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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.
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Most down alternative pillows are fairly inexpensive and suitable for shoppers with limited funds, but a high-quality design and premium materials elevates the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based pillow over many competing models. The down alternative clusters that make up the fill are derived from plant-based matter, resulting in exceptional breathability. The fill also resists clumping quite well, so the pillow’s expected lifespan is longer than average.
A cover made of smooth cotton encases the pillow, making it suitable for people with sensitive skin who experience irritation or discomfort with coarser fabrics. The entire pillow is completely machine washable, saving you time and money whenever a cleaning is needed. Wash in cold water on a gentle cycle with like colors, then tumble dry low. Queen and king sizes are available.
All customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free ground delivery with their Plant-Based Pillow order and Sweet Zzz’s shipping rates for Canadian shoppers are reasonable. Your purchase includes a 50-night sleep trial, as well as a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty that covers structural defects.
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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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Many down alternative pillows are too soft and prone to sinkage for side sleepers. The Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow from SHEEX is designed with a 2-inch gusset to help maintain a full shape. Fiber fill creates a plush, cloud-like surface for your head and neck, but uncomfortable sinkage — a common source of discomfort for side sleepers — shouldn’t be an issue.
The fill is designed to dissipate heat on contact, resulting in much less heat retention compared to real down. Composed of synthetic Clima material, the fill is also animal-free and won’t trigger any symptoms for those allergic to real down. The cover is a cooling component, as well. Made of breathable stretch-polyester, the cover fabric has moisture-wicking properties to help you stay dry on humid nights. This feature may also come in handy to people who often sweat in their sleep.
Standard/queen and king sizes are available. To clean the pillow, first separate the cover and liner containing the fill. The latter should only be laundered in commercial-size appliances, but the cover can be cleaned in most household washers and dryers.
The Original Performance Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow is very reasonably priced and low flat-rate shipping is available for domestic U.S. orders. Your purchase includes a 60-night trial, giving you ample time to test out the pillow and decide whether it’s right for you. If you choose to keep it, you’ll receive a 1-year warranty against structural and material defects.
Best for Neck Pain
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The Silk & Snow Pillow has a highly adjustable design for sleepers who have neck pain or needs that change from night to night. This model offers a thoughtful, chambered construction at an affordable price.
A cover made from 100% cotton encases the pillow. The breathable fabric helps keep the surface cool. The outer chamber features down alternative fill for a plush initial feel. Shredded memory foam makes up the core, offering plenty of cushion for the head and neck to relieve pressure. The shredded design also facilitates more airflow than a pillow with a solid foam construction.
The pillow loft measures 3.5 inches when it first arrives, but customers can remove the shredded memory foam to achieve a loft that best suits them. Two sizes are available: standard and king. You can wash the pillow shell in household machines.
Silk & Snow ships free to the contiguous U.S., and the company offers a 100-night sleep trial. Customers can return pillows after the 30-night break-in period. Pillow purchases are backed by a 3-year warranty.
Best for Combination Sleepers
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The Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow has a luxuriously plush and lofty feel that we highly recommend for side sleepers. The fiber fill is composed of PET material, which is derived from recycled plastic bottles. This also makes the pillow a good choice for those with environmental concerns as well as animal-conscious individuals, those with allergies to real down, and other great candidates for down alternative bedding.
A cotton sateen shell encases the fill. The fabric is silky-smooth and breathable, and the weave produces a lustrous sheen. Brooklinen does not recommend machine washing the pillow, nor should you iron it. Instead, spot clean the cover if stains occur or dry clean when the entire pillow needs to be refreshed. Customers can choose from standard and king sizes, as well as a Euro-style option with a square shape.
The Down Alternative Pillow’s sticker price is quite affordable, even compared to similarly constructed models from other brands, and Brooklinen offers free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. Each customer receives a generous 365-night sleep trial with their purchase, during which they can use the pillow and return it if they are not satisfied.
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Most down alternative pillows contain fill primarily made of polyester. Sijo takes a different approach with the Fluffbase Eucalyptus Pillow takes a different approach, as both the cover and fiber fill are composed of Tencel. This eucalyptus-derived material is exceptionally breathable and has moisture-wicking properties for people who sweat in their sleep. The material is also silky-soft and shouldn’t cause irritation for people with acne or other skin sensitivities.
A fully machine washable design makes cleaning the pillow a breeze, though Sijo recommends separating the cover from the core before washing. Standard/queen and king sizes are available for the Fluffbase Eucalyptus Pillow, both of which carry affordable price-points.
Sijo offers free ground shipping for U.S. orders of $65 or more, but flat-rates for customers that don’t reach this threshold are still quite low. Each purchase comes with a sleep trial that spans 30 nights in length.
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Many sleepers appreciate the plush, well-crafted designs of hotel-style pillows, but investing in them can be somewhat expensive. The FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow’s sticker price may seem high at first glance, but the company frequently offers discounts that knock down the price to a significant degree. You’ll also receive a discount if you order two, four, or six pillows with your purchase.
The fill consists of animal-free down alternative clusters that retain very little heat and won’t trigger symptoms for people with down allergies. A smooth cotton shell encases the fill. Double-stitch seams and thick cording help reduce the potential for rips and tears that allow the fill to escape, so the pillow’s expected lifespan is above average. You can wash and dry the pillow in household machines for quick and easy care.
Two firmness and density options are available. With a thinner profile, the “Soft Fluff” design is best suited to stomach sleepers, while the thicker “Firm Fluff” pillow provides adequate loft for side and back sleepers. There is no price difference between the two designs. You can also choose between standard and king sizes.
Standard ground shipping is free if you order one or more king size pillows, and flat shipping rates are reasonable if you opt for a standard size pillow instead. FluffCo allows returns within 30 days if you aren’t satisfied.
SleepFoundation.org readers get 60% off select products at Linens & Hutch with code: SLEEP60
The Linens & Hutch Plush Down-Alternative Gel-Fiber Pillow is one of the softest models we’ve tested. This is primarily thanks to the fiber fill, which has an exceptionally plush and lofty feel. We recommend this pick to anyone who prefers softer pillows.
A breathable cotton shell in a 240-thread count encases the pillow. The down alternative fill features a gel infusion designed to absorb and dissipate excess heat. This fill also allows you to mold the pillow quite easily, making it great if you like snuggling with a pillow at night. A moderate loft ensures comfort for a wide variety of sleepers. Our side sleepers found adequate support for their heads, while back and stomach sleepers maintained proper alignment.
Queen and king sizes are available, both of which come in a pack of two. Linens & Hutch ships free to customers in the contiguous U.S. The Plush Down-Alternative Gel-Fiber Pillow is backed by a 101-night sleep trial.
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The Avocado Green Pillow’s cover and core are made from materials that boast certifications from the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). These certifications ensure the components were sustainably grown and processed in an eco-friendly manner.
The pillow shell is made from GOTS-certified organic cotton, which is naturally breathable and helps regulate temperature. GOLS-certified shredded latex and GOTS-certified kapok fibers in the pillow core cradle the head and neck to relieve pressure, while the shredded design encourages airflow. Sleepers can add or remove fill to customize the pillow for their needs, and each purchase comes with an extra bag of fill. Thanks to the adjustable design and the mid-range feel, our testers across sleeping positions enjoyed the pillow, particularly those weighing up to 230 pounds.
Three sizes are available: standard, queen, and king. The pillow cover is fully removable and machine-washable, but you should only spot clean the core materials. Customers living in the contiguous U.S. are eligible for free shipping. The Avocado Green Pillow is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a 1-year warranty.
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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