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Down pillows offer a soft and moldable sleep surface. This allows sleepers to customize their level of support while retaining comfort.

A quick look at 8 of the best down pillows

Down alternatives are available for people who worry about the health and ethical implications of down pillows.

This article discusses down pillows, the best options available online, their pros and cons, and alternatives.

Some of the benefits and disadvantages to consider when choosing a down pillow include:

Allergies

Some doctors recommend that people with asthma and allergies avoid down products, but supporting evidence for this is not conclusive.

A 2002 study found that commercially processed and washed down feathers did not accumulate dust mites. However, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America advises avoiding down products since users cannot wash them in hot water.

Hygiene

Down pillows are washable, but most manufacturers advise against washing them in hot water.

Users should use a down-safe laundry detergent and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Excessive washing may damage the pillow or shorten its life span.

Comfort

Down pillows are softer than most other pillows, but they also contour to the head and neck, offering customizable support. This makes them a good option for people who want to change their level of support as needed or who have chronic pain.

Nonsynthetic fabrics

Some people worry about the safety of synthetic fabrics and other materials. Some chemicals and synthetic substances, such as some foam, may have an unpleasant smell or emit potentially harmful chemicals called volatile organic compounds.

Down comes from goose feathers. Some advocates have expressed concern that manufacturers may pluck the feathers while the geese are still alive.

There is also concern about the way manufacturers treat the geese before harvesting their feathers. For example, some geese may live in unsanitary or inhumane conditions.

Down is a renewable resource because goose farmers can breed more geese. The environmental impact of down depends on the farming practices of each down farm.

Some farms waste significant resources and release toxic chemicals into the air and water. Others may use a more sustainable approach.

While some manufacturers may promise “ethical down,” it is difficult to verify these claims. Enforcement across the industry is lax. Consumers who worry about the treatment of geese may prefer down alternatives.

As public concern about the ethics of harvesting has grown recently, several organizations have sprung up to develop standards for appropriate practices and certify businesses that meet those standards.

The standards for each organization vary. A person seeking products made from ethically sourced down can check which organization, if any, certified the down. With this information, they can see what standards the product meets.

Medical News Today chooses pillows that meet the following criteria:

  • Certifications: MNT will choose products that have CertiPUR-US or other certifications. This means that the products are low in pollutants and free from heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.
  • Size: MNT chooses products available in various sizes.
  • Materials and fill: MNT selects products made from different materials and fills, such as memory foam and latex, to suit a range of sleep and lifestyles.
  • Budget: MNT features products to suit a range of budgets.
  • Firmness: MNT selects pillows available in a range of firmness options to suit most people’s sleeping styles.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for hot sleepers: Casper Down Pillow

  • Firmness: soft
  • Fill: down
  • Size: standard and king
  • Sleep position: any
  • List price: from $139

Because down is thick, it can retain heat. For people who sleep hot or in warm environments, this may affect sleep quality.

Casper down pillow uses a unique multichamber technology to create cooling pockets. This will ensure the pillow does not retain heat or cause sleep disruptions.

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certifies that the manufacturer follows humane practices when harvesting the down.

Best for side sleepers: Parachute Down Side Sleeper Pillow

  • Firmness: medium
  • Fill: down
  • Size: 16.5 x 22.5 inches (in)
  • Sleep position: side sleepers
  • List price: from $159

This pillow is plush and thick, offering more neck support for side sleepers.

The tightly woven sateen cover ensures no feathers will stick out. The cover is 100% cotton.

Reviewers say the pillow adapts well to their sleeping position without the need to fluff or adjust it.

Best for a smaller budget: Puredown Natural Goose Down Pillow

  • Firmness: medium firm
  • Fill: 95% goose feathers, 5% goose down
  • Size: 20 x 26 in
  • Sleep position: combination sleepers
  • List price: around $51

A budget-friendly option, Puredown pillows come in sets of two. These medium-fill pillows offer light support.

The manufacturer certifies that the feathers are odorless. It also claims it thoroughly disinfects the feathers to remove allergens and dust.

The product follows the RDS and is hypoallergenic.

Best for higher budgets: Cuddledown 800 Pillow

  • Firmness: variable
  • Fill: European white goose down
  • Size: 20 x 26 in
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: from $259

Cuddledown sateen pillows are thick and plush, making them an ideal option for side sleepers.

Control Union certifies the down as responsibly sourced. The pillow has OEKO-TEX certification, which indicates that it is free from harmful substances.

The cover is 450 thread count, making it a soft and durable option. The company also offers different firmness sizes for different sleeping positions.

Best for an antimicrobial pillow: Brooklinen Down Pillow

  • Firmness: variable
  • Fill: down clusters and feathers
  • Size: 20 x 26 in
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: from $109

The Brooklinen Down Pillow is available with three different levels of firmness: plush, mid-plush, and firm. The pillows contain down clusters or down clusters and feathers depending on the level of firmness.

These pillows have a 100% cotton sateen shell and have antimicrobial treatment. Brooklinen states it uses ethically sourced down.

The manufacturer recommends daily fluffing to keep the pillow filling evenly distributed.

Best for sustainably sourced down: Luxe Pillow Down and Feather

  • Firmness: medium
  • Fill: down and feather
  • Size: standard and king size
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: from $129

These pillows have a down and feather core with an outer chamber of down to provide support and firmness. The manufacturer states it sources the down and feathers sustainably from white geese and small-game waterfowl.

This pillow is hypoallergenic and has a 100% stretched cotton shell to promote airflow.

Best for different firmness feels: Garnet Hill Signature Down Pillow

  • Firmness: variable
  • Fill: white down
  • Size: standard and king size
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: from $149

This pillow is available in soft, medium, and firm feels. The down is RDS-certified.

The company states the medium-feel pillow supports the head and neck while cradling the spine’s natural curvature.

Best for all sleeping positions: Boll & Branch Down Chamber Pillow

  • Firmness: variable
  • Fill: down
  • Size: standard and king size
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: from $158

This pillow is available in different firmness options: soft, medium, and firm. The company recommends:

  • soft density for stomach sleepers
  • medium density for side sleepers
  • firm density for back slippers

The pillow has a three-chamber construction with a 100% organic cotton shell. The down and feathers are triple-washed.

The following table compares the down pillows in this article.

FirmnessFillSizeSleep positionList price
Caspersoftdownstandard, kinganyfrom $139
Parachutemediumdown16.5 x 22.5 insidefrom $159
Puredownmedium firmgoose feathers and down20 x 26 incombinationaround $51
CuddledownvariableEuropean white goose down20 x 26 inanyfrom $259
Brooklinenvariabledown clusters and feathers20 x 26 inanyfrom $109
Luxe Pillowmediumdown and featherstandard,
king
anyfrom $129
Garnet Hillvariablewhite downstandard,
king
anyfrom $149
Boll & Branchvariabledownstandard,
king
anyfrom $158

Some alternatives to down pillows include:

Memory foam pillow: Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow

  • Firmness: medium
  • Fill: memory foam with a gel layer
  • Size: queen, king
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: from $199

Memory foam pillows offer body-conforming support but tend to be firmer than down.

Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow offers firm support and cooling features. It is suitable for people who tend to sleep hot.

A memory foam pillow can suit all sleeping positions as it adapts to the user.

Customizable pillow: Brookstone Layer Adjust Pillow

  • Firmness: adjustable
  • Fill: memory and imitation down
  • Size: standard
  • Sleep position: any
  • Price: $49.99

Numerous manufacturers make customizable pillows. Users can add or remove layers to get the right support.

Brookstone Layer Adjust Pillow offers three layers, including an imitation down layer.

A customizable pillow is useful if people find that their needs and preferences change over time.

Down alternative pillow: Snowe Down Alternative Pillow

  • Firmness: soft, medium, and firm
  • Fill: hypoallergenic microfiber
  • Size: standard and king size
  • Sleep position: stomach sleepers
  • Price: from $65

Down alternative pillows are similarly soft to down pillows but without animal welfare and allergy concerns.

Snowe Down Alternative Pillow is OEKO-TEX certified as free from many harmful chemicals.

It has a smooth microfiber cover that prevents allergens from attaching to the fabric.

People may wish to consider the following when choosing a down pillow:

  • Sleeping style: People who sleep on their stomachs may prefer a softer pillow, whereas those who sleep on their backs or sides may prefer a firmer one.
  • Fill: Not all down pillows have the same ratio of down to feathers. The more down a pillow has, the softer and more expensive it will be.
  • Allergies: People with allergies may wish to purchase hypoallergenic pillows.
  • Price: Down pillow prices can vary widely. People may wish to consider their budget before making a purchase.

Here we answer some common questions about down pillows.

What is the difference between down and feather pillows?

There are several differences between down and feather pillows.

Down tends to be a better insulator and softer than feathers. However, down is more expensive than feather pillows.

Are down or foam pillows better?

Down comes from the softer inner feathers of geese and ducks. These products tend to be softer than foam pillows.

However, foam pillows may be more supportive. These products mold to the contours of the head and may help support neutral spinal alignment.

How long do down pillows last?

People can wash down pillows. This may make the products last longer. Down pillows may last several years before a person needs to replace them.

However, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends replacing all pillows every 2 years to prevent exposure to dust mites.

Down pillows are very soft, and users can choose from a variety of support levels.

Since users can fluff and move the pillows to get more or less support, down pillows are a good option for people who are uncertain about their pillow needs.

However, like all pillows, down pillows do not work well for everyone. People with serious allergies should contact a doctor about the safest options.