ou may have heard about down pillows, but did you know that there are also down ‘alternative’ pillows on the market? Just like authentic goose or duck down, these pillows are light, soft, and provide a luxurious feel. However, instead of genuine down, they use a polyester microfiber as the main material.
Why? Because a certain percentage of the population is allergic to real down. Not only are down alternative pillows hypoallergenic, but they also tend to be cheaper, which makes them ideal for shoppers on a budget.
If you’re in the market for a down alternative pillow, there are plenty of different models to choose from. In addition to feeling exceptionally soft, this material absorbs minimal body heat and sleeps very cool as a result. Just in case you needed any more reason to try down alternative, it’s moldable and makes the perfect cuddle companion.
Of course, it’s not all positives because you might get a better conforming experience with latex or memory foam. Yet, these pillows do seem to help sleepers with shoulder and neck pain due to the pressure point relief they provide.
With this in mind, we’re going to discover the best down alternative pillows in this guide today. After looking through some examples, we’ll break down the benefits and drawbacks of choosing a down alternative pillow, the different sizes available, and some buying considerations. In other words, you’ll learn everything you ever need to know about down alternative pillows!
Table of Contents
The Best Down Alternative Pillows Comparison Table
- Fade and stain resistant
- Handcrafted in the US
- Pliable, lofty, and soft polyester fiberfill
- Quality gel fiber microfiber filling
- Retains its thickness even under pressure
Beckham Luxury Linens: The Best Overall Down Alternative Pillow
Firstly, we find a pillow with hotel quality but without the huge price tag that normally comes with a product this luxurious. As our best overall choice, Beckham Luxury Linens pillows use a super plush gel fiber, which provides an experience like no other. Tailored and designed for extreme comfort, it’s a pillow that suits all positions (and makes you wonder why you didn’t switch to it sooner!).
No matter how much you move, the no-shift construction should keep everything in place, and it’s particularly useful for anybody worried about allergens or their asthma. Resistant to mildew, dust mites, and mold, you can even throw the pillow in the machine for extra peace of mind.
Over time, you should also notice that it remains free from stains and fading, and this is another benefit. After spending your hard-earned money, you’ll even get a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. For anybody left unsatisfied by their experience, the manufacturer may offer a full refund.
Queen Anne: The Most Luxurious Down Alternative Pillow
Used in exclusive hotel brands around the globe, Queen Anne offers luxurious support for both the neck and head. With finely spun polyester distributed right across the pillow, you should never come across a large clump of fill. Designed to perform and feel like a real goose down pillow, it promotes proper alignment in the neckline between the neck and the back. Essentially, this means that the side, stomach, and back sleepers should all enjoy a restful night of sleep.
As a hypoallergenic solution, we’re happy to say that the fill and texture feel just as great after a machine wash. With experience in both Hilton and Marriot hotels, it’s fair to say the Queen Anne down alternative pillow is not only soft, but also durable.
Known as ‘The Heavenly Down,’ this pillow offers a 300-thread count all-cotton ticking, bright white sateen stripes, and a double-stitched thread for durability. What’s more, it also has the distinctive purple edges for an extension of the pillow’s shape.
Depending on your needs, there are three different sizes; king, queen, and standard. Also, it comes in either a firm, medium, or soft fill. All products from Queen Anne are handmade at home in the US, and they even provide a 30-day no-hassle return guarantee.
Langria: The Best For Neck Support
Next up, we come to Langria, and we’ve chosen it for neck head and support. Thanks to superb design, it actually works for all sleepers and has a hypoallergenic and breathable cotton shell. In fact, you’ll enjoy the following too;
28oz of pliable and soft polyester fiberfill
100% dense cotton
233-thread count material
As the night goes on, just shape the pillow however you need. By the morning, you might find that it’s a little flat; if so, bring it back to life with some patting (don’t be afraid to turn the patting into slapping!). Otherwise, it will remain soft enough to be comfortable while firm enough to provide the head and neck with pivotal support.
If you struggle with allergies, this pillow is a great option because of its hypoallergenic nature. With a dense hypoallergenic shell, no allergens should build up, and you should be able to get a peaceful sleep night after night.
Additionally, there’s a noticeable lack of chemical smell (a problem common with many pillows). Meanwhile, the package will come vacuum sealed, but it should expand to 20 x 30” size soon enough. With the vacuum sealing, you don’t need to worry about mildew, moisture, mold, or anything like this from the storage facility.
Finally, we couldn’t ignore the fact that the Langria down alternative pillow just looks beautiful. It will always have a luxurious look with the use of a pillowcase and dry cleaning at a laundry service.
The Duck and Goose Co .: The Best for Softness
Designed for side and back sleepers, we come to Duck and Goose Co and a pillow made from cotton and cotton alone. Especially for the back and neck, the fluffy material will help you to fall asleep quicker than ever before and wake up with more energy.
Each pack contains two pillows, both with double-needle stitching. This, coupled with the attractive piping and jacquard print, ensures that the pillow feels and looks amazing. We love the fact that it comes with an insert card (your pillow will always stay in great condition) and a PVC bag for those who like to travel with their pillow.
With the finest 300-thread count cotton fabric and high-quality gel fiber microfiber fill, the pillow has the optimum density to provide support for the spine, head, and neck while also remaining breathable. To keep it clean, simply throw it in the machine and allow it to hang to dry. Even after several washes, there shouldn’t be any difference to the form or shape (it also won’t wither). The Duck and Goose Co have offered us all a highly durable, hypoallergenic down alternative pillow, and even a one-year warranty.
Mastertex: The Most breathable Down Alternative Pillow
As our last offering in this list of best down alternative pillows, we come to Mastertex and a pillow that thrives in the field of breathability. Offering a 300-thread count, it’s perfect for anybody worried about allergic reactions or even asthma. Thanks to the breathability, it doesn’t retain heat, and this is a huge bonus for many people who sleep hot.
In terms of texture, the microfiber fill has an ultra-soft nature and manages to master the delicate balance between firmness and softness. Taking advantage of several clever design features, it works for all sleeping positions. Whether you choose the stomach, side, or back, it should remain breathable through the night while any back pain is removed due to the support and pressure point relief.
With satin piping and maximum loft coming from the 1.5” gusset, it’s a brilliant choice. Even through several washes, the fiber shouldn’t move, and the clear plastic carrying case is ideal for storage and travel. In case you’re worried about your investment, the manufacturer offers a one-year warranty.
Introducing the Basics of a Down Alternative Pillow
We’ve seen some of the best down alternative pillows the market currently has to offer, so let’s dig into the basics some more. As we noted in the introduction, genuine down pillows will use real down, and these are feathers from the underside of geese, ducks, and other waterfowl. With down alternative, the aim is to mimic all the benefits of genuine down but without the potential of allergies (and the higher cost!).
With this in mind, down alternative pillows come filled with synthetic fibers. In our experience, cotton and polyester are the two most common materials. Made into microfibers or fibers, they can be just as soft as real down. Especially for those who dislike the idea of animals being used in this way, you can still enjoy the benefits of a down pillow.
Most down alternative pillows are medium-loft, while their firmness can vary from soft to medium-firm. As time has gone on, more manufacturers have experimented with siliconized fibers and gel fibers. For many, they find this even softer than traditional down alternatives.
Not only is down alternative cheaper than down itself, but the material also produces significantly less odor and sleeps cooler too. On the other hand, as we’re going to see in the pros and cons section, these pillows aren’t perfect. They offer less pain and pressure relief, have the potential for noise, are less durable, and you also need to plump the pillow up regularly to maintain a full shape.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Choosing Down Alternative
Over time, we’ve spoken to people who immediately discounted down alternatives from their research without even knowing what it was. Instead, they saw the word ‘alternative’ and assumed it wouldn’t be as good as other options. In fact, down alternative has come a long way, and it’s well worth considering since the pricing is much lower even for a similar experience.
To help make your decision, we’ve broken down some of the benefits and drawbacks attached to this pillow type. If you can navigate the potential drawbacks happily enough, you’ll have a brilliant down alternative pillow in the near future!
Machine Washable - This might not sound like a big feature, but we’re saying that the WHOLE pillow can go into the machine. Latex, down, and memory foam pillows normally cannot be washed in this way because it will damage them. If you want a clean-smelling pillow with very little fuss, down alternative is the way to go. Be sure to read the instructions and reviews before buying because some exceptions do exist.
Availability - Generally speaking, down alternatives are actually easier to find and buy (another reason why they’re so affordable). While down/feather pillows are often only sold through member-only club warehouses and hotel suppliers.
Moldable - Just because these pillows use alternative materials to real down, this doesn’t mean they lose their moldable nature. Although your weight and sleep position might transform this benefit into a drawback, the cushioning is a good thing for most.
Hypoallergenic - Unlike down pillows, down alternative is hypoallergenic, which means that even those with allergies can enjoy the luxurious feeling without worrying about attacks, sneezing sessions, and rashes.
Cooling - Memory foam pillows are known for retaining heat, so you’ll be relieved to hear that down alternatives don’t have this same problem. If you sleep hot or live in a typically warm climate, this is a fantastic solution.
Odor - Firstly, there’s a potential for an off-gassing smell with all foam pillows, and this is just a result of the way they’re made. Most manufacturers promise that the odor will disappear quite quickly, but it can linger for some time with poor-quality pillows. Even with down and feather pillows, there’s a risk of the animal by-product smell, so it’s a breath of fresh air (quite literally) to have down alternatives with no smell.
Price - Down alternative pillows are cheaper than real down, and it really is that easy. If we consider down, this is actually one of the most expensive materials. With a down alternative, you get a similar feeling while sleeping but with a healthier bank balance. If we compare a queen pillow, down pillows will cost around $100, while alternatives go for $25.
Shape - Moving the pillow around a little to keep it fluffy and lofty is a good thing for customization, but it’s mostly a drawback because you’re waking up during the night just to make those adjustments.
Noise - As the next drawback, down alternative, though nowhere near as noisy as feather, down, or buckwheat pillows, does create noise. If you or a partner sleep lightly, we recommend either latex or memory foam.
Support - Some of us need a high loft with plenty of support, and this is something that down alternatives just can’t offer. Examples of this audience include those over 230 pounds, side sleepers, and snorers. Unfortunately, pain relief is also limited for sleepers with neck, shoulder, or back problems.
Durability - If you’re going with down alternative, be ready to spend out on a new pillow sooner than you would with other materials. Just like down, the alternative variety flattens quickly and struggles to spring back as time goes on. With sagging and clumping, most people replace even the best down alternative pillows within two or three years.
Who Is a Down Alternative Pillow Good for?
In our experience, down alternative pillows are suitable for the following groups of people;
- Hot Sleepers - We’ve already seen that down alternative materials don’t retain much body heat, so this is particularly useful for those in warmer climates or people who sleep hot.
- People with down allergies - Down alternative pillows will not trigger allergies and are considered hypoallergenic.
- People who weigh under 130 pounds - This is especially true if the pillow has a low to medium loft and is soft.
- Stomach, Side, Back Sleepers - As long as stomach and back sleepers stick with moldable pillows and side sleepers go for at least a medium loft, a down alternative pillow will work well.
On the other hand, down alternative pillows, unfortunately, aren’t quite suited for the following groups of people;
- Snorers - Especially if the snoring is a result of sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, the down alternative pillow will not provide enough support (firmer pillows are much better!).
- Neck or shoulder pain sufferers - If you suffer from pain or stiffness in the shoulders/neck, you need a more supportive pillow.
- People who weigh over 230 pounds - Sadly, down alternative pillows don’t have the right support for those over 230 pounds.
Of course, also included in this list should be any sleeper who prefers pillows with a high loft or firmer support.
Things to Consider Before You Buy
We’ve shown some examples of down alternative pillows, but what do you need to consider when actually making the purchase? Let’s take a look!
When it comes to down alternative pillows, there are six main sizes which are commonly available;
- Body - Body pillows are exceptionally wide, so we can hug and snuggle with them all night.
- Euro - Euro pillows are actually square and can be good headrests and backrests when bought in the larger sizes.
- King - As the longest available, king-size pillows suit people who toss and turn a lot and actually form nice rests for the head and back while reading, watching TV, or resting.
- Queen - Slightly smaller, queen-sized pillows are ideal for those who tend to move their head a lot or toss and turn through the night.
- Super Standard - Sometimes referred to as ‘Jumbo,’ they have two extra inches compared to the standard option and provide a larger surface.
- Standard - As the most common size, this one is the cheapest and most compact pillow size of all.
Often, people don’t think that their sleeping position will affect their choice of bedding, but it should actually decide both firmness and size of the pillow that you choose. For example, back sleepers need a higher loft compared to stomach sleepers. Meanwhile, those sleeping on their side need the highest loft of all.
Although one of the biggest downsides of down alternative is the lack of support compared to other materials, this doesn’t mean there’s no support at all. When looking in the market, assess the different firmness levels available, and consider your own needs. The firmer the pillow, the more support you receive (unless you go too far with it!).
As we’ve discovered already, you will find a longer life with other materials. Just like down, the down alternative variety experiences flattening and clumping. If you want something for longer than a few years, choose latex or memory foam. However, if you’re buying a pillow for a child or even a guest room, this is a fantastic choice. Even if your pillow won’t last very long, at least it’s affordable enough to quickly invest in a replacement.
Not only is the cover material important, but we also need to pay attention to the thread count. For us, we believe in cotton fabrics because they’re comfortable and offer breathability. A nice cover will really add to the luxurious feel as you rest your head on your pillow after a long day at work.
It doesn’t affect the pillow itself, but it will affect the bank balance. Luckily, down alternative pillows aren’t such a treasure hunt to find compared to down. Whether you’re looking in physical stores or online, you shouldn’t have a problem trying to find these pillows. In fact, there are some retailers who operate exclusively on websites like Overstock and Amazon.
You will find some models at around $80, but the average price for a down alternative pillow is between $20 and $30. If we compare this to genuine down, these average between $75 and $100, if you’ve already done some research, you may have found some that exceed $300. With all of this in mind, down alternative is even cheaper than feather pillows, which can be found for between $25 to $50.
Care and Maintenance
In terms of cleaning, down alternative is simple; just throw it in the machine. What’s more, most pillows these days come with a removable cover, so you’ll be able to keep your pillow nice and clean without too much fuss. Before doing anything, be sure to read the instructions (either on the label or the website of the manufacturer). We believe it’s better to trust the manufacturer than a general rule since they know their product best.
Down vs. Down Alternative - A Full Comparison
As we’ve seen in this guide, down alternative is a synthetic fill formed of polyester microfibers. Let’s not get confused; we aren’t talking about the low-quality polyester-fill pillows, which are normally the cheapest in the market. If money isn’t an issue, the best quality down alternative pillows can reach $100. Why? Compared to the cheap polyester-fill, the microfibers aren’t just thrown in. Instead, they’re designed carefully according to the thickness and feel attributes. As the fibers stick together, we get the soft and luxurious experience we all love.
Down is located beneath the protective insulation layer of feathers on geese, ducks, and other waterfowl. The under plumage down clusters are soft in nature with filaments that grow in all directions. There’s a number of benefits to choosing down pillows; they feel comfortable and provide a plushness that feels amazing during the night. As we move, they can also be adjusted and scrunched for tailored support. Contrast this with memory foam pillows that are much firmer and harder to adjust.
When people see the name ‘down alternative,’ they assume the benefits are the same as down pillows, but this isn’t necessarily the case. If you don’t have allergies and you’re weighing up the pros and cons of each, this next comparison section is for you.
While most people think all three pillows in this niche feel the same, they actually differ.
- Down - No worrying about quills poking the skin as we sleep, down is plush, resilient, lightweight, lofty, and airy.
- Down-Feather - If we look at feathers, these are taken from the tail or wings of the bird. Not quite as soft, feathers have a central shaft (or a ‘quill’) running through the middle. Offering a little more substance, feathers will lay on top of one another, and this causes compression over the course of an evening. It can also be scrunched more than others.
- Down Alternative - Denser once again, down alternative feels supple, and the fill can slide somewhat as it sits in the shell-like silk. Compared to the previous materials, compression is less likely. In terms of the luxuriousness, each manufacturer varies. While some feel like cheap polyfill, others will be very close to real down.
As you can see, the differences are subtle, and they all feel fantastic under the head, but it’s important not to just lump them all under the same umbrella. With all three, you’ll find firm, medium, and soft firmness levels. Normally, the firmer pillows will contain more fill while the softer pillows have less.
It’s important to note that even firm pillows still come with the lightness and airy nature that we expect from down and down alternative, but it will just be a little denser; it will be harder to scrunch, and your head will sit higher too. With a soft pillow, you’ll be able to mold it more easily.
If you’re someone who sleeps hot or lives in a warmer climate, you might be worried about heat retention, and this is more common in down pillows than down alternative. However, when compared to other materials, there are no concerns at all because they both sleep cooler than memory foam (which is notorious for holding heat!).
If you’re an average sleeper, you shouldn’t have any issues with down alternative, down-feather, or down itself. If you’ve used memory foam and are now looking for something cooler, down alternative is the best of the three.
If you’re buying cheap pillows and throwing them away once a year, you’re not only wasting money, but you’re also harming the environment. Regardless of whether you choose down/feather or down alternative, you will be improving your carbon footprint compared to cheaper pillows. If we compare the two, there are some important considerations.
- Down (or Down/Feather) - All natural and completely compostable, this is a great choice (along with the cotton shells). Additionally, high-quality manufacturers will typically source their down and feathers from humanely-raised birds and sustainable sources; when cleaning, they will even use detergents that are ecologically friendly. Given that most down is taken from the food industry, manufacturers are actually finding a use for it instead of watching it go to waste. Other than pillows, down is also used in apparel, comforters, and sleeping bags.
- Down Alternative - With down alternative, the material obviously doesn’t come from an animal. Instead, it’s made up of petrol-derived fibers. If you live a vegan lifestyle, this will be the better option.
Which pillows will keep their support and comfort for the longest? Well, our experience leads us towards down and feather. As long as they have the right care, natural materials will always have the potential to outlast synthetic materials; this means using a pillow protector and cleaning often.
This being said, the down or feather pillows will gently settle over time. High-quality down alternative pillows, if cared for nicely, will last between one and two years without too much support being lost. While polyfill and other cheap pillows will lose integrity after washing, the best down alternative pillows have no problems going in the machine.
Unfortunately, there are some people with respiratory allergies, and this means they cannot use feather or down pillows without bringing about a reaction from the oils and natural dander. It’s important to note that this is only true with unwashed feather or down and that some of the highest quality manufacturers will clean the fill to standards that can be considered ‘hypoallergenic.’
When people react to a down or feather pillow, they assume it’s the fill when it could just as likely be dirt, dust mites, and other allergens. Since feather and down pillows are kept for many years, they actually collect allergens when not cleaned, and this causes the wheezing and sneezing.
Bear in mind that, even with allergies, you can use down and feather pillows if the fill has been cleaned to hypoallergenic standards. If you want to avoid all potential problems regardless, down alternative is a fantastic solution. As long as you remember a pillow protector and frequent cleaning, you should stay comfortable at night for many years to come.
Whether you’re on a small budget or are worried about allergies with real down and feather pillows, we’ve hopefully provided you with a solution today. Down alternatives can offer a fantastic experience even without the hefty price tag (and the sneezing!).
Although not quite up to the standard of other materials, down alternative is also better than down for support. As they’re firmer, there’s some pressure point relief after a long day sitting in the office chair. What’s more, even fill distribution ensures that you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to pillow clumping. They do flatten from time to time but give it a little slap, and it will soon be plump once again.
Even after the low cost and many other benefits, down alternative pillows are also easier to clean. With most, they can go in the washing machine when they need freshening up, and this is much more convenient than just washing the cover (or even hand washing!).
Thank you for reading, we hope you find comfort and support in this area of the market. If down, feather, and down alternative aren’t for you, feel free to continue your research with other materials!