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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.
|Brand Name||Canadian Down & Feather Company (Multiple Models)||The Company Store (Multiple Models)||eLuxury (Multiple Models)||Nature’s Sleep Faux Down Pillow||Sealy (Multiple Models)|
|Down Alternative Pillow Price Range (Standard)||$22 to $25||$40 to $59||$34 to $40||$80||$35 to $50|
Jumbo (Super Standard)
|Down Alternative Material||Microfiber or Gel Microfiber||PrimaLoft||PolySoft (Polyester)||Gel Microfiber||PrimaLoft|
|Cover||Cotton||Cotton||Cotton||Cotton and Polyester Blend (Velour)||Pima Cotton|
|Firmness Range||Soft to Medium||Soft to Very Firm||Soft to Medium-Firm||Medium||Soft to Medium|
|Loft Range||Medium||Medium||Low to Medium||Medium||Low to Medium|
|Trial||3 Year Guarantee||90 Nights||30 Nights||3 Year Warranty||1 Year Warranty|
|Cleaning||Machine Washable||Machine Washable||Machine Washable||Machine Washable||Machine Washable|
|Customer Satisfaction Rating||82% (892 Customer Reviews)||85% (1,458 Customer Reviews)||85% (1,065 Customer Reviews)||83% (654 Customer Reviews)||85% (3,536 Customer Reviews)|
For more information about down alternative pillows and other pillow types, please check out our Pillow Buying Guide.