Best Down Alternative Pillows

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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.

 

What is the Makeup of a Down Alternative Pillow?

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.

 

Which Sizes Are Available for Down Alternative Pillows?

Down alternative pillows are commonly available in the following sizes:

  • Standard: Standard is the most commonly sold pillow size, as well as the most compact and typically the cheapest.
  • Super Standard: Also known as ‘Jumbo,’ Super Standard pillows are two inches longer than Standard pillows, and may be suitable for those who find the latter too compact.
  • Queen: Queen-size pillows are slightly longer than Super Standard pillows, and are often a good option for people who toss and turn or move their head while they sleep.
  • King: King-size pillows are typically the longest pillows available. They are ideal for people who toss and turn, and are long enough to serve as proper headrests and backrests for people who sit up in bed to read or watch television.
  • Euro: Unlike other pillow sizes, Euro-size pillows are square-shaped and come in a wide range of dimensional measurements. Larger Euro-size pillows make suitable headrests and backrests, as well.
  • Body: Body pillows are exceptionally wide, and are designed for sleepers who prefer to snuggle with a pillow throughout the night.

The table below features rough measurements for each of the pillow sizes discussed above.

Pillow SizeDimensions
Standard20W” x 26L”
Super Standard20W” x 28L”
Queen20W” x 30L”
King20W” x 36L”
Euro26W” x 26L”
24W” x 24L”
22W” x 22L”
20W” x 20L”
18W” x 18L”
16W” x 16L”
Body Pillow54W” x 20L”
48W” x 20L”
 

Pros and Cons of Down Alternative Pillows

Pros of down alternative pillows include the following:

  • Price: The average down alternative pillow costs between $20 and $30, making them significantly less expensive than authentic down pillows.
  • Allergies: Although some allergy potential exists due to the presence of dust microbes, down alternative is considered a suitable alternative for sleepers with allergies to genuine down.
  • Sleeping Cool: Down alternative pillows tend to retain less body heat and sleep fairly cool as a result.
  • Moldability: Down alternative pillows are fairly scrunchy and can be molded to achieve optimal loft for different sleepers.
  • Position Variety: Down alternative pillows may be suitable for back-, side-, and stomach-sleepers, depending on their loft, firmness, and moldability.
  • Odor: Down alternative produces little to no odor, whereas authentic down is associated with unpleasant smells in new pillows.
  • Availability: Down alternative pillows are more widely available than their authentic down and feather counterparts.

Cons of down alternative pillows include the following:

  • Lifespan: Most down alternative pillows perform for up to two years, meaning they are less durable than most other pillow types (including real down).
  • Support: Many owners claim that down alternative pillows cannot provide long-lasting support, and some report added pain or pressure in the neck and shoulders.
  • Maintenance: Down alternative pillows should be fluffed or shaken on a regular basis to maintain a consistent shape.
  • Noise: Unlike authentic down, which is virtually silent, some down alternative pillows produce noises when compressed; this may cause nighttime disruptions for sleepers who awaken easily.
  • Clumping: Down alternative pillows often lose their shape during the night and become lumpy, which can lead to added discomfort.
 

Who Is a Down Alternative Pillow Good for?

Generally speaking, down alternative pillows are suitable for:

  • People who sleep on their back, side, or stomach. Side- and stomach-sleepers may require pillows that are medium-loft or higher, whereas back-sleepers are usually comfortable with moldable pillows.
  • People who weigh less than 130 pounds, especially if the pillow is soft and has a medium- or low-loft.
  • People who are allergic to down, as down alternative is considered hypoallergenic and will not trigger allergies to the same extent.
  • People who sleep hot, since down alternative pillows retain very little body heat and generally sleep cool.

However, down alternative pillows may not be suitable for:

  • People who weigh more than 230 pounds, as most down alternative pillows are too soft and/or low-loft to support them.
  • People who experience pain or pressure in their neck or shoulders, since down alternative pillows have been linked to below-average support.
  • People who snore due to conditions like sleep apnea because they usually require firmer, higher-loft pillows to support their heads.

Other sleepers who prefer firm and/or high-loft pillows, since down alternative pillows with these characteristics are fairly limited.

 

Down Alternative Pillow Ratings

CriteriaDown Alternative Pillow RatingExplanation
AffordabilityVery Good to ExcellentWith 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.
DurabilityPoor to FairMost 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.
SupportPoor to FairAccording 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.
NoiseFair to GoodAlthough down alternative pillows produce minimal noise, they are generally louder than authentic down pillows due to squeaky internal materials.
WeightGood to Very GoodMost down alternative pillows weigh 2 pounds or less, making them fairly easy to move and adjust during the night.
OdorGood to Very GoodDown alternative pillows produce little to no off-gassing odor compared to genuine down and feather pillows.
WashableGood to Very GoodMost down alternative pillows are machine washable, and never need to be spot cleaned or dry cleaned.
Firmness/Loft OptionsFair to GoodAlthough there are exceptions, most down alternative pillows are medium-loft and range in firmness from soft to medium-firm.
AvailabilityGood to Very GoodDown alternative pillows are widely available.
 

Buying Tips for Down Alternative Pillows

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.

 

Down Alternative Pillow Price Comparison

Down Alternative Pillow Brands and Models

Brand NameCanadian Down & Feather Company (Multiple Models)The Company Store (Multiple Models)eLuxury (Multiple Models)Nature’s Sleep Faux Down PillowSealy (Multiple Models)
Down Alternative Pillow Price Range (Standard)$22 to $25$40 to $59$34 to $40$80$35 to $50
SizesStandard
Queen
King
Standard
Queen
King
Euro
Standard
Jumbo (Super Standard)
Queen
King
QueenStandard
Queen
Body
Down Alternative MaterialMicrofiber or Gel MicrofiberPrimaLoft PolySoft (Polyester)Gel MicrofiberPrimaLoft
CoverCottonCottonCottonCotton and Polyester Blend (Velour)Pima Cotton
Firmness RangeSoft to MediumSoft to Very FirmSoft to Medium-FirmMediumSoft to Medium
Loft RangeMediumMediumLow to MediumMediumLow to Medium
Trial3 Year Guarantee90 Nights30 Nights3 Year Warranty1 Year Warranty
CleaningMachine WashableMachine WashableMachine WashableMachine WashableMachine Washable
Customer Satisfaction Rating82% (892 Customer Reviews)85% (1,458 Customer Reviews)85% (1,065 Customer Reviews)83% (654 Customer Reviews) 85% (3,536 Customer Reviews)
 

Conclusion

For more information about down alternative pillows and other pillow types, please check out our Pillow Buying Guide.

 
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