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The term ‘down alternative’ refers to a polyester microfiber material used in pillows and bedding that is designed to mimic the lightness and softness of authentic duck or goose down. Unlike real down, which can trigger allergies for some individuals, down alternative is completely hypoallergenic. Down alternative products also tend to be priced much lower than authentic down products, making them a good option for shoppers on a budget.
Pillow buyers can choose from a wide selection of down alternative models. In addition to feeling exceptionally soft, these pillows also absorb minimal body heat and sleep very cool as a result. They are also highly moldable and suitable for sleepers who prefer to cuddle with pillows during the night. And while they do not conform as closely as pillows made from other materials (such as memory foam or latex), many sleepers with neck and shoulder pain report fewer aches and pressure points after sleeping on a down alternative pillow.
This guide will explore the common characteristics and benefits of down alternative pillows. Below you’ll find our picks for the best down alternative pillows sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Best Down Alternative Pillows
Editor’s Pick – Canadian Down & Feather Company Gel Microfiber
Best Value – Classic Brands Quiet Sleep
Best Cooling Down Alternative Pillow – Malouf Z Gelled Microfiber
Best for Side Sleepers – eLuxury Revoloft Down Alternative Pillow
As our Editor’s Pick, the Gel Microfiber Down Alternative Pillow from Canadian Down & Feather Company is a perfect option for sleepers who find other similar models too lumpy and prone to flattening. The pillow is completely machine washable and will recover its full shape after every wash cycle. This quality helps extend the pillow’s expected lifespan. The Gel Microfiber sleeps exceptionally cool, as well. The microfiber fill is gel-coated to create a noticeable cooling sensation, while the cover is made from breathable, 300TC cotton.
The pillow also offers great shape retention; both sides have a 2″ gusseted edge to keep the pillow from flattening. The Gel Microfiber has a 7.5″ loft in all three available sizes – Standard, Queen, and King – that cradles the sleeper’s head and allows them to sink into the pillow without compromising support..
The Gel Microfiber pillow is sold individually or in bundles of two or three through Amazon.com and other select retailers. Canadian Down & Feather Company offers a three-year warranty with the pillow.
The Quiet Sleep Gel Microfiber Pillow from Classic Brands is an inexpensive option even by down alternative pillow standards. These pillows are widely sold in bundles of two Standard-size models for less than $25; comparatively, most competing down alternative pillows cost at least $25 for one. However, the Quiet Sleep doesn’t sacrifice quality for a lower price-point. The pillow offers exceptional softness and good pressure relief. It also sleeps very cool, due to its gel-coated microfiber fill and breathable cotton cover.
The Quiet Sleep has an 8″ loft, which is thicker than average, but the material sinks deeply beneath the sleeper’s head; as a result, the pillow will not feel excessively thick. It also offers good contouring and is suitable for side or back sleepers, as well as those who snuggle with pillows while they sleep.
Classic Brands exclusively sells the pillow through Amazon.com and other third-party distributors; customers should defer to the sleep trial and return policies of the seller they choose. The Quiet Sleep is backed by a three-year warranty.
While most down alternative pillows tend to sleep fairly cool, the Gelled Microfiber from Malouf’s Z collection is a notable standout. The fill is coated in cooling gel to help regulate temperature and keep sleepers comfortable, and the machine-washable cover is made from breathable cotton-percale. The pillow has medium loft and the siliconized fill fibers are denser and more clustered, creating a surface that offers strong support with the right amount of sinkage.
This fill material also allows the Gelled Microfiber to maintain a full shape without clumping or flattening, which gives the pillow a fairly long lifespan compared to other down alternative models. In addition to Queen and King sizes, this model is available as a body pillow, making it suitable for pregnant women.
Malouf offers free shipping to customers anywhere in the contiguous U.S. The Gelled Microfiber is backed by a three-year warranty.
The Revoloft Down Alternative Pillow from eLuxury measures roughly 6″ thick. This high-loft design, paired with ‘Medium’ firmness, provides close conforming to the sleeper’s head, neck, and shoulders while allowing them to sink deeply into the pillow surface. As a result, the pillow offers great support and spinal alignment to side sleepers, which can alleviate aches and pains in their most sensitive areas. It is also suitable for back and stomach sleepers.
The pillow also sleeps very cool, thanks in part to its breathable 230TC cotton cover. It comes in three sizes – Standard, Queen, and King – to accommodate customers with different needs and preferences. Shape recovery is another key strength of the Revoloft Down Alternative Pillow, and its expected lifespan is longer than average.
This pillow is widely sold individually or in two-pillow bundles, and the price-point is lower than average. eLuxury offers a 30-night sleep trial for all customers.
Unlike genuine down pillows, which are filled with the underside feathers of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl, down alternative pillows are made with synthetic fibers that mimic the softness of real down. This makes them suitable for people who are allergic to down, as well as those who object to using pillows made using animal products.
Down alternative pillows have other advantages over pillows made from authentic down. They tend to be considerably cheaper, for one, and they also tend to sleep cooler and produce less odor. However, there are also drawbacks to down alternative pillows, including shorter-than-average lifespans, less pain and pressure relief, noise potential, and regular shaking and fluffing needed to maintain a full shape.
Read on to learn more about down alternative pillows, and how they compare to authentic down and other pillow types.
Most down alternative pillows contain fibers or microfibers made from cotton and/or polyester. These soft, puffy fibers tend to be as soft as authentic down. Most down alternative pillows are medium-loft, and may range in firmness soft to medium-firm. Some brands feature gel fibers or siliconized fibers, which can be even softer than conventional down alternative material. Down alternative pillows do not contain any animal products, unlike genuine down and feather pillows.
Down alternative pillows are commonly available in the following sizes:
The table below features rough measurements for each of the pillow sizes discussed above.
|Standard||20W” x 26L”|
|Super Standard||20W” x 28L”|
|Queen||20W” x 30L”|
|King||20W” x 36L”|
|Euro||26W” x 26L”
24W” x 24L”
22W” x 22L”
20W” x 20L”
18W” x 18L”
16W” x 16L”
|Body Pillow||54W” x 20L”
48W” x 20L”
Pros of down alternative pillows include the following:
Cons of down alternative pillows include the following:
Generally speaking, down alternative pillows are suitable for:
However, down alternative pillows may not be suitable for:
Other sleepers who prefer firm and/or high-loft pillows, since down alternative pillows with these characteristics are fairly limited.
|Criteria||Down Alternative Pillow Rating||Explanation|
|Affordability||Very Good to Excellent||With an average price-point of $20 to $30, down alternative pillows tend to be much cheaper than most other pillow types. In contrast, both genuine down and feather pillows tend to be more expensive.|
|Durability||Poor to Fair||Most down alternative pillows will perform for up to two years before they begin to degrade or become flat, giving them a shorter-than-average lifespan.|
|Support||Poor to Fair||According to owners, down alternative pillows provide minimal support, and some sleepers claim that using them leads to more pain and/or pressure in the head, neck, and shoulders.|
|Noise||Fair to Good||Although down alternative pillows produce minimal noise, they are generally louder than authentic down pillows due to squeaky internal materials.|
|Weight||Good to Very Good||Most down alternative pillows weigh 2 pounds or less, making them fairly easy to move and adjust during the night.|
|Odor||Good to Very Good||Down alternative pillows produce little to no off-gassing odor compared to genuine down and feather pillows.|
|Washable||Good to Very Good||Most down alternative pillows are machine washable, and never need to be spot cleaned or dry cleaned.|
|Firmness/Loft Options||Fair to Good||Although there are exceptions, most down alternative pillows are medium-loft and range in firmness from soft to medium-firm.|
|Availability||Good to Very Good||Down alternative pillows are widely available.|
Although authentic down and feather pillows are somewhat hard to find, pillow shoppers can choose from a fairly wide range of down alternative options. They are available for sale through various online and brick-and-mortar home goods retailers, as well as exclusively online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com.
Down alternative pillows typically cost between $20 and $30, and their price-point rarely exceeds $80. By comparison, the average price-point for down pillows is $70 to $100 — and some models cost more than $300. Down alternative pillows also tend to be cheaper than feather pillows, which have an average price-point of $25 to $50.
Down alternative pillows are machine washable and never need to be dry cleaned, making them relatively inexpensive to maintain over time.
The graph below lists average price-points for the eight most common pillow types.