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Feather pillows are light and breathable and may adapt to the user’s body. People with health and ethical concerns can choose from several alternatives to feather filling.

Feather pillows usually contain two types of material, quills, the long stiff feathers from the bird’s wings or tail, and down, which are soft fibers that lie below the protective feathers.

This article discusses feather pillows, the pros and cons, alternatives, and the best feather pillows available online.

Potential pros and cons of feather pillows include:

Benefits

Feather pillows are very lightweight, with most weighing less than 3 pounds. They are also durable and last at least 2–3 years, outperforming their synthetic counterparts. They also do not clump together over time as much as polyester and cotton pillows do.

Some feather pillows are washable. However, most feather pillows require dry cleaning. People should check the pillow’s tags for recommended care.

Feather pillows are highly moldable and conform well to the person’s head and neck. However, they do not offer the same pressure relief and support as contoured or shaped pillows. The pillows may also require constant re-fluffing to maintain the pillow’s shape and loft.

Disadvantages

Feather pillows flatten when compressed. The uneven surface may problems in some sleepers. A 2010 blinded field trial in Australia found that a feather pillow led to more waking symptoms than other pillow types.

Some sleepers might find these pillows noisy because of the crunchy sounds the quills make. Also, some people worry that these might poke through covers. However, most come with densely woven high thread covers that keep the quills from poking out.

Some people think that using feather pillows will cause allergic reactions. However, most allergies are due to mite allergens in feathers rather than the feathers themselves.

A 2005 study found that all pillows contain a substantial number of species of fungi, regardless of whether they are synthetic or feather-filled.

A 2004 study found that synthetic pillows contain more house dust mite (HDM) allergens than feather pillows. A similar 2002 study found they contained more pet allergens than feather pillows, probably due to the feather pillows’ tightly woven cases.

Learn about the best hypoallergenic pillows here.

A 2019 study found that while washing feather and down reduces the bacteria they contain, they were still highly toxic (teratogenic), possibly due to chemical additives.

Feather pillows contain feathers from waterfowls, usually geese and ducks. The majority of these come as a byproduct of the food industry.

While they are mainly collected after slaughter, animal welfare advocates condemn the unethical feather harvesting practice of removing feathers from live birds.

To be considered ethically sourced, manufacturers who provide feather and down should ensure that the birds are fed well, provided with a healthy environment, and are free of pain, fear, discomfort, and disease.

People can make informed decisions by checking if a product’s materials are ethically sourced. Certifications, such as the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) and the Global Traceable Down Standard, ensure that customers receive products that contain ethically gathered down and feathers.

Other certifications ensure that the processing procedures are eco-friendly and undergo strict processes to limit toxic chemicals in their production. For example, customers can look for OEKO-TEX or CertiPUR-US certification.

Despite strict regulations and standards, unethical practices still exist. People who are wary about ethical issues may opt for alternatives to feather and down, which may include synthetic materials or natural plant-based fibers.

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

Casper Down Pillow

These pillows have a unique five-chamber design. The outer chamber provides comfort, and the inner chamber provides support that adapts to any sleeping position.

The outer chamber is made of 80% white duck down and 20% feather, while the inner chamber consists of 60% white duck feather and 40% down.

Learn more about Casper Pillows here.

Pillows come in two sizes, standard and king, and are available in mid-and low-loft. They are RDS-certified and machine washable. The company also offers buyers a 30-night risk-free trial.

Pacific Coast Hotel Double Touch of Down Pillow

These contain an inner feather filling enveloped with their Hyperclean down, enclosed in 100% cotton shell with a 230 thread count.

The brand claims hotels around the world use these pillows. The pillows come in standard queen and king sizes.

The company offers customers an allergy-free warranty along with a 30-Night Comfort Guarantee.

Puredown White Goose Feather Pillow

These pillows comprise 95% goose feather and 5% goose down, providing sleepers with medium support. These overstuffed pillows may suit side and back sleepers.

Learn about the best pillows for side sleepers here.

The 233 thread count, double-layered cotton shell prevents quill pricks.

These pillows come in sets of two and come in standard, queen, and king sizes.

The products are also RDS-certified, eco-friendly, natural, and machine washable. The company claim that their pillows are odorless.

Brooklinen Down Pillow

These pillows have a supportive inner layer of feathers and an outer layer of down clusters, housed in 100% cotton sateen shell.

They offer two sizes, standard and king. They have three support options, plush, mid-plush, and firm, accommodating people with various sleeping positions.

The company recommends drying the pillow on a dry day or using a dryer on a no heat setting. Customers can return or exchange products within a year and include and an extra 1-year warranty.

Some alternatives to feather pillows include:

  • Buckwheat hull: Consists of the outer casing of buckwheat seeds. They conform well and provide good support. Learn more about buckwheat pillows here.
  • Kapok: A cotton-like, organic filling made from seed pods of a rainforest tree.
  • Natural shredded rubber: They are also called natural rubber latex or simply latex. They are a byproduct of the rubber tree.
  • Primaloft: This is a down alternative made of polyester fiber.
  • Thinsulate: This is a synthetic fiber thermal insulation made by 3M.

Learn about more alternatives to feather and down pillows here.

Feather pillows come in various sizes, compositions, and support or firmness levels. They may suit people seeking lightweight, cool, and soft pillows that offer some support.

Since pillows come in all forms and sizes, people should do adequate research before purchasing one to ensure that they get a pillow that best suits their needs and preferences.