Finding the right pillow is vital to helping you make the most of the support and comfort that is offered by your mattress. Down pillows, made from the soft, interior feathers of ducks or geese, are one of the most well-known types of pillows.
Thanks to these feathers, down pillows offer a high degree of softness, moldability, and support. But these pillows can also be expensive and may lack the firmness or loft that some sleepers need.
In this guide, we’ll provide everything you need to know about down pillows. We’ll review their sizes, what’s in them, their benefits and drawbacks, and how they rate on most key criteria for evaluating the performance of a pillow. Keep scrolling to find that information, or click here to jump straight to our recommendations for the best down pillows.
What Sizes do Down Pillows Come In?
Not every bed requires pillows of the same size. Pillows are available in many different sizes, and the most commonly-used sizes are described below.
|Pillow Size||Dimensions||Best Mattress Fit|
|Standard||20″ x 26″||Twin or full mattress|
|Super Standard||20″ x 28″||Twin, full or queen mattress|
|Queen||20″ x 30″||Full or queen mattress|
|King||20″ x 36″||King, California king mattress|
- Standard: 20” wide x 26” long. This is the most frequently-used pillow size in the United States. These are more compact and fit in almost all pillowcases and tend to be the most affordable.
- Super Standard: 20” wide x 28” long. These pillows are the same width as a standard pillow but 2 inches longer.
- Queen: 20” wide x 30” long. This type of of pillow is popular among people who may turn over more in the night and want extra length in their pillow to support that.
- King: 20” wide x 36” long. King-size pillows are considerably longer and tend to be used most on bigger beds or when people want to use a pillow as a backrest when sitting up in bed.
In addition, there are two other pillow sizes that you may come across.
- Euro: these pillows can have varying dimensions, but what sets them apart is that they are square rather than rectangular.
- Body Pillow: 20” wide x 48-54” long. Body pillows are used in a totally different manner than other pillows. They are held in a position perpendicular to the head of the bed and are very long, allowing a person to use them as a bolster or to snuggle up to them while sleeping.
What Are Down Pillows Made Of?
Down pillows are made using feathers from ducks or geese. Specifically, these pillows primarily use the feathers that are underneath the exterior feathers. These “down” feathers are softer and finer and tend to be more lightweight, and as a result, they are highly-desired as a material for pillows.
Some down pillows also have extra padding, or fill, provided by exterior feathers. Any pillow that is being sold as “down,” though, should be made up of at least 75% down feathers. Typically, the higher the percentage of down feathers in the pillow, the higher its price. Pillows with less than 75% down feathers are sold as “feather pillows.”
As you look at pillows on the market, also remember that down is different from “down alternative.” While down alternative is designed to provide a similar type of feel, it is actually made from polyester or another synthetic material and not from actual feathers.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Down Pillow?
Like every type of pillow, there are benefits and drawbacks to using a down pillow. Down pillows are some of the longer lasting pillows out there, but they aren’t for everyone. Here are some of their best and worst characteristics:
- Easily molded: Down feathers are very responsive to pressure, and they can adapt in their shape to provide more contoured support for the head and neck.
- Scrunchable: The ability to mold a down pillow also permits you to scrunch the pillow up in order to make it taller and give it more loft.
- Durable: With time, down usually gets softer, which helps extend the useful life of down pillows, especially relative to other pillow types.
- Lightweight: There’s a reason that the phrase “light as a feather” exists, and for that same reason, down pillows tend to be extremely light.
- Quiet: These pillows make little noise, reducing the chances of disruptive sounds when turning your head in bed.
- Expensive: Down is costly, and the more down feathers that are in a pillow, the more expensive the pillow is likely to be. Down pillows can be significantly more expensive than other types.
- Initial odor: Some customers find that after unpackaging down pillows, they have a noticeable odor. Usually, though, this odor goes away within a few days.
- Allergenic: Some people are allergic to microbes that are usually present in down feathers. For these people, using a down pillow can provoke a number of allergic reactions, specifically with upper-respiratory symptoms.
- Poking from feathers: The ends of feathers can be pointy or sharp, and sometimes these ends poke through the cover or the edges of the pillow. Though not sharp enough to be dangerous, the poke from these can still be discomforting for some people.
- Need for regular fluffing: Because of the way that they scrunch and mold, down pillows have to be consistently fluffed in order to regain their normal shape.
- Excessive softness: Some sleepers find that down compresses too much and may feel that the compressed pillow does not offer enough support. Some people also just prefer the comfort feel of a firmer pillow.
- Harder to clean: Down pillows need to be dry-cleaned and cannot be put in a regular washing machine. This can make cleaning a down pillow more expensive and a more drawn-out process.
Where Can I Buy a Down Pillow and How Much Will it Cost?
Down pillows are normally harder to find than most other types of pillows. Many department stores and bedding stores stock them, but they may not have many models available. As a result, when shopping in-store, you may have limited choices in terms of brands, prices, sizes, loft levels, and firmness. It may be most helpful to call any brick-and-mortar store in advance to ask about their inventory of down pillows.
When shopping online, your options are significantly expanded. You usually have the best ability to comparison shop when looking online. Brick-and-mortar stores often have expanded inventory in their online stores, and online retailers like Amazon have a number of down pillows available. Often, though, you’ll find that may down pillows are sold directly by the pillow-makers on their website rather than through a third party retailer.
The average price of down pillows is around $70-$100, but for pure down, the costs can go up dramatically. Some pure down pillows may cost closer to $300. As you can see in the table below, the average cost for down is much higher than most other types of pillows.
|Pillow Type||Average Price|
|Down||$70 – $100|
|Down Alternative||$20 – $30|
|Feather||$25 – $50|
|Buckwheat||$50 – $75|
|Memory Foam||$50 – $60|
|Latex||$40 – $60|
|Polyester||$10 – $15|
Who Is Best Suited For Using a Down Pillow?
Certain people are more likely to benefit from using a down pillow. Everyone has different preferences for what they like and don’t like in a pillow, so it’s natural that some might love down pillows, while others can’t stand sleeping with one. Here are some suggestions for who might be best suited to a down pillow and who might not be:
- Back or side sleepers: people who sleep in these positions can often benefit from the enhanced moldability of a down pillow, which they can easily adjust in order to promote alignment of the neck and spine.
- People who want less loft in a pillow: because of their tendency to compress, down pillows work better for people who like a lower-profile pillow with less loft.
- People who prefer to snuggle with a pillow: the softness and scrunch-ability of down pillows makes them perfect for people who like to cuddle up with their pillow.
- Stomach sleepers: the responsiveness of the down feathers can make a person feel as though they are suffocating in the pillow if sleeping face-down.
- People who are allergic to down: obviously, people who are allergic to down should look for pillows made of other materials.
- People who have issues with chronic snoring: snoring is caused by a closing of the airway, and for most people who snore, including people with sleep apnea, a pillow with more loft can help keep the head positioned in a way that reduces obstruction of the airway.
Down Pillow Ratings
In order to help understand the performance of a down pillow and how it compares to other pillow types, we’ve provided the following information to rate certain aspects of down pillows. For each category, these ratings are on a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent).
Down pillows are the most expensive type of pillow and are out of the price range for many shoppers. Down pillows typically cost 3-5 times as much as other pillows, and the price goes up for pillows that are pure, 100% down.
These pillows age well, especially if the cover is made with quality materials and the stitching is well-done. Down feathers get softer as they age, so the lifespan of a down pillow is almost always longer than other pillow types.
Down pillows can be divisive when it comes to support. Many people find that they provide the ideal amount of support because they can be molded and shaped to support the neck and head. Other people, though, find that this makes the pillow too soft and/or lumpy.
Most down pillows are offered in several models with different levels of loft. The different feel may be a result of the amount of down in the pillow or the amount of other feathers that are included to give a firmer support core. But despite these firmness options, a down pillow is virtually always going to be on the softer-side.
Most often, you need to take a down pillow to the dry cleaner in order to get it washed. While this isn’t something that you have to do often, it does complicate the cleaning process relative to other types of pillows that are machine-washable.
A lot of customers find that down pillows give off an unpleasant odor when they first put them on their bed. Though the odor doesn’t usually last, it can still be off-putting.
Down is super-light, so down pillows, especially pure-down pillows, are among the lightest that you can find.
The feathers in down pillows do not make much noise at all when they are moved around, so down pillows are known for being very quiet.
Our Top Pillow Picks
Searching through all the available choices for down pillows can be a trying process. If you’re like most shoppers, you get quickly fatigued in trying to sort through the product specifications, brands, prices, promotions, and everything else. To make this process simple for you, we’ve picked our four choices for the best down pillows.
The Sealy Posturepedic Hypoallergenic Soft Down Pillow comes from a well-known manufacturer and is offered at an entry-level price point for a down pillow.
Why?: at a cost of below $50 for a standard-sized pillow, it’s hard to find a more reasonably-priced down pillow. It is especially well-suited for people who want a low-profile and scrunchable pillow.
Why Not?: Sealy designed this to be a very soft pillow. People who want more loft or firmness are unlikely to be happy with this option.
The Bottom Line: if you like a softer pillow and want down without having to break the bank, the Sealy Down Pillow is an excellent choice.
The Continental Bedding 100% Premium White Goose Down Luxury Pillow has a good track record of success and provides a pure-down option at a reasonable price.
Why?: it is hard to find a 100% down pillow for under $100, but that’s what you get from this offering from Continental Bedding. The pillow has received solid customer reviews and features a 300 thread-count cotton cover. It is offered in both a regular and a firm model.
Why Not?: though it is moldable like all down pillows, the firmness level of this pillow is somewhat controversial in verified customer reviews. Some people find that even the firmer pillow options are still too soft. If you err toward wanting a firmer, more lofted pillow, this may not fit the bill.
The Bottom Line: the Continental Bedding down pillow is a solid option for people who want a pillow that is competitively-priced, made with 100% down, and is backed by a history of strong reviews.
Brooklinen, a maker of a wide range of bedding products, gets high marks for its line of down pillows, which are available online directly from the company.
Why?: with three different models, the Brooklinen down pillows give you a great range of choices when it comes to finding the right the feel and construction of a down pillow for your bed. Brooklinen is a well-known name and offers a 60-day risk-free trial period in which you can return the pillow and get a full refund if you don’t like it.
Why Not?: some sleepers find that these pillows are too easily compressed and scrunchable and, consequently, do not hold their loft especially well through the night.
The Bottom Line: for most sleepers, these pillows have enough loft to allow the softness and responsiveness of down feathers to offer a high level of comfort and support. The ability to return the pillow if you don’t like it is another big plus.
The Crane & Canopy down pillow is designed to offer more consistent support through a core of feathers surrounded by soft down.
Why?: for people, especially back sleepers, who are concerned about a lack of loft, the construction of this pillow can help maintain a base level of firmness. Its cover is made with 400 thread-count cotton.
Why Not?: if you’re looking for a down pillow because you want the maximum amount of softness and modability, then the Crane & Canopy pillow wouldn’t be a good fit for you.
The Bottom Line: shoppers who want the softness of down along with some added support, the Crane & Canopy Back-Sleeper is a worthy consideration.