‘Down’ is the softer under-feathers which ducks and geese use for insulation, it is usually considerably softer than the outer feathers, the quills are normally very thin and pliable unlike outer feathers which can be tough. Often, down is sourced from birds that generally live in cold climates (Scandinavia, Russia etc) as their down will tend to be thickest and softest.
In order to be considered as a down pillow, the filling needs to be at least 75% down. Often manufacturers will use other, cheaper material such as feathers to make up the rest. When this is the case this material is often inside an inner core within the pillow which is then surrounded by down in order to give external softness.
Down pillows are usually very smooth with no lumps and although the down can occasionally escape from the pillow cover, it usually wont poke you like feathers. As down is not cheap, down pillows are usually amongst the most expensive and luxurious.
Goose down pillows or duck down pillows?
Goose down pillows are often considered more luxurious than duck down due the larger tufts of down which provides slightly more insulation. They are usually more expensive pillows as well. Basically with down pillows, the more you pay the better quality down you get. Geese have more down than ducks and the further north the goose comes from, the warmer the down will be. The price tag goes up as well, but you can feel the difference.
Make sure you buy from a reputable UK down pillow retailer such as John Lewis, The White Company, Soak and Sleep etc. We’ve checked their animal welfare policies in the past and they should all adhere to strict guidelines on ethically sourcing down. They should also sell down which has been properly washed, so that it is fresh and soft and minimises any allergies – note allergies are not caused by down and feathers but the dust mites attracted to dust in the pillows.
Also make sure the pillow cover is high thread cotton so that no downy tufts and quills escape. That sorted, you won’t regret buying a down pillow – they’re my personal favourite (ed. Suzie!)
Pillow advisor summary: Although a bit pricey, nothing feels as soft and luxurious as a down pillow. They aren’t ideal where support or neck pain relief is required – quite often you may need another pillow underneath – but they won’t disappoint in almost all other circumstances.
- Pros: Tend to make the softest pillows, nice and light, cool an airy, easy to shape, long lasting, quiet
- Cons: Feathers can sometimes poke through the cover (though usually not spiky like feathers), do not offer a lot of support or height – not great for side sleepers, can be expensive, will need occasional fluffing and shaking to get back into shape, not ideal for allergy sufferers unless the down has been correctly processed.