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Lauren Fountain

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Love the soft, fluffy feel of a traditional down pillow, but not so fond of the allergies it provokes or the fact it’s made from animal products? The answer might lie in a down alternative pillow.

Down alternative pillows seek to imitate the feel of a down pillow by using cotton or polyester fibers with many of the same qualities. In contrast to down pillows, down alternative pillows are more affordable, less morally questionable, and less likely to provoke an allergy attack. What’s more, they’re often just as comfortable, and they won’t trap heat.

Sound like a dream come true? Keep reading for our full guide to down alternative pillows. We’ll delve into more details about their benefits and drawbacks, and provide some advice about the best down alternative pillows currently on the market.

The Best Down Alternative Pillows

Product Details

Snowe Down Alternative Pillow

Snowe Down Alternative Pillow
Fill:
Down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Soft Medium Firm
Snowe Down Alternative Pillow
Highlights:

The Snowe Down Alternative Pillow is wrapped in a luxurious cotton sateen cover and comes in a choice of three firmness levels, making it suitable for every sleeper type.

Who it's best for:
  • Stomach, back, and side sleepers
  • Allergy sufferers
  • Those who prefer a sleek-feeling pillowcase

Our Editor’s Pick is the Snowe Down Alternative Pillow. This pillow is sold in a choice of three firmness levels: soft, medium, and firm. The soft pillow allows the head to sink in just right for stomach sleepers, while the medium pillow is ideal for the needs of back sleepers. Side sleepers should prefer the firm pillow as it keeps the head at a comfortable angle relative to the neck.

Made in the USA, the pillow has an interior made of 100 percent hypoallergenic microfiber with a cotton sateen cover. The cover has a 330 thread count and a slight sheen that makes for a luxurious feel. It is also OEKO-TEX certified to be free of harmful substances.

The entire pillow can be machine-washed on cold and tumble-dried together with a tennis ball to encourage fluffing and ensure even drying. The Snowe Down Alternative Pillow is available in standard and king sizes, and each pillow comes with a 60-night sleep trial.

Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow

Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow
Fill:
Polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Medium
Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow
Highlights:

Back and side sleepers will love the lofty feel of the Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow, which is reasonably priced and comes with a generous 100-night sleep trial.

Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who want time to test out the pillow
  • Couples on a budget

The Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow is made of polyester down alternative with a cotton cover. The pillow features a classic design that emulates the comfort and warmth of a down pillow, but without the allergies or the high price tag.

With its light, fluffy feel and generous loft, the pillow suits sleepers who prefer lying on their back or side. There’s little need to fear spills and stains, as the pillow is entirely machine-washable and dryable. The Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow is OEKO-TEX Standard 100-certified.

Tuft & Needle sells its Down Alternative Pillow in standard and king sizes, and each order comes with two pillows included. Pillows ship for free in the contiguous U.S. and come with a 100-night sleep trial so you have plenty of time to test them out at home. After the trial period is up, the pillows are backed by a 2-year limited warranty.

Fill:
Firmness:
Highlights:

This high-end Down Alternative Pillow by Boll & Branch has a soft organic cotton cover and Primaloft filling, sold in soft, medium, or firm styles.

Who it's best for:
  • Environmentally conscious shoppers
  • All sleeper types
  • People who suffer from neck pain

Boll & Branch aims to create high-end bed linens with sustainable manufacturing practices. The Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow has a cover made of 100 percent organic cotton. Piped edges and embroidery give the pillow an elegant finishing touch.

The pillow is stuffed with PrimaLoft, a lightweight synthetic fiber that holds its shape well. PrimaLoft fibers are treated to be moisture-resistant, meaning they’ll stay warm and cozy without trapping sweat.

Customers can choose between soft, medium, or firm, with a firmness level to suit every sleeper type. Side sleepers should find that the firm pillow offers sufficient support to keep the shoulders from crumpling. In turn, back sleepers and stomach sleepers can use a lower loft that promotes healthy alignment of the neck and spine.

The Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow is sold in both standard and king sizes. Boll & Branch offers free shipping and a 30-night sleep trial.

Downlite Medium Density 230

Downlite Medium Density 230
Fill:
Polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Medium
Downlite Medium Density 230
Highlights:

The Downlite Medium Density 230 TC pillow offers just the right balance of support and pressure relief, adapting perfectly to the needs of most back and side sleepers.

Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who require a soft yet supportive pillow
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Hygiene-conscious shoppers

Made with a polyester fill and cambric cotton cover, the Downlite Medium Density 230 TC EnviroLoft pillow has the typical crisp feel of a hotel pillow. The polyester filling is supportive without being hard, and the pillow’s medium density accommodates both side and back sleepers.

The cambric cotton cover has a thread count of 230, hence the name. Caring for the pillow is easy, as the entire thing can be machine-washed and dried on the hot cycle at up to 120 degrees. Not only is this convenient, but it’s also good news for people who are particularly sensitive to allergies. Due to its hypoallergenic qualities, the pillow is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The Downlite Medium Density 230 TC pillow is available in standard, queen, and king sizes. Downlite accepts returns within 30 days of delivery.

Allswell Down Alternative Pillow

Allswell Down Alternative Pillow
Fill:
Polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Medium
Allswell Down Alternative Pillow
Highlights:

With its below-average price-point, the soft Allswell Down Alternative Pillow is an attractive option for stomach sleepers who don’t want to break the bank.

Who it's best for:
  • Stomach sleepers
  • Those who prefer a softer pillow
  • Bargain hunters

Allswell is known for selling a vast array of sleep products at extremely attractive prices. True to form, the Allswell Down Alternative Pillow has a friendly price-point and offers great value for the money.

With its soft polyester fill and thinner loft, the Allswell Down Alternative Pillow is best-suited to stomach sleepers. The cover is made of 100 percent cotton sateen and has a sleek feel that’s perfect for sleepers who want to feel pampered. For our money, it’s one of the best soft down alternative pillows out there.

The Allswell Down Alternative Pillow can be machine-washed on cold, and allergy sufferers will be glad to hear that the fill is antimicrobial. Allswell sells its Down Alternative Pillow in either standard or king size and offers free shipping on orders over $35, which is perfect for anyone ordering two pillows.

Down Linens Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow

Down Linens Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow
Fill:
Polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Medium
Down Linens Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow
Highlights:

The hypoallergenic Down Linens Plush Perfect Gel Fiber Pillow is designed for maximum comfort and durability, with a supportive and plush proprietary gel fiber fill.

Who it's best for:
  • People who suffer from allergies
  • Indecisive shoppers
  • Sleepers who need extra pressure relief

Not all down alternative pillows are fully hypoallergenic, but the Down Linens Plush Perfect Gel Fiber Pillow goes the extra mile to create a barrier against dust mites and other unwanted visitors.

The pillow consists of a proprietary gel fiber fill that is designed to provide the plush feel of down with added support. The gel fiber is hypoallergenic, resisting the buildup of common allergens, and it is easily machine-washable. This fill is wrapped in a cotton dobby cover with a thread count of 300. The Down Linens Plush Perfect Gel Fiber Pillow has a medium feel that suits most sleeper types. There is also a firmer, “overstuffed” version of the pillow available for sleepers who need more loft.

Down Linens offers a year-long sleep trial, which is much longer than most pillows and should leave ample time to put the pillow through its paces. The Down Linens Plush Perfect Gel Fiber Pillow is shipped for free in the continental U.S.

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow
Fill:
Smartdown polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness:
Medium
The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow
Highlights:

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow is made from Smartdown, a unique recycled material that comes extremely close to feeling like real down.

Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who want a pillow that feels just like down
  • Sustainably minded shoppers

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow is made of Smartdown, an airy filler made from recycled materials that is virtually indistinguishable from real down. The pillow has a medium feel and a thick gusset around the border. These help the pillow hold its shape and provide the necessary loft for back and side sleepers.

The Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow is sold in standard and king sizes. It’s wrapped in a breathable cotton percale cover with a thread count of 280. The pillow can be machine-washed and tumble-dried, although the manufacturer recommends getting it professionally cleaned.

The pillow is available for purchase from a number of international locations in addition to the U.S. The White Company accepts returns of unopened pillows during the first 30 days after delivery.

Pillow Guy Soft Stomach Sleeper Down Alternative Pillow

Pillow Guy Soft Stomach Sleeper Down Alternative Pillow
Mattress Type:
Firmness:
Pillow Guy Soft Stomach Sleeper Down Alternative Pillow
Highlights:

Stomach sleepers can nod off comfortably on the Pillow Guy Soft Stomach Sleeper Down Alternative Pillow, which is made of extra-soft cooling gel fibers made to emulate the feel of down.

Who it's best for:
  • Stomach sleepers
  • Those who sleep hot
  • Allergy sufferers

Pillow Guy has designed this pillow exclusively for stomach sleepers. The Pillow Guy Soft Stomach Sleeper Down Alternative Pillow features a low loft and a feel that’s firm enough not to deflate, but soft enough to alleviate pressure points. The pillow also comes in an “overstuffed” version with a higher loft and firmer build.

The gel fibers give the pillow a feel that’s very similar to down. These fibers are also designed to keep the pillow cool, which is good news for sleepers who tend to run hot.

The outer pillowcase is tastefully designed with dark-blue cotton percale and white satin piping. It also has a discreet zipper for easy removal when cleaning small stains. An inner microfiber shell uses proprietary technology to guard against spills and keep out dust mites and bedbugs.

The Soft Sleeper Down Alternative Pillow is available in standard/queen size or king size. Pillow Guy provides a 30-night sleep trial and free shipping. It’s also possible to order an overstuffed pillow for back and side sleepers.

What is a Down Alternative Pillow?

Down alternative pillows are made with polyester fibers, or more rarely cotton fibers, that are designed to mimic the properties of down. The fibers are spun in such a way as to have a soft and fluffy feel that rivals down, but at a much lower price-point. Down alternative pillows may include technology such as gel fibers to boost attributes like softness and cooling.

Despite being more affordable than real down pillows, down alternative pillows are lightweight and huggable, just like the real thing. While actual down is made from the softest feathers of ducks and geese, down alternative does not contain any animal parts. This makes down alternative a good choice for ethically minded consumers and people who suffer from allergies.

How to Choose a Down Alternative Pillow

As they’re made of fluffy synthetic fibers, most down alternative pillows have a low-to-medium loft and a fairly soft feel. They’re relatively adaptable and can be made to suit most sleeping styles. We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of down alternative pillows, and provide advice on how to choose the right loft, firmness level, size, and shape.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Down Alternative Pillow

Many down alternative pillows appear similar at first glance. Furthermore, bedding companies can often use confusing marketing terms to vaunt the advantages of their products. This makes it difficult to compare pillows from different manufacturers, making it even trickier to know which pillow is right for you.

Understanding the primary factors that influence pillow performance is key to knowing what attributes to look for. We’ve provided a summary of the most important factors to help you find the pillow that best suits your sleeping style.

Loft
The loft of a pillow refers to how high it sits. Pillows with a thicker loft will keep your head at a sharper angle compared to flatter pillows. Since down alternative pillows tend to compress when you lie on them, you may consider buying a pillow with a slightly higher loft. Alternatively, you can buy a down alternative pillow with extra filling and adjust it until you find the loft that allows your head to sit at a comfortable angle.

Support
The support provided by a pillow is determined mostly by its loft, firmness, and contouring ability. Most down alternative pillows offer a medium level of support, which should be sufficient for most sleepers, but may cause neck strain in those who require closer contouring or a firmer surface. Some sleepers may find that scrunching the pillow into shape can help bolster the neck.

Firmness Level
The tighter a pillow is packed with down alternative filling, the firmer it will feel. That said, down alternative is inherently fluffy and there’s a limit to how firm it can get. Those who need a firmer surface may prefer a buckwheat or latex pillow.

Pressure Relief
Although they don’t contour to the same extent as memory foam pillows, down alternative pillows are much softer than buckwheat or latex pillows. As a result, common pressure points that tend to form in places like the ears shouldn’t be a problem with a down alternative pillow.

Shape
Unlike memory foam pillows which can come molded to any form, most down alternative pillows come in a classic rectangular shape. They can be further pummeled to fit the space you need, but left alone they will usually spring back to their original shape. Down alternative pillows are somewhat high-maintenance in that they must be constantly re-fluffed to avoid flattening out and developing lumps.

Price
Pillows can cost well into the hundreds of dollars depending on their materials and build. Down alternative pillows tend to be among the cheapest, although shoppers should keep in mind that they’ll need to be replaced every few years.

Quality Materials
The quality of the materials used to make a pillow have an impact on its durability, as well as its ability to provide support and pressure relief. Poor-quality materials may feel welcoming at first but are usually quick to break down. Down alternative made with polyester fiber is usually not very high quality. If you’re concerned about this, look for a pillow that blends down alternative with shredded memory foam or latex to make it more resistant.

Moldability
Many sleepers appreciate the ability to mold their pillow to some extent. Down alternative lends itself well to this, taking on any form you punch it into and returning to its original shape afterward.

Temperature Regulation
A pillow that traps heat can be terribly uncomfortable, especially for those who run hot or who live in warm climates. Luckily, down alternative pillows have a breathable structure and are known for staying cool throughout the night.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Down Alternative Pillows?

Down alternative pillows are cool, soft, and allergy-friendly. What’s not to love? The following are some of the major pros and cons.

Pros Cons
  • Soft and Lightweight: Down alternative comes close to rivaling real down for softness, and since it doesn’t weigh very much, it’s easy to move.
  • Cruelty-free: For those who like the softness of down but prefer to keep the animals out of it, down alternative may present a more ethical choice.
  • Allergy-friendly: Some pillows may trap dust, but in general, down alternative is usually made of synthetic fibers that don’t provoke allergies as real down would.
  • Easy to care for: In contrast to other pillow types, most down alternative pillows can be machine-washed and -dried.
  • Punchable: Like real down pillows, down alternative pillows are highly scrunchable and can be molded into the user’s preferred shape.
  • Affordable: Down alternative pillows are one of the cheapest types of pillows, with a much lower price tag than real down.
  • Sleep cool: Whether made of polyester fiber or cotton, down alternative doesn’t trap heat, and the fluffy composition of the pillow allows room for airflow to keep the temperature neutral.
  • Adjustable firmness: Many manufacturers offer the option to add or remove filling so users can customize the loft and firmness according to their sleeping position.
  • Odor-free: Down alternative is usually made of polyester microfiber or cotton, neither of which has a strong smell.
  • Easy to find: Down alternative is one of the most common material types, and consequently there is a wide range of down alternative pillows to choose from.
  • Not durable: While down alternative pillows can be re-fluffed to some extent, most down alternative pillows gradually lose their fluffiness and get flatter over time.
  • Loose conforming: Down alternative doesn’t conform as closely as materials like memory foam, which may affect its ability to provide pressure relief in sleepers with more sensitive needs.
  • Poor support: As with a real down or feather pillow, down alternative is known to compress significantly under the sleeper’s head, which can lead to neck and shoulder pain in side sleepers or those who weigh more than 230 pounds. A gusseted edge may help mitigate this problem.
  • Noisy: Down alternative can produce some noise when shifting positions, and some down alternative pillows also have a crackly cover.
  • Lumpy: Some sleepers may find their pillow feels increasingly lumpy as the contents clump together.

Who is Best Suited to a Down Alternative Pillow?

Down alternative pillows sleep cool and are versatile enough to be used for any sleeping position. They also present an attractive alternative for allergy sufferers or those concerned about the ethics of animal products.

  • Sleepers of Most Positions: Because they can be adjusted for firmness and loft, down alternative pillows work well for stomach, back, and side sleepers. Stomach sleepers should find that low-loft pillows flatten out nicely to reduce twisting of the neck. Firmer, higher-loft pillows can be scrunched into shape for back and side sleepers or those with a more eclectic sleeping style.
  • Sleepers Who Have Down Allergies: Down alternative is an allergy-free option for people who suffer from allergies to animal dander. Most down alternative pillows are also resistant to dust mites and mold.
  • Hot Sleepers: Down alternative pillows are highly breathable, making them popular with those who sleep hot.
  • Those Opposed to Animal Products: Down pillows are soft and luxurious, but they present an ethical problem for people who try to avoid animal products. The next best thing is down alternative, which offers many of the same advantages without the moral dilemma.

Who is not suited:

  • Sleepers with Neck Pain: Down alternative pillows don’t always stay put like latex, and they don’t offer the close conforming of memory foam. This means they may not be suitable for people with neck pain, as this group needs sturdier support to keep the head, neck, and spine aligned. Those who do choose a down alternative pillow should opt for a higher loft than normal to compensate for the fact that the pillow will sink a little when lying on it.
  • Those with Sleep Apnea: Snorers and people who suffer from sleep apnea do best with a pillow that keeps the head elevated. This helps open the airway, reducing the chances of restricted breathing. Unfortunately, most down alternative pillows are not supportive enough to maintain the head at this angle. Sleepers who use a CPAP machine may also find this hard to accommodate with a down alternative pillow.
  • Sleepers Over 230 Pounds: Since down alternative compresses under weight, sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds may find it fails to provide sufficient support.

Which Down Alternative Pillow Sizes Are Available?

Down alternative pillows come in most of the standard mattress sizes. The exact dimensions may vary between manufacturers.

Standard – Standard pillows measure 20 by 26 inches. Their relatively small size makes them suitable for use with any size mattress, including a twin or full sized mattress. They’re also a good option for people who like sleeping right up to the edge of their pillow. Almost all manufacturers offer a standard option.

Super Standard – Two inches larger than standard pillows, Super Standard pillows measure in at 20 by 28 inches. This is a less common size, but may be a good option for those who need just a little bit more length. You may also see these under the name “Jumbo Pillow.”

Queen – The queen size pillow is one of the most common, in large part due to the popularity of queen size mattresses. At 20 by 30 inches, this size is ideal for a queen mattress or for anyone who wants a slightly longer pillow.

King – King size pillows measure 20 by 36 inches. This is significantly longer than a queen size pillow and may be perfect for sleepers who tend to shift from side to side throughout the night. It’s also long enough to make a useful prop when sitting up in bed.

Body Pillow – Body pillows usually measure 20 by 54 inches. Many side sleepers find that “hugging” a body pillow helps align the hips and knees in order to improve spinal alignment and reduce pressure points.

Frequently Asked Questions About Down Alternative Pillows

How much do down alternative pillows cost?

The average price for a down alternative pillow is between $20 and $30. High-quality down alternative pillows can range up to $80. Proprietary materials, cooling technology such as phase-change material or gel beads, and the quality of the cover can all raise the price-point.

How do I clean a down alternative pillow? 

Most down alternative pillows are machine-washable and can be tumble-dried on low heat. Adding a tennis ball to the dryer can help ensure the pillow dries evenly and stays fluffy. Always be sure to check the care instructions before washing the pillow for the first time, as some may be dry-clean or spot-clean only.

Where can I buy a down alternative pillow?

Down alternative pillows are easy to find online and in brick-and-mortar stores. This gives them another advantage over feather and down pillows, which are comparatively rare.

How long do down alternative pillows last?

The average down pillow lasts around 2 years before needing to be replaced. Machine-drying the pillow and fluffing it regularly can help boost the loft for a while, but eventually, the contents will flatten out and the pillow will be unable to maintain its original height. As this lifespan is on the short end for a pillow, it’s something to keep in mind when setting your budget.

Are down alternative pillows adjustable?

Down alternative pillows are adjustable in that users can add or remove filling to change the loft, and scrunch the pillow into shape. However, it’s not as common to find down alternative pillows with removable inserts or other personalizable features. Those who want a specific shape, such as a cervical neck pillow, would do better to look for a material that holds its shape, like memory foam or latex.

Do down alternative pillows have an odor?

Unlike real down or memory foam pillows, brand-new down alternative pillows have little to no odor. This is a major benefit for people who are sensitive to smell.