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Down and Feather Pillows – How Good is the Quality?

Michael Noble

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It is well known in the bedding industry that many consumers do not pay enough attention to their pillows. In most cases, the pillow is ignored when purchasing new bedding sets. A variety of reasons are given including holding onto your favourite pillow for many years. Is this good for your health? – No. For those who have such a pillow, its time to let it go. So let’s look at its possible replacement! The one that comes to mind is the down pillow.

Unfortunately, holding onto your favorite pillow too long can contribute to poor sleep including aches, pains and other health problems including allergies. Pollution of the fill in a pillow is normally infested with dust mites while the shell can be contaminated with saliva, sweat and bacteria. Altogether, the pollution and contamination will over a period of time, break-down the construction of the pillow until it no longer supports your head and possibly becomes a health risk to the individual; particularly if they suffer from asthma.

Pillows come in all sorts of designs, shapes, sizes and usages. But for this article, I will be looking at the down and feather pillow that supports the head whilst sleeping.

What are Down and Feather Pillows?

For many years there has been confusion over the words “down and feather” that are used to fill such bedding items as pillows and comforters. Many consumers often think that they mean and respond in the same way. Nothing more can be from the truth;

Down – Is small soft fibers found underneath the feathers of birds. Down clusters as they are technically known are soft and shaped into lightweight balls enabling warm air to be trapped. Therefore, filling a pillow shell with down clusters will give softness, comfort and warmth around your head. The minus side to having a pillow filled with this organic material is it takes more down clusters to occupy the same space as a feather pillow, thus becoming more expensive to purchase.

Feathers – are flat in shape, rigid and provide a protective area for the birds down. In addition, it gives good support and has waterproofing properties. However, feathers are unable to trap warm air in their own right. Filling a pillow shell with only feathers will provide a solid and/or stiff pillow. The fill is likely to move around and possibly over time, the feather quail will penetrate the outer casing making contact with the sleeper’s skin, thus compromising its comfort properties. However, on the plus side the feather pillows are cheaper than the down pillows.

Lets Determine the Quality of Down

The factor which determines the quality of any down filled product, in this case the pillow, is called the Fill Power. This is measured on how much one ounce of down occupies in one cubic inch of space after it has been compressed (inside a calibrated Plexiglas cylinder by its weighted piston) and then allowed to expand back to its original state. So the higher the fill power becomes, the more insulating air pockets are produced, the better the insulating ability the down clusters have. This means by using high quality down that produces high insulating properties will create less weight of down clusters that is required to keep a body warm.

Invariably when purchasing down pillows, the label/tag will indicate what the fill power is. In the retail market, these are normally divided into the following four fill powers;

500+ Fill Power – is normally of poor quality and will flatten out. It is almost certain to be duck down and will be priced at the cheaper end of the market.

600+ Fill Power – is good quality and reasonably priced. However, be careful in this range that you do not get duck down instead of goose down.

700+ Fill Power – is high quality but unfortunately the price tag increases. However, the down cluster fill will allow the pillow to breathe, creating a stable temperature. This will give the person a comfortable sleep.

800+ Fill Power – is very high in quality where only the very best goose down is used (probably Hungarian or Canadian geese). It will allow the person a good night’s sleep by allowing ventilation to circulate through and around the pillow thus stabilizing the temperature. However, it can be very expensive to buy. But in my opinion the experience and comfort this pillow brings is worth this extra expense.

To summarise, the bed pillow is an important part of any bedding set. By ignoring its deterioration, could allow various allergens to penetrate into its fill, possibly causing future health problems to the user. However, the down pillow has a reputation of being one of the best on the market that can counter such problems. More information is available on other types of down pillows by going to


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