If you’ve ever wondered how to get good sleep and wake up refreshed, buying a set of down pillows is your answer. They were historically considered fit for a king, and even today are no doubt still the gold standard when it comes to luxury pillows. They may be expensive, but there is plenty good reason for this. In this section we’ll discuss why they are cream of the crop, check out their pros and cons, plus inform on what characteristics to look out for when choosing the best down pillows in this day and age.
If you have never come across “down” as a filling, you’re probably wondering what type of pillow this must be right? Down refers to the clusters of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers in birds such as geese and ducks. Humans have been using these clusters for different purposes for many centuries as it’s considered to be best insulating material in the world.
In the context of pillows, down filling is used because of the many positive properties it contains; it’s warm, long lasting, quiet, plush, and lightweight. If well maintained, it retains its loft up to three times longer than most other fills and provides a unique luxurious feel which is difficult to imitate with alternate filling. Additionally, unlike others such as microfiber or primaloft, 100% down pillows will never bunch up and stick together so will not encounter flat spots.
Types Of Down Pillows
There are a number of types but the most common are goose and duck. There are also combined feather and down pillows but this has already been discussed on the feather pillows page which describes how the two fills can mix and co-exist to produce some of the best pillows. In this section below however, we discuss the 100% pure kind as a filling:
Goose Down Pillows
The goose down pillow is the finest of all, thus being the most expensive due to it’s consistent quality. This quality is found in the form of larger clusters and higher fill power compared to those found in duck. In particular, Hungarian goose down is considered as the best in the world. Hungarian geese tend to grow much larger than others found in China, Canada and Siberia for example, and so in this case age and size matters, because the best clusters come from the largest and oldest bird. The Hungarian farmers also take pride in knowing the fill they sell is extremely sought after and tend to maintain this reputation.
Duck Down Pillows
The duck down pillow is a great choice for people who still want to experience the finer things in life but on a budget. The clusters found in duck are smaller than that of geese, which means it is less resilient therefore has a shorter lifespan when used as a daily bed pillow. Aside from the slightly less lifespan compared to the above, for the average consumer these are still a great purchase which will not dissatisfy, however they are in actual fact rarer due to the highly sought after geese counterparts.
Pros & Cons
Please see below some points on the benefits and drawbacks of owning a set of down filled pillows:
Good Aesthetics: Down filled pillows are significantly plumper and fuller than the likes of primaloft or feather, which often end up looking clumpy and bunched up like a sack after a few years of usage. The fuller nature makes this a much more aesthetically pleasing product in comparison to others.
Stomach Sleeper: If your sleeping habits fall into the 25% of people who prefer sleeping on your stomach, this is the type you’re after. The low loft, soft, and adjustable shape makes this an ideal stomach sleeper pillow.
Increased Longevity: A good set of 100% down pillows should last anything between 8-10 years. Though they can last longer without appearing to be worn, if in continual use, best to replace after 10 years because although it may appear ok, chances are they loft will have degraded through time and somewhat lost it’s support.
Plush Feel: For those who love the plush, soft, airy feel of sleeping on a cloud, this is the kind you need. Down fill is extremely soft and has that quality luxurious feel which some of us yearn for.
Lightweight and Airy: Down filled pillows tend to be lighter than almost any other kind. For some people this pro may not mean much, but a light pillow for some is a crucial decider. For example, moving from room to room or frequent traveling can have some bearing on the weight issue.
Noise-Free: Surprisingly the lack of noise these omit was mentioned 77% of times in a recent survey which goes to show how much of a positive bearing this has. Unless you have ever experienced noise from a pillow this may be hard to comprehend, but yes, even some of the best pillows can be very noisy indeed, especially the likes of buckwheat or 100% feather.
Less Support: There is somewhat a low aspect of support provided from these considering the soft nature of 100% down. There is of course a degree of support however these aren’t exactly the best pillow for neck pain.
Low Loft: In co-ordinance with the above, the majority of these are relatively low in height which may not suit everyone’s criteria.
Shape Loss: Like most types of pillows these will occasionally lose shape and require fluffing and shaking to get back to it’s original shape, however this takes seconds and isn’t required daily if even weekly.
Not Cheap: Probably one of the most expensive pillow types you can get, however, if you don’t mind the price tag, in all other aspects and they cons listed above they will not disappoint.
Pillow Buying Guide
There are a few factors to compare against when buying, such as the fill power, type of fill, and cotton thread count. Each property has it’s own positives and negatives so read on below and learn how to distinguish the best pillow from the rest.
Which Filling Should I Choose?
As mentioned above there are primarily two common types of fill, goose and duck. Goose is the better option due to the larger clusters which make it longer lasting and more comfortable, but also means it’s more costly. Duck pillows are still very good in comparison to other kinds of alternate fill such as primaloft, microfiber or synthetic, so if you were to purchase one it would still merit much satisfaction over the others. Which one you choose depends on your budget but in comparison goose is far superior than duck.
What Is Down Fill Power?
Fill power is a common term you’ll come across when reading down pillow reviews. In short this alone can determine the quality and longevity of your purchase. The figure itself indicates how many cubic inches of space an ounce of down clusters will occupy. A higher figure of fill power means the larger the clusters will be. Larger clusters provide better insulation, breathe better, and last much longer than smaller clusters with a lower fill power. When comparing, always try to aim for the highest figure within your budget.
What Is Thread Count?
Whether it’s in regards to bed sheets or pillow cases, thread count is a common buzz term which is often used when describing the quality of cotton. Thread count is ultimately a measurement which records the roughness or smoothness of a cotton surface. Also known as threads per inch (TPI) it is measured by counting the number of threads threads along two sides (up and across) of the square inch, and then added together to reveal the total. The higher the count the better (or finer) the cotton. As a general rule, seek anything of a 200 thread count and above for best results.
These are probably about as close to the best pillow ever that you’ll get. Luxurious as you’d expect, not only are they fairly priced but they are also sold as a pair, so you’re getting double for the money at similar prices to those competitors which are selling singular units. Everything is top spec on this sheet which ranges from the 500 thread count finest Egyptian cotton cover to the large clustered 750 down fill power. To top it off the silky edge piping creates an unrivaled classy clean finish. A purification process of cleaning the white goose clusters to make it bacteria free means it suits even the most sensitive persons. These really are what you call hotel quality pillows, not the cheapest around, but well worth the price tag.
These European goose down pillows are a very good choice for people in the market for luxury pillows which offer a medium type support. Like most others in this league there is a 100% cotton cover consisting of a generous 450 thread count which adds to the superior fine quality finish. The hypoallergenic 700 fill down clusters provide a finished product which is not too soft and not too hard, just right in our opinion. The feathers do not protrude through the covers like some cheaper alternatives we have come across in the past. If 700 isn’t what you’re after there are 3 other firmness levels in this range which are the 600, 800, and 900. When it comes to down filled pillows they often cater very well for multiple sleeping positions, but in particular the Cuddledown 700 is probably one of the best pillows for side sleepers we have come across in a long time. If this sounds like one for your shopping cart you can also rest assured knowing it’s made in the USA and is available in European, Standard, Queen, and King sizes.
Here is another luxury pillow, this time from the Extra Soft lineup. It is specially designed as a pillow for stomach sleepers and this is quite evident considering that it’s not overfilled like others, but rather less packed which although is soft and fluffy, the lower loft still provides optimal support without straining the neck. We had huge expectations from this selection considering a) these are apparently common hotel pillows found in popular chains, and b) they’re claimed to be the most comfortable pillow of its type; we were skeptical at first but upon further review couldn’t agree more. As a stomach sleeper pillow this one is quite niche, not for everyone; it’s hard to find goose down pillows as flat and soft, yet fluffy and accommodating all in one, and if that’s what you need then look no further.
The white goose down pillows from this popular range are perfect for those who like an extra firm surface for added head and neck support, and have proven to be an impressive set of pillows for side sleepers given the overfilled and increased cluster density. Not only are they good for sleeping, but given the firm nature are also equally impressive when propped up and leaned upon whilst reading and watching TV in bed. The 300 thread count striped cotton cover provides a luxuriously tender surface that additionally does well to stop annoying feathers poking through. This is certainly a good catch and not something you’ll find in your everyday department store. It comes in Standard, Queen and King, so if you like the thought of supreme 700 fill down, a fine cotton cover, and orthopedic level support, you need not look any further.
The Pinzon white duck down pillows are an impressive addition. On paper, these have everything you could ask from a signature set of hotel quality pillows. Available in Queen, King and Standard sizes, each consists of sanitized 550 fill down which is wrapped in a removable and washable 400 thread count cotton cover. The density itself is medium feel, which is recommended by the manufacturer as the right amount for use as a back sleeper pillow. The initial look, feel and quality of these far exceed the budget price tag in comparison to its competitors. For the price you’d expect no frills, but quite the opposite in practice; a two thumbs up from us for user satisfaction and value for money.