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Home / Best Pillows of 2021 / Best Down Alternative Pillows

Written by

Lauren Fountain


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

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Best Overall

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $80 - Standard $95 - King
Fill: Primaloft Synthetic Microfibers
Firmness: Soft, Medium, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Environmentally conscious shoppers
  • All sleeper types
  • People who suffer from neck pain
  • Lightweight PrimaLoft fiber fill retains its shape well
  • Soft, medium and firm styles accomodate any comfort preference
  • Soft and breathable organic cotton cover
Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Use code CLOUD15 for 15% off orders of $150 or more on Boll & Branch pillows.

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.

Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow

Best Value

Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow

Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $59 - Standard $79 - King
Fill: Shaved microfiber filling
Firmness: Plush, Mid-Plush, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who use any position
  • Hot sleepers
  • Value seekers
  • Three loft levels to accommodate sleepers of all types
  • Breathable cotton sateen cover
  • Premium feel at a below-average price point
Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on Brooklinen pillows

The Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow is a standout pick thanks in part to its density selection. You can choose between three different loft settings, each one geared toward different sleeper types. The firm pillow has the thickest loft and is best suited to side sleepers, the mid-plush offers good support for back sleepers, and the low-profile plush option should be flat enough for stomach sleepers.

The fill consists of shaved microfibers that mimic the soft feel of authentic down very well, while the cover is made from breathable cotton sateen. Double-stitched edges help the pillow hold up over time and prevent fill from escaping. Spot cleaning is recommended for light stains, but you should dry clean the pillow if heavy soiling occurs.

The sticker price for this pillow is very approachable and density does not affect the cost. Brooklinen offers free shipping for all U.S. orders, and the company allows you to return the pillow up to 365 days after placing your original order – even if you’ve slept on it or cleaned it.

Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow

Best for Back and Side Sleepers

Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow

Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $80 - Standard $100 - King
Fill: Polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who want time to test out the pillow
  • Couples on a budget
  • Plush, lofty feel
  • Generous 100-night sleep trial
  • Sold in a budget-friendly two pack
Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on Tuft & Needle pillows

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.

Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow

Softest Pillow

Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow

Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow
Price: $50 - Classic Standard $70 - Classic King $60 - Contour Standard $80 - Contour King $80 - Ultimate Standard $100 - Ultimate King
Fill: Down Alternative Microfibers
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who want a contoured or adjustable design
  • Allergy sufferers
  • Side, back, stomach, and combination sleepers
  • Hypoallergenic construction
  • Brushed cotton cover for added softness
  • Available in three different shapes for personalized support
Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on Sleep Number pillows

The Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow is a hypoallergenic down alternative option that mimics the feel of natural down. Its brushed cotton cover adds softness and breathability.

The PlushComfort Pillow is available in standard and king sizes, in three different shapes: Classic, Curved, and Ultimate. The Classic option gently supports the head and neck and is suitable for stomach or back sleepers. The Curved model is contoured to support side and back sleepers.

The Ultimate has a versatile design with three removable inserts, allowing users to choose the most appropriate height and support level for their sleep position. This is beneficial if your sleeping preferences vary, or if you’d like to try different lofts. One to two inserts is recommended for stomach sleeping, while two to three is typically compatible with back and side sleeping.

The PlushComfort Pillow is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified to be free of harmful chemicals and heavy metals.

The PlushComfort Pillow can be fluffed as needed to maintain its loft. For the Classic and Curved models, both the pillow and the cover can be machine washed in warm water with mild detergent. The cover of the Ultimate model is machine-washable, but the inserts are not.

Sleep Number offers free shipping for U.S. orders. The PlushComfort Pillow comes with a 30-day exchange period and a 1-year limited warranty.

Allswell Down Alternative Pillow

Most Comfortable

Allswell Down Alternative Pillow

Allswell Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $19 - Standard $25 - King
Fill: Polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Stomach sleepers
  • Those who prefer a softer pillow
  • Bargain hunters
  • Soft fill and moderate loft
  • Below-average price-point
  • Sleek 100% cotton sateen cover
Allswell Down Alternative Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on Allswell pillows

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.

FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow

Best Hotel-Style

FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow

FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $45 - Standard/Queen
Fill: Down alternative microfiber
Firmness: Soft, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • Those who prefer the lofty feel of hotel pillows
  • Value seekers
  • Luxuriously plush
  • Available in two fill densities
  • Machine-washable for simple care
FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on FluffCo pillows

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.

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow

Best Luxury

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow

The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $79 - Standard $95 - King
Fill: Smartdown polyester down alternative fibers
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Back and side sleepers
  • Those who want a pillow that feels just like down
  • Sustainably minded shoppers
  • Smartdown polyester fill closely mimics the feel of real down
  • Soft and breathable 280 thread count cotton cover
  • Above-average shape retention prevents clumping
The White Company Deluxe Down Alternative Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on The White Company pillows

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.

Standard Textile Down Alternative Pillow

Best Firm Pillow

Standard Textile Down Alternative Pillow

Standard Textile Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $89 - Standard $99 - King
Fill: Inner Chamber: Garnetted Polyester Outer Chambers: Down Alternative Gel Fibers
Firmness: Medium Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Those who prefer a firmer pillow
  • Sleepers who value the comfort and luxury of hotel bedding
  • Machine-washable for easy care
  • OEKO-TEX certified materials are free from harmful substances
  • 100% cotton cover for added breathability
Standard Textile Down Alternative Pillow

Use this link for the most current discount on Standard Textile pillows

The Standard Textile Down Alternative Pillow features a unique three-chamber construction that is designed to remain supportive and retain its shape even after considerable use. The outer two chambers are composed of a soft gel fiber that is intended to imitate the plush feeling of down while remaining temperature neutral. These gel fibers surround an inner chamber of garnetted polyester, which provides the pillow with a more solid core that is engineered to provide sleepers with a more rigid support.

Individuals who sleep on their sides or backs tend to enjoy the firmer surface of the pillow, as the added support can help promote proper spinal alignment. The Down Alternative Pillow also offers sleepers above-average temperature neutrality, making this a great choice for those who run hot or live in warmer climates. The coolness of the pillow is enhanced by the 100% cotton cover, which is very breathable and soft to the touch.

Standard Textile was originally launched in 1940 to provide premium bedding for hotels, meaning that each product is crafted with durability and ease of care in mind. As such, their Down Alternative Pillow is machine-washable and dryer-friendly. Standard Textile also offers free shipping to addresses in the U.S., and provides full refunds on returns made within 90 days of the delivery date, though the cost of shipping may be deducted from the refund amount.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.