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Down vs Feather Pillows – What’s the Difference?

Many of us are curious to know the difference between down and feather pillows since the terms are often used interchangeably. From their overall comfort levels to the materials used in their construction, down and feather pillows are very different. Before purchasing your pillow, it is important to understand the differences between the two fillings and which compliments your sleep positions and requirements the most.

Both down and feather come with their own unique pros and cons, and to maximize your comfort and sleep levels, we recommend buying the right pick for you.

What are Down Pillows?

Down pillows are made from soft down clusters that are extracted from the chest area of a goose, duck, or swan. These down clusters are textured like cloudlike dandelions or ultra-soft cotton balls. Smooth, luxurious, and plush to the touch, down-filled pillows can sometimes be on the pricier end, especially if they are 100% down.

Sleeping on down pillows is similar to the sensations of sleeping on a field of cotton. The down clusters in the filling compress depending on their size and density and this creates some springiness in the pillow.

If you are looking for ultimate luxury that oozes expensive taste, down pillows are worth the investment. They are soft, durable, and carry the highest price tag compared to other pillows.

Goose down clusters are known to have highest fill powers. This is because geese is a larger bird as compared to duck, which means their cluster will be larger. Bigger the cluster size, higher the fill power and softness of the pillow. Some people confuse fill weight with fill power; fill power is the weight of filling used inside the pillow shell.

white goose down pillows

What are Feather Pillows?

Feather pillows, usually preferred by side sleepers, are made using the goose or duck feathers extracted from the back of the bird and its wings. Since they consist of a feather filling, you may notice an odd quill or two poking through the pillow shell over time after extensive use. If this becomes bothersome, simply slip on a pillow protector which keeps the pointed ends cushioned inside.

Often, you may notice that feathers are combined with down to make them softer and plushier. However, if you invest in the ‘pure feather’ variety, then you may notice that the pillow becomes flatter with usage as the quills line together.

Difference Between Down and Feather Pillows

Be it softness, structure, fill power, luxury, or sleeping experience, both down and feather pillows have differences in their construction and advantages for the sleepers. Different sleepers have different sleeping positions and requirements; therefore it is vital to identify these variations before you invest in a pillow.

When we talk about different pillow materials, down pillows are the softest pillows made ever, but it compresses with the pressure and weight of your head, giving you a plush feel. Feather pillows, on the other hand, offer a hint of crispiness from the quills so they may not be as fluffy or plush, but they offer support for those who need a firm pillow to support their neck and shoulders. Understanding these unique qualities can help you determine which type works best for you.

Shape and Loft

If you are a fan of bouncier, more voluminous pillows, down pillows are ideal for you. Not only do they support your head, neck, and shoulders, but the three-dimensional shape of the soft down clusters provides sleepers with extra fluff that is less likely to deflate or flatten with usage. Expensive luxury down-filled pillows may contain a fill power of over 650 which is considered high quality.

On the other hand, feather pillows are often complemented with a blend of down inside the filling to add to its loft. If it is a pure feather pillow, it may consist of medium fluff, but it will flatten over time as it does not possess the same bounce as down material does.

Feel and Support

Down pillows are famously plushier, softer, and loftier. The pure cluster filling ensures longevity and bounce that is incomparable to other pillows. When you sleep on down pillows, you will feel like sleeping on a cloud.

Feathers offer a blend of softness, and a crispier, flatter surface to rest your head and neck on for a balanced support. They do not consist of the same divine plushiness of down, but they offer a firm support for your head and neck. You may sometimes notice the prickly ends of a quill or two poking against the pillow protector, but using a pillowcase can help with that.

Side sleepers usually prefer feather pillows since they require a firm support under their head and neck to maintain that perfect spinal alignment.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Maintaining your feather and down pillows is no different and caring for them does not require excessive time or extensive cleaning process.

Both down and feather pillows can be washed inside a washing machine, granted that you use a front load, non-agitating washer. This will keep your down pillow inserts from wrapping or tangling with the spindle and tearing apart. If you are using a coin-operated washing machine, it is better to pick one that is not too large. When washing down and feather pillows, remove your protective pillowcase and wash it separately and be sure to use a mild detergent with warm water.

You can also dry your down-filled pillows and feather inside a tumble dryer with the heat set to medium or low. Fluff your pillow mid drying cycle to spread the clusters out with your hands or throw in two tennis balls so they can gently fluff the pillow throughout the drying cycle. It should take an hour to dry your down pillow completely in a tumble dryer.

If you have asthma or suffer from any allergies, we recommend using a dust mite-proof  protective cover that resists dust mites and other allergens.

Breathability

Down pillows are generally favored for their good ventilation and comfort. They are able to trap more air during sleep and regulate the body’s temperature which keeps you from feeling too hot or cold during the night.

Feather pillows are bulkier, crispier, and more solid, which allows them to provide extra support during the night. They sleep cooler than down pillows and do not trap heat the same way as down clusters do. Usually encased in a breathable cotton cover, bed pillows filled with feathers are just as breathable, but they do not regulate body temperature the way down pillows do.

Longevity

Pillows filled with down will last you longer than feather-filled pillows because the down cluster filling has the ability to bounce and spring back to its original spherical shape after the weight of your head is shifted or removed.

Feather pillows can flatten after a while with usage. The weight of your head and shoulders will reduce the gentle fluff of the feather filling and you may begin to notice the uncomfortable pokes of the quills every now and your feather pillow may need replacement. This is also why down pillows are at a higher price point.

Price

Down pillows are twice or thrice more expensive than feather pillows and other down alternative pillows due to their unmatched comfort and buttery smooth finish. They are revered for their plushier feel and longer lifespan. Down pillows with higher fill power and high quality goose down filling are even more expensive as compared to a down pillow with average fill power. The fill power usually varies between 550 to 850; you will usually get the higher fill power with Hungarian goose down pillows which is known to be the finest down filling available.

Feather-filled pillows may be less luxurious, but their firm support ensures neck and shoulder comfort. If you are on a budget and do not need expensive luxury bedding, a pillow filled with feathers may be more satisfying. On the other hand, if you truly value luxury and wish to spare no expense, opt for a goose down pillow and experience unmatched sleep experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is down warmer than feather?

Yes, down is much warmer than feather. It is also lighter than feathers and has better insulation. The down clusters in your pillow expand to cover the area and trap pockets of air within their filaments and this process creates insulating pockets. The more down cluster in your pillow, the higher it lofts and the warmer it becomes.

Feathers on the other hand sleep cooler than down. They are not as airy, or bouncy as down pillows and lack those air pockets that can trap heat. If you are tired of sleeping hot, a down pillow may not be the right option for you. Instead, opt for a pillow filled with feathers or a down-feather blend pillow.

Are down feather pillows good?

Down feather pillows are a great alternative for 100% down pillows or 100% feather pillows as they combine the unique benefits of both down and feathers and offer a comfortable, soft feel throughout the night.

The down filling provides cloud-like softness, whereas the feather filling offers good support and structure.

It is important to remember that there is no pillow variety that is fit for everyone because of our different needs and sleep requirements. However, many sleepers find pillows with 70% feathers and 30% down a perfect blend of softness and support that works for most, if not all.

Do feather pillows get softer?

Feather-filled pillows may get flatter, not softer, with time and usage. The compression and weight of your head can cause it to lose its fluff overtime. This is because unlike down, feathers cannot contort back to their original shape or volume after compression. When your feather pillow becomes flat or if you feel the quills poking your cheek or neck, it may be time to invest in a new pillow.

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