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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.
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The Saatva Down Alternative Pillow stands apart from its competitors thanks to its multi-layered fill. Clusters of polyester down alternative line the base of the pillow to form a support layer that keeps your head and neck on an even plane, while a top layer of silky-soft microdenier fibers recreate the luxurious plushness of real down.
The cover is composed of organic cotton, which is both soft and breathable. Thin piping runs along the seams to prevent rips and tears that can lead to fill escaping. The mid-level thickness will be ideal for many back sleepers, as well as side sleepers who don’t require too much loft. The moldable construction makes it a good choice for those who enjoy snuggling with pillows while they sleep.
Customers can add two cotton sateen pillowcases to their order for an extra fee, and those who purchase two queen or two king sizes will receive a discount of $20 and $40, respectively. Shipping is free throughout the contiguous U.S., and each order is backed by a 45-night trial and a one-year warranty.
SF Readers get 25% off pillows at GhostBed
GhostBed’s bedding lineup includes the GhostPillow – Faux Down, which builds on its design with features intended to help the pillow sleep exceptionally cool. The fill consists of microfibers infused with cooling gel, while the cover is made from a fabric blend with phase-change material to dissipate body heat and regulate the surface temperature. Even by down alternative pillow standards, this one is particularly well suited to hot sleepers.
An inner cotton liner contains the fill. Every component of the pillows can be washed and dried in household machines. The ultrasoft feel makes the pillow feel quite moldable and conducive to snuggling. People with lower back or hip pain may find relief by placing the pillow between their knees or under their legs. The 7-inch loft may also be ideal for side sleepers who prefer ultra-lofty surfaces for their head and neck.
The pillow is very reasonably priced. Customers can also include a mulberry silk pillowcase with their order and receive a 50% discount on that item. The pillow is backed by a 101-night trial – which is fairly long for a pillow – and a five-year warranty for extra peace of mind.
SleepFoundation readers get the best prices on Boll & Branch products.
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.
Best for Side Sleepers
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The Parachute Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow lives up to its name thanks to a 3.5-inch gusset that helps to maintain a dense, thick shape despite the fill’s ultra-plush feel. Since side sleepers generally need more loft to feel comfortable and avoid aches and pains around their neck, the pillow is very well suited to this sleep position. Some back sleepers may also feel comfortable if they prefer more elevation for their heads.
The fill consists of gel-infused microfibers and the cover is pure cotton-sateen, so bothersome heat buildup shouldn’t be a major issue. Double-stitched piping lines each seam to hold the pillow together and keep the fill contained. As a result, durability is above-average. The entire pillow is machine washable, but owners can also dry clean it if they prefer. Standard and king sizes are available.
A low price-point makes this pillow a great catch for value seekers. Parachute also provides free shipping to all 50 states, as well as military-based P.O. boxes. Returns are accepted within 60 days of the original purchase, and all pillows are further backed by a three-year warranty.
Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Slumber Cloud pillows
The Slumber Cloud UltraCool Pillow is engineered with warm sleepers in mind. Equipped with cooling technology, this pillow is designed to resist overheating while conforming to the head and promoting deep relaxation. The UltraCool Pillow may be a good choice for sleepers who value the plush feel of down but struggle with sleeping hot.
The cover of the UltraCool Pillow features unique Outlast technology, which is designed to absorb excessive heat and maintain a consistently cool temperature. An inner layer made of proprietary Polysilk fiber works with this cooling cover to promote airflow.
Shoppers can choose between two firmness levels – medium soft or medium firm – to suit their preferences. The pillow is also available in both standard and king sizes. For simple care, the pillow can also be machine-washed and -dried following the care instructions on the product tag.
The UltraCool Pillow comes with a 60-night sleep trial, and is backed by a 180-day warranty. Slumber Cloud also offers free shipping to customers in the United States.
Best Firmness Options
SF readers get the best price at Brooklinen
The budget-friendly Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow contains shaved down alternative fibers, which provide the same soft, lofty feel as real down without triggering any allergies or absorbing an excessive amount of body heat. This pillow is also a good option for those who would rather not purchase animal-based products. The cover is composed of smooth, breathable cotton sateen for added comfort and cooling.
Three firmness levels are available for this pillow. The firm feel offers great support that is best suited to side sleeping, the mid-plush provides enough loft to keep back sleepers comfortable, and the plush is flatter and more conducive to stomach sleeping. There is no price difference between the firmness levels, though the firm feel is only available for king size pillows.
The pillow should not be washed in a household machine, as spot or dry cleaning are recommended. Brooklinen offers returns within 365 days of the original purchase as well as free shipping to addresses in the contiguous U.S.
Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Avocado pillows
Avocado is a luxury mattress and bedding company that has become known for its high-quality organic products and environmentally conscious practices. Filled with GOLS-certified organic latex and GOTS-certified organic kapok, the Avocado Green Pillow is a vegan option that caters to sleepers who prefer a pillow with adjustable loft.
The pillow has a medium level of firmness and is suitable for side and back sleepers. The fill is made with shredded organic latex and kapok fibers, which conform gently with the body while also providing ample support. Kapok is a fiber that has a fluffy loft, giving the pillow a similar feel to down. The fill is stuffed inside of a jersey cotton liner, and sleepers can add or remove fill to adjust the loft. The pillow comes with an extra bag of fill.
The whole pillow is wrapped in an organic quilted cotton cover, which is machine-washable and has a zipper for easy addition and removal of fill. The cotton and fill materials are GREENGUARD Gold-certified, meaning they have been tested for the presence of harmful substances that could interfere with healthy sleep. Shredded latex and kapok both run cool, making this a good choice for people who tend to sleep hot.
Avocado provides free shipping to addresses anywhere in the United States, and the Green Pillow is backed by a 1-year warranty. The pillow also comes with a 100-night sleep trial, during which customers can initiate a return for a full refund.
Best for Back Sleepers
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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.
Best Hotel Style
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The Down Alternative Pillow from FluffCo embodies the lofty, cloud-like feel of hotel-style bedding. You can choose between two fill densities. The thicker firm option will likely be most comfortable for side sleepers, while the less lofty soft pillow is better suited to back and stomach sleeping. The microfiber fill is 100% vegan, though it matches the plushness of real down.
The cover is derived from a blend of cotton and Tencel lyocell, two breathable materials that add to the pillow’s cool feel. Double-stitching around the edges keeps the pillow intact, ensuring a decent lifespan. When the pillow needs to be cleaned, simply wash and dry it in your household machines.
This pillow’s price-point is very reasonable and FluffCo offers discounts for those who purchase two or more. All orders in the U.S. and Canada qualify for free ground shipping, and you may return the pillow within 30 days of the original order.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Down alternative pillows are cool, soft, and allergy-friendly. What’s not to love? The following are some of the major pros and cons.
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.
Who is not suited:
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.
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.
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