Are Down and Down Alternative Pillows Safe? – The Bedding Planet

Are Down and Down Alternative Pillows Safe?

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Over time, a lot of pillow buyers who know the root of down production have developed reservations about down pillows. These reservations mainly revolve around the safety of down pillows as well as down alternative pillows. 

Moreover, many people think that since the down used in pillows comes from ducks and geese, these pillows could become allergy triggers for those who react to these animals.

But, what are the actual facts? Are down and down alternative pillows safe? Both down and down alternative pillows are safe because they are hypoallergenic. Down alternative (polyester) may need some time to off-gas when brand new to be considered completely safe. To keep your pillows safe long-term, wash them when due and use a pillow protector.

Read on to get a better understanding of the safety surrounding both down and down alternative pillows.

What is Down?

The fine-feathered layer that lies beneath the bird’s outer feathers that offers insulation is known as down. The natural down filling for the pillows is provided by geese and sometimes, ducks.

However, this does not imply that the down and feather pillows are the same. Down, as opposed to feathers, will not pierce the fabric of your pillow since they lack a strong shaft.

Down is a lightweight and fluffy filler material as well. As a result, a cushion with a high loft and lightweight that also has a luscious feel is created.

Down pillows are luxuriously soft and spongy. You may tailor your support by scrunching and adjusting the contour of the pillow (which is something that stiffer foam and cotton pillows do not enable you to accomplish).

Down pillows, on the other hand, are more prone to collapse than other types of pillows. As a result, if you need more firm support, down may not be the best option for you.

What is Down Alternative?

Down alternative, as the name implies, is not actually down, but is intended to give the impression that it is. Polyester, a petroleum-derived synthetic fabric, is used as a filler. As a result, a down alternative is entirely synthetic in nature.

Even though it’s synthetic, down alternative remains soft and flexible. Changing the arrangement of your fill clusters allows you to design a one-of-a-kind cushion form. Nonetheless, a down replacement fill lacks the floppy and scrunchable properties of down.

Down alternative pillows are more substantial and provide more support than typical down pillows. While down gives the impression of sleeping on cotton candy, the down alternative gives the impression of sleeping on cotton balls.

Sleepers who require more support may prefer a stiffer down alternative to a squishier down, whilst real down may be favored by sleepers who require greater adjustability.

Production of Down and Safety Concerns 

Ducks and geese provide the down! While you might think there are more ethical ways to collect these feathers, the reality is that they are likely to be painful for the birds regardless of how they are obtained.

China produces 80 percent of the down and feathers used in products. Unfortunately, some of the production methods are dreadful.

Feathers are taken from birds in a variety of ways. There are three dreadful options:

After Slaughter

After the bird has been slaughtered for meat, the carcasses are usually boiled in water for several minutes to release the feathers. After that, the body feathers are plucked and the down separated by hand or machine.

Live Plucking

Birds are abducted and “harvested” every six to seven weeks before being slaughtered. Their feathers are ripped out and they are held down by the neck.

The skin of the bird is frequently ripped as a result of this process. Due to public outcry over this practice, major stores such as IKEA and Patagonia have removed live-plucked down from their product lines.

Gathering feathers and down from live birds

This entails brushing or combing the animals to extract feathers and down that are ready to fall out naturally. Despite the fact that this is the least stressful of the three harvesting methods, mistreatment is nonetheless common in industrial production.

Production of Down Alternative and Safety Concerns

Microfibers are widely utilized in down replacement fillings to produce a comparable feel to down. Many of the top-tier, premium down alternative pillows on the market are filled with some form of polyester or a blend of polyester and other materials.

Many companies treat or combine their microfibers to give them the precise properties that their clients want.

Because down alternative pillows are made using microfiber, safety concerns are less and many people with allergies have a bias towards them. 

Are Down and Down Alternative Pillows Hypoallergenic?

The hypoallergenic nature of pillows is a top criterion for measuring safety. Hence, concerns about the safety of down and down alternative pillows stem from concern about the mode of production of these pillows.

From the preceding parts of this piece, it’s easy to say that down alternative pillows are safe since they are made from polyester and not feathers from ducks and geese.

But what’s the case here? Are both down and down alternative pillows hypoallergenic?

Down pillows can be cleaned to hypoallergenic standards

One of the most common concerns regarding down is that the material isn’t hypoallergenic. While this is technically correct, it does not appear to be so when it comes to down used in most pillows.

You see, the vast majority of down pillows are created using sterilized down, which is hypoallergenic in composition.

With that said, perhaps you may have noticed that a down pillow have impacted your allergies negatively in the past. 

This could be because down pillows endure far longer than other types of pillows and dust mites may have accumulated within the filling. The same can be said for any type of pillow fill, but down pillows are the most vulnerable to this issue simply because dust mites thrive better in down compared to other materials.

However, there is a relatively simple solution. Every now and then put your pillow in the washing machine on the high setting to get rid of dust mites to keep your allergies under control. Even if you have allergies, sleeping on a down pillow should be entirely safe for you if you keep your pillow clean.

Down alternative pillows are hypoallergenic

If you suffer from respiratory allergies, you should be able to use a down replacement pillow without difficulty. Down alternative pillows are without a doubt hypoallergenic.

In contrast, if you enjoy the feel of a high-quality down or down-feather pillow, you should be able to use one as long as it has been washed in accordance with hypoallergenic guidelines.

Every detail points to the answer “Yes”. Down and down alternative pillows are safe because they are hypoallergenic. All you need to keep them safe is to wash them when due and use a pillow protector.


Down and down alternative pillows are both safe, but you might be curious which to pick or which is safer. Well, the choice between a down and down alternative boils down to a matter of personal preference in the final analysis.

While the fluffier feel of regular down is preferable, a down alternative is an excellent choice for people looking for a comfortable, budget-friendly alternative to down.

So all in all, know that you can sleep safe with both down and down alternative pillows!

Niklas Lampi

My name is Niklas and I'm the author and content operator at The Bedding Planet. I've always had a big interest in bedding and more specifically sleep. If I find something that makes me sleep better, whether that's a lifestyle change or a better bedding environment, I'm ready to share it with the world!

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