Down vs. Down Alternative Comforter

Should I buy a down or down alternative comforter?

This is the first question that comes to your mind when you are in the market for a new comforter set. And the answer to this depends on a lot of factors including your personal preference as well as the climate of the area you live in.

Comforters also help to improve the appeal of your bed, add to the aesthetic of your bedroom, and more importantly, better the quality of your sleep. Besides this, other factors could include warmth, weight, durability, and cost of the comforter.

If you’re unsure about what exactly differentiates down comforter from a down alternative comforter, this article will bring you clarity and help you decide which one is best for you.

What is the Difference Between Down and Down Alternative Comforters?

Physically, it might be difficult to tell the difference between a down and a down alternative comforter just by merely looking at or feeling them. This is because they often look and feel alike. But we can assure you that there are differences between them and knowing these differences will help you in picking the one that is best for you.

The differences between these two comforter types is evident in their filling, warmth, breathability, fluff, maintenance, durability, and price. These individual points are considered and explained below in detail.


This is the major difference between down and down alternative comforters and is what gives them their names.

Down comforters are filled with natural down which is the soft, fluffy, and immature feathers found on ducks and geese which keeps them insulated from the cold. Down obtained from geese will usually be more clustered and thicker than that obtained from ducks. This is because ducks are often farmed and their down is harvested at an earlier time compared to geese that are wild. Down is usually either white or grey.

Down alternative comforters on the other hand, have a filling made up of artificial or synthetically created materials such as polyester or rayon. They could sometimes have fillings made from natural fibres like cotton. The fillings in a down alternative comforter are intended to mimic the insulation that can be gotten from actual down.

In deciding for or against a comforter based on its filling, you should note that a down filling is more likely to trigger allergies than a down alternative filling. This is because a natural down filling tends to attract dust and bacteria within its fibers. Thus, if you suffer from allergies, you may prefer a down alternative comforter.

On the other hand, there are companies that are now producing Hypoallergenic down comforters which means you can still enjoy the comfort of down without worrying about allergies that come with down filling.

down vs down alternative comforter


Comforters are usually kept for the warmth they provide. As such, warmth is an important factor to consider when deciding between a down or down alternative comforter. The warmth provided by the down and down alternative comforter varies.

A down comforter provides true luxury and higher levels of warmth thanks to its very insulating filling. In fact, down-filled comforters are known to be some of the warmest comforters used to survive harsh winters. To provide some perspective, down is what keeps birds like geese warm in freezing conditions. It traps air in pockets and provides adequate warmth in cold seasons.

Down alternative comforters, on the other hand, are not as insulating as down comforters. They require much more fill to provide as much warmth as a down comforter. Hence, they are usually heavier than down comforters.  A less bulky down comforter may provide more warmth than a down alternative comforter of equal warmth rating.

Thus, if you would prefer a comforter that is lightweight but provides adequate warmth for those really cold nights, a down comforter is your best bet.


The breathability and warmth of a comforter are dependent on the same factor, that is the type of filling.

A down comforter is more breathable than a down alternative comforter. This is because the down filling of the former allows trapped air to flow freely and also allows for easy penetration and absorption of moisture and vapour. Due to their being breathable, down comforters are less likely to cause overheating and are more suitable for all-weather use.

In contrast, a down alternative comforter is less breathable as its synthetic filling restricts the flow of air. As such, they are more likely to cause overheating and night sweats. They are less preferred for all-weather use.


The fluff of a comforter is what produces that cloud-like feeling that most persons enjoy. In determining the fluff of a comforter, the fill power of the comforter has to be considered. Fill power is the standard for measuring the fluffiness of a comforter (or a pillow). Usually, the higher the fill power of a comforter, the fluffier the comforter.

Down comforters are the fluffiest and often have more fill power than down alternative comforters. This is because down expands more than synthetic fiber and as a result, is fuller, softer, loftier, and more insulating. This is what makes down comforters the most comfortable comforters.

Determining the fill power of a down alternative comforter may not be accurately achieved but one thing is sure, a down alternative comforter requires more filling to be as fluffy as a down comforter. As a result, fluffy down alternative comforters are often heavier than their down counterparts.

Cleaning and Maintenance

clean down comforter rolled after washing

Cleaning and maintenance of a comforter is also an important and decisive factor in choosing between a down and a down alternative comforter. Most comforters come with washing instructions and the ease of following such instructions will determine the choice of comforter.

When it comes to washing and cleaning, people usually have hard team washing down comforters at home. Down comforters are more difficult to clean and maintain. As a matter of fact, getting a down comforter cleaned will usually require the use of a professional dry cleaner or commercial laundromats. Hence, it may be necessary to use a duvet cover together with a down duvet insert to protect it from stains and dirt. In such a case, only the duvet cover will require frequent washing.

A down alternative comforter on the contrary, is much easier to clean and maintain. It will easily fit into a non-industrial washing machine and will dry faster.

If you would prefer less stress when it comes to cleaning and maintenance of your comforter, a down alternative comforter is the preferred choice.


The durability of a comforter is dependent on two factors i.e. the fiber used in making the comforter and the frequency of washing.

Down comforters tend to have longer-lasting fibers and as such, are more durable. They are also not washed frequently so they easily avoid the possible tears that may result from frequent washing action.

Down alternative comforters on the other hand feature less durable fibers. Because they are easier to clean, they are more frequently washed (and sometimes with harsh detergents) and as a result, wear and tear quicker. They end up becoming weak and fragile, and may not last as long as down comforters.


The cost of a comforter is a strong determinant in deciding for or against a particular comforter. This is more so because cost usually has direct implications on quality.

A down comforter tends to be more expensive than its down alternative counterpart. This is because the down used as comforter filling material is limited in number and isn’t easily sourced. The price of a down comforter is also affected by the quality of the down used with comforters having a high-goose quality being more expensive than that with a standard goose quality. Again, a goose down comforter costs more than a duck down comforter.

Down alternative comforters, on the other hand, are less expensive as their filling can be easily sourced in bulk from mass production factories.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are down alternatives as warm as down comforters?

A down alternative comforter with the same amount of filling as a down comforter cannot match the warmth produced by the down comforter.

This is because the synthetic filling of a down alternative comforter expands less than the filling of a down comforter. For a down alternative comforter to be as warm as a down comforter, it will need to have more filling than the down comforter which will make it heavy and uncomfortable for many.

Is down better than down alternative?

A down comforter outperforms a down alternative comforter in certain aspects and vice versa. For instance, while down comforters are warmer, more breathable, and more durable,  down alternative comforters are cheaper, lighter, and easier to maintain. This makes it difficult to absolutely choose one as being better than the other. An actual answer to the question of which is better will be dependent on the preferences of each comforter user.

How long does an alternative comforter last?

A down alternative comforter will last for a couple years on average. Its lifespan may be reduced or affected by the frequency of washing it undergoes and the types of cleaning agents used in washing it. For instance, harsh detergents will shorten the lifespan of the comforter as it will wear out the comforter’s external covering.

Do hotels use the down or down alternative?

Most hotels use both interchangeably depending on their preferences or that of their guests. Some hotels provide light, medium, and heavy versions of each of the two comforters. In any case, if a down comforter is used, it will most likely be combined with a duvet cover to reduce the need for washing once hotel guests have left.

Which is warmer, down or polyester comforter?

Ideally, a down comforter type is warmer and loftier than its polyester counterpart of the same quantity. Still, it should be noted that what is buying a comforter on the basis of warmth, what matters is the TOG rating of the comforter. All comforters come in warm, medium, extra warm, and all-season versions. A down or polyester comforter with an extra warm rating will provide the same warmth, but the down comforter with the same warmth will be less heavy.

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