability. Brooklinen’s pillows are also treated with ultra-fresh antimicrobials for safety.