Down vs. Down Alternative

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Is down alternative as good as the real deal? Is down or down alternative better for duvets or pillows? Read on to see which bedding material is best for you.

Whether you’re considering down versus down alternative pillows or duvets, knowing which filling material to choose can save you money and sleep. And, although down and down alternative are designed to have a similar feel, there’s plenty of important differences between the two.

What Is Down?

Before we can cover down alternative, let’s hit the major pros and cons of down itself. This material, commonly found in pillows, is like the fancier and fluffier cousin of regular bird feathers. In fact, down actually is a kind of bird feather that’s taken from the soft undercoat of ducks and geese. 

Unlike other bird feathers, like those from the wings, down is much airier and insulating. So, although more expensive than feathers or down alternative, natural down is a great option for sleepers wanting a warm, but breathable material that keeps its fluff over time.


  • Eco-friendly—Down alternative is more eco-friendly than down alternative. This is because regular down is made from real and organic bird feathers, while down alternative is made from synthetic polyester. Also, down tends to last longer than its synthetic counterpart, meaning you’ll have to replace your down pillows or duvets less frequently over the years.
  • Durable—As mentioned above, bedding made from down is more durable and lasting than that made from down alternative. In fact, you can expect a down pillow to last up to 10 years, while a down alternative pillow will only last for one to three years. Also, down duvets can last between 10 and 15 years, while a down alternative duvet will typically last from five to eight years.
  • Luxurious feel—Although down alternative is meant to simulate the natural comfiness of down, there’s definitely a few areas where you’ll still be able to feel the difference. Firstly, while both materials are soft, down is noticeably fluffier and lighter. This means that your down bedding will also feel more breathable and loftier too.


  • Price—There’s lots of benefits to traditional down, but they do come at a price. With a typical down pillow costing $100–$300 and a down alternative pillow costing $50–$80, down isn’t nearly as wallet-friendly as down alternative.
  • Allergenic—A huge downside to down pillows and duvets, especially for sleepers with allergies or asthma, is that down is not a hypoallergenic material like down alternative. So, if you’re looking to save yourself from sneezing and missing out on sleep, down alternative is probably the safer bet here.
  • Higher maintenance—Lastly, while down is a high-quality and durable material, it still requires some care. While down alternative products can be regularly washed, it’s recommended that you dry clean your down bedding, use light detergent if you do machine wash, and give ample time for it to properly dry.

What Is a Down Alternative?

Just like down, down alternative is a bedding material that’s commonly found in pillows, duvets, and comforters. The main difference here is that down alternative is made from synthetic polyester microfibers, or “polyfill”, instead of goose or duck feathers. While the purpose of down alternative is to simulate the feel of natural down, this material is somewhat cheaper and lacks some of the fluff and airiness you’d get from feathers. Overall, down alternative is a low maintenance, vegan, and affordable alternative.


  • Vegan—While down is more organic and eco-friendly, down alternative is vegan and, for some shoppers, a more ethical product. Since down alternative is made synthetically from plastic, no animal products are used in the making of this material. Additionally, its polyester design is more hypoallergenic and a safer choice for sleepers with asthma.
  • Easy care—Down alternative bedding can be machine washed and dried normally, whereas traditional down requires more gentle care, dry cleaning, and extra drying as well. If you’re looking for bedding that’s low maintenance and easy to replace, down alternative is the better choice for you.
  • Budget-friendly—Across the board, any down alternative product is going to be more affordable than most anything made from down. In fact, if you’re looking to stock up on pillows, you can get down alternative options for as low as $30.


  • Cheaper material—That said, if you’re looking to invest in a high-quality bed setup that will last you many years, it might be worth the upfront cost to invest in regular down. Because down alternative tends to last as much as five years less than equivalent down products, you’ll end up having to make replacements every few years. Plus, the light, breathable feeling of organic down is worth the extra cost for many sleepers.
  • Temperature control—Because down alternative doesn’t have the same natural breathability as real down, this material allows for less airflow. So, if you tend to sleep hot or sweat a lot during the night, you won’t get the same ventilation and cooling as you would with a regular down duvet or comforter. Plus, down alternative is a heavier and denser material as well, meaning it’ll feel less airy.
  • Less loft—In addition to being a denser material, down alternative lacks the natural fluffiness of down feathers. For pillows especially, down is known for its lofter and fluffy feel, ideal for sleepers who want to “sink” down into their pillow. However, if you’re looking for a firmer pillow, down alternative is the better choice in this regard.

Down vs. Down Alternative FAQ

Is Down the Same As Feathers?

Although down is a kind of feather, it’s a much softer, more insulating, and more luxurious material than standard bird feathers. That said, both materials have a soft feel, and neither are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, down alternative, which is synthetic, is hypoallergenic and safe for asthmatic sleepers.

Is Down Alternative or Down Softer?

Down alternative and down feel very similar; however, natural down has a more luxurious feel, specifically that it’s more lofty and soft. On the other hand, down alternative is less fluffy and offers more firmness. While down alternative is made from denser polyester, down is made from soft feathers.

Is Down Good For Hot Sleepers?

No. Although down is more breathable and cooling than down alternative, it is still a highly insulating material and will retain a lot of body heat. So, if you’re looking for a new duvet or comforter, and you’re a hot sleeper, you have better luck with other bedding materials.

TLDR: Is Down or a Down Alternative Best for You?

Here’s the quick rundown on whether down or down alternative is best. Firstly, down is a much higher quality material than down alternative, and it’s more cooling and durable too. On the other hand, down alternative is much more affordable and easy to care for, but it isn’t great for hot sleepers. Lastly, down is softer than down alternative, due to its fluffier and more lofty feel.

Down Pillows Is Best For

  • Hot sleepers—If you’re looking for a breathable duvet or comforter, down is the better of the two options.
  • Quality shoppers—Down is a more premium material than down alternative, and, if you get a pillow, comforter, or duvet, you can expect it to last almost twice as long if it’s made from down.
  • Softer—Down alternative is soft, but it isn’t quite as soft as natural down feathers. Sleepers looking for a light and fluffy pillow will definitely prefer the real deal.

Down Alternative Pillows Is Best For

  • Budget shoppers—Down is higher quality and it’s at a higher cost too. Unless you’re looking to make a serious investment in your next pillow or duvet, going with down alternative bedding will save you hundreds.
  • Vegan shoppers—Down alternative, while not an eco-friendly material, is still a vegan product, and shoppers who want to avoid any animal products (such as feathers), will want to go with down alternative.
  • Low maintenance—If you don’t want to lose sleep over maintaining your bedding, down alternative is easier to wash and dry than natural down. This is because its polyester construct is more resistant to moisture and can be dry cleaned too.