37 Questions About Down Pillows Answered

Down pillows are luxe, but pricey. Yet, sinking into their soft, fluffy, and cloud-like material makes for a sinful indulgence.

In this article, we answer the top 37 questions about Down pillows that people frequently ask. show

What Is a Down Pillow?


A Down pillow is a pillow filled with quill-free Down feathers obtained from the chest and underbelly of ducks, swans, and geese.

The soft, fine, and fluffy pillow inserts come from either a young bird’s first coat or the insulating layer beneath an adult bird’s contour feathers. They are taken directly from birds or their nests.

The limited availability of Down feathers translates into higher prices for these pillows. However, they are highly durable and can be re-cased unlike pillows with man-made fill materials.

Additionally, these pillows are ideal for all sleeping positions. Those who suffer from neck pain, however, should avoid sleeping on Down pillows.

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What Does Fill Power Represent in Them?

Fill power represents the quality of Down. It is calculated as the cubic inches an ounce of Down can fill within a pillow. Higher the fill power, the larger and stronger the clusters of Down.

High fill power translates to high-quality Down that lofts optimally, cools faster, insulates better, and lasts longer.

What Does Sleeping on a Down Pillow Feel Like?

Sleeping on a Down pillow feels like you are resting your head on a lump of cloud or cotton candy. Its fluffy fill material makes for a super soft base to cradle your head and neck comfortably.

If you are someone who moves around in their sleep a lot, sleep on a Down pillow to flatter yourself with a snuggly slumber.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Down Pillows?

The pros and cons of using Down pillows are as follows:

  • Lightweight – weighs ⅓rd of cotton pillows
  • Insulation – ideal for winters
  • Breathable – absorbs sweat
  • Versatile – great for all sleeping positions
  • Warm – retains body heat
  • Rapidly gets dirty – needs frequent cleaning
  • Retains moisture – becomes damp

Down pillows are best for people who…

  • Love fluffy pillows
  • Change sleeping positions
  • Get cold at night

Are They Suitable for Backpacking and Camping?

Down pillows offer superior comfort and make great camping pillows, especially if you are an ultralight traveler.

They are compressible and pack down small without adding much weight to your backpacking sleep system. However, most Down pillows aren’t weatherproof and get dirty fast. Although washing them is easy, it may turn out to be a challenge while traveling.

As an alternative, backpackers often use hybrid pillows, which come with an inflatable air chamber topped with a layer of Down insulation.

Other options are topper pillows that come with a Down-filled layer that can attach to an extra pack of clothing or another pillow and turn it into a functional Down pillow.

Are They Safe for Toddlers?

Most pediatricians recommend Down pillows for toddlers as they are safer than most other pillows with man-made fill material. However, you must keep in mind that these pillows tend to get dirty faster.

Your child might get a great night’s sleep, but also smear it with drool, sweat, pee and poo. Cleaning it could easily turn into a nightmare. Furthermore, it is not believed to be hypoallergenic.

Before investing in an expensive Down pillow for your child, consult with your pediatrician to find a more toddler-friendly (and parent-friendly) pillow that’s cheaper.

Are They Good for Side Sleepers?

Although down pillows are suitable for all sleepers, they might not always be firm enough for side sleepers. Sleeping on them might result in insufficient neck support and incorrect spinal alignment.

For a side sleeper to use a Down pillow, its firmness should be adequate and the loft high enough to provide proper neck and spine support.

Are They Good for Back Sleepers?

Back sleepers would benefit best from medium support and firmness down pillows. Sleeping on a Down pillow that is too low will cause the head to sink too deeply into it. Sleeping on a too-high Down pillow, on the other hand, will cause the neck to arch and pain.

Are They Good for Stomach Sleepers?

A soft to medium firmness Down pillow would be best for stomach sleepers. Because of the low loft, the head and neck will be properly aligned and cradled at a comfortable angle.

Are They Good for Hot Sleepers?

Down pillows are all-natural and more breathable than other pillows, especially those made of memory foam. However, the fill material comes with natural insulating properties, which make it retain body heat.

For this reason, sleeping on a Down pillow can make you hot and uncomfortable, especially during summers. Nevertheless, they are still cooler than memory foam and other artificial fill materials.

Are They Good for Neck Pain?

If you suffer from neck pain of any kind, experts suggest against using Down pillows because they fail to provide the required loft for support.

Do They Cause Allergies?

When it comes to Down pillows and allergies, the pillow fight is real! There are two popular opinions regarding the same.

The first opinion says these pillows aren’t particularly hypoallergenic. They trigger and accelerate allergies more often than not because of the natural animal product used as stuffing. Believers of this notion recommend avoiding Down pillows like the plague, especially if you are allergic to waterfowl.

The second opinion counteracts the first by calling it a myth. Believers of this notion think the rumor has been spread the increase the sale of synthetic pillows, especially those labeled as Down alternatives and anti-allergenic.

Interestingly, both parties have solid scientific evidence to support their respective opinions. However, if we were to compare the evidence, we would know that true feather allergy is extremely rare.

The allergies are mostly caused due to dust mites present in the feathers. But this could be an issue with any pillow, whatsoever, especially if left uncleaned for a long time.

Do They Cause Ear Problems?

The pinna (outer part of the ear) swells and throbs during sleep, causing ear pain. Because of its softness, a Down pillow would never cause this problem. However, if it hasn’t been cleaned in a long time or is damp, it might cause an ear infection.

What Is a Down Pillow With a Memory Foam Core?

A Down pillow with a memory foam core is essentially a hybrid pillow. Usually, shredded memory foam contributes to the innermost part of the fill, which is firm and conforms to the shape of the head. Down forms the outermost part of the fill, which is plush and soft.

What Is a Down Pillow With a Feather Core?

A Down pillow with a feather core is a hybrid pillow in which, quilled feathers form the innermost part of the fill for firmer support and quill-free Down forms the outermost part for a soft padding. The blend of Down and feather makes such pillows more affordable than 100% Down pillows.

Are 100% Down Pillows Worth It?

The worth of 100% Down pillows is subjective. If you are looking for ultimate luxury, these pillows are your best bet. However, if you are looking for inexpensive options, they might not excite you.

What Is the Difference Between Down and Feather Pillows?

Down pillows are made of quill-free feathers obtained primarily from the chest and underbelly of ducks, geese, and swans. On the other hand, feather pillows are made of quilled feathers obtained from the wings and backs of the birds.

Needless to say, Down pillows are softer, more durable, and better insulators than feather pillows. However, the latter is inexpensive compared to the former.

How Long Do Down Pillows Last?

The fill being durable and easy to wash, Down pillows of the highest quality last for 5 to 10 years, or more.

The following factors would significantly enhance the longevity of these pillows:
  • Washing them every 6 months
  • Allowing time for thorough drying
  • Using a silk pillowcase
  • Fluffling to keep the shape
The following factors might slightly lower the longevity of these pillows:
  • Excessive pillow fights
  • Restless sleeping
  • Punching the pillow for optimum loft
  • Compressing it too often

What Is a White Down Pillow?

A white Down pillow is filled with white Down from swans and geese. Because of the colour, which can blend with white comforters and bedsheets, these pillows are considered premium and more expensive than grey Down pillows (filled with Down from ducks). However, color should not be used to judge quality.

What Is a Goose Down Pillow?

A goose Down pillow comes filled with Down obtained from the chest and underbelly of geese. The fill material is white in color and considered premium.

Which Is Better – Duck or Goose Down Pillow?

The comparison of goose Down pillows to duck Down pillows is based on the misconception that ducks are inferior to geese. This is a myth that stems from our age-old global obsession with all things white.

There are many duck Down pillows on the market that are far superior to goose Down pillows. They are inexpensive while providing the same comfort and insulation.

Duck Down is, of course, more accessible due to the higher population of ducks compared to geese. A goose, on the other hand, is a larger bird that provides more Down than a duck. In short, a duck Down pillow and a goose Down pillow are the same thing.

Are Birds Killed for Down?

Generally, Down feathers are ethically sourced from ducks, swans, geese, or their nests. They are plucked repeatedly from live birds kept in breeding flocks without harming them.

However, we have to keep in mind that Down is also a by-product of the meat industry. The feathers are removed from the birds during slaughter.

Can You Wash a Down Pillow?

Washing a Down pillow is simple if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The natural fill material makes maintenance simple.

In fact, washing is advised to extend the life of these pillows. Whether you wash them by hand or in the tumbler, they will always come out beautiful and fluffy, unlike synthetic pillows.

What Are the Do’s and Don’ts of Washing a Down Pillow?

These are the Do’s of washing a Down pillow:
  • Wash two pillows simultaneously to keep your washing machine balanced and the pillows safe.
  • Add extra rinse cycles for machine-washable Down pillows to get rid of soap residue and excess water.
  • Hand fluff every 20 minutes for optimal cleansing and drying.
  • Use hot, warm or cold water depending on the fabric of the pillow shell.
  • Spin at the topmost speed to remove excess water.
  • Use mild soaps without additives.
  • Add a couple of tennis balls to speed up the drying process.
  • Use dryer sheets to freshen up the pillow.
These are the Don’ts of washing a Down pillow:
  • Don’t use chlorinated bleach.
  • Never use a fabric softener lest you want to reduce the fluff.
  • Don’t squeeze the pillow by hand.

Check out our detailed article on how to wash a pillow.

Can You Clean It Without Washing It?

To clean a Down pillow without washing it, follow these 7 tips:

  • Blot up spills immediately to prevent the liquid from soaking into the Down.
  • Consider air-drying or sunning the pillow immediately after your bloat up the spill.
  • Use paper towels or a white absorbent cloth for blotting up to avoid color bleed from dyed fabrics.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the Down pillow and vacuum after half an hour to get rid of odor and mildew.
  • Spray vinegar on it and wipe it off with a mild soap solution using a sponge to get rid of germs.
  • Use absolute alcohol to gently rub the surface for maximum sanitization.
  • Remove sticky substances by putting ice and scraping them off once they have dried.

Can You Put It in the Dryer?

Absolutely! You can toss your Down pillows in the dryer after removing them from the washer. However, remember to fluff them up before you do so. Also, keep the dryer temperature at low or medium to avoid ruining the pillow.

Can You Bleach It?

Bleaching a Down pillow isn’t recommended although it makes for an incredible disinfectant and whitener.

Bleach removes the natural oils from the feathers, strips them off their color, and weakens the pillow fiber, too. It further reduces the fluff and coats the Down with harmful chemicals.

If at all you have to bleach your Down pillow, use a non-clorine product.

How Do You Clean Yellowed Down Pillows?

You can clean a yellowed Down pillow by using a mild detergent mixed with vinegar and baking soda. Add 1 cup of a dishwashing soap solution to ½ cup of vinegar and ¾ cups of baking soda.

Toss the pillows and this mixture into the washing machine. Add 3 tablespoons of your regular laundry detergent and run the machine. Most importantly, remember to read the warnings printed on the label of the pillow.

Does a Down Pillow Get Softer Over Time?

A Down pillow will get softer over time due to consistent use and with age. The Down inside the pillow breaks in more if you keep it for a long time without washing, punch it often, or expose it to water without drying it properly. Eventually, it will lose its fluff and go flat.

How to Fluff It Up?

You can fluff up a Down pillow by hand or in the dryer.

To fluff it up by hand, lay it down, grab it on narrower sides, lift it up, compress, and then decompress it vigorously. Repeat this step by grabbing the pillow on the wider sides.

Do this for a couple of times until the pillow feels fluffy again. However, avoid punching, kneading or smacking your Down pillow as it will ruin the fill material.

To full up a Down pillow in the dryer, use low to medium heat. Higher temperatures tend to burn the Down inside. Remember to use some tennis balls placed inside tube socks for the best results.

Does a Down Pillow Smell?

Anyone who owns a Down pillow would know it smells, at least initially. The reasons is the Down itself, which is a natural fill material carrying a natural odor.

However, a Down pillow might also smell due to the effects of changing temperature, humidity, sweat from the sleeper’s head and neck, retained moisture from inadequate drying and accumulation of dirt over the years.

Why Do Some Down Pillows Smell Like Poop After Washing?

If a Down pillow is not thoroughly dried after washing, it will likely smell. The feathers inside remain wet and tend to stick together, eventually emitting a barnyard or, worse, poop-like odour.

To avoid this, wash the pillow with a mild detergent mixed with vinegar and baking soda. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, and vinegar has antibacterial properties. Furthermore, air dry is thoroughly and expose it to direct sunlight.

What Is a Down Alternative Pillow?

Down alternative pillows are generally made of synthetic polyester fibers or sometimes, cotton fibers in a way they mimic the feel of natural Down. They offer the same softness, fluff, and comfort, but are feather-free and inexpensive.

How Do You Choose a Down Pillow?

Keep in mind these 4 aspects while choosing a Down pillow:

  • Loft: Low for stomach sleepers, high for side sleepers, medium for back sleepers.
  • Firmness: Thick for slide sleeper, soft for back sleepers, soft to medium for stomach sleepers, medium for sleepers who change positions
  • Fill power: higher the fill power, better is your Down pillow (600 – standard quality, 800 and up – high quality)
  • Budget: duck Down pillows are cheaper compared to goose Down pillows

How Do You Tell When It’s Time to Replace Your Down Pillow?

Perform the the folding test to determine if it’s time to replace your Down pillow. Follow these 3 steps to do it:

  • Place the pillow on a hard surface and fold it in half.
  • Squeeze the air out completely.
  • Release the pillow to see if it springs back to its original shape.

If your pillow remains folded, know that it’s time to get a new one.

How Much Should You Spend on a Down Pillow?

Top-quality Down pillows will cost you anywhere between $50 and $200 or higher. Prices also vary according to the brand you choose, the size of the pillow, the fill power of the Down, and the shop or site from where you buy it.

Where to Buy the Best Down Pillows?

You can buy the best Down pillows online on the following sites:

Do you have more questions? Let us know in the comment section below.