down vs down alternative
Bedroom Design

Down vs. Down Alternative: Is One Better Than the Other?

    Last Updated
    March 24, 2023
    min read

    The main difference between down and down alternative is the filling. Down is from the soft undercoating of waterfowl, down alternative is a synthetic material that mimics the feel of down material at an often much lower cost.

    People prone to allergies may prefer a down alternative option. It’s important to understand the difference between down and down-alternative bedding. 

    While both options can deliver high-quality sleep, there’s likely one that better suits your preferences. Keep reading to understand the key differences.

    What Is Down? 

    Down material pillow with a list of its benefits

    Down is a type of filling for pillows, duvet inserts, comforters, and blankets that is made from authentic down feathers. These feathers are typically sourced from the underbellies of geese and ducks and are great at regulating temperature. 

    Down bedding is famously lightweight, with an especially fluffy nature that holds its composition well over time.

    Take note that down filling is different from feather filling. Although both filling types come from waterfowl, they differ in terms of softness, supportiveness, and heat retention. 

    Down is a layer of fine and soft fibers underneath bird feathers. Its main purpose is to trap air and provide insulation – with a comfy feel. 

    Don't get feather and down confused. Read our guide to learn more about the difference between down and feather pillows

    Down is ideal for:

    • People who have no ethical objections to products sourced from animals;
    • People who do not have animal allergies;
    • People who need extra-warm bedding.

    What Is Down Alternative?

    down alternative pillow with down alternative benefits listed

    Down alternatives use various fabricated alternatives to achieve the same effect as down. These types of fillings are not sourced from animals. Instead, down alternative comforters, pillows, duvets, etc. are typically made of hypoallergenic materials like polyester, rayon, and cotton.

    Down alternative is ideal for:

    • People who may be allergic to goose and duck feathers;
    • People who prefer products not sourced from animals;
    • People who want the comfort of down but are looking for a more affordable option;

    Down alternative is also favored by those who find down beddings too warm. If you’re one of those people who tend to run hot in your sleep, you can learn how to sleep better, even in warm weather. Read our guide to sleeping when it’s too hot to learn more.

    Down vs Down Alternative: How to Choose

    down vs down alternative material with key differences listed

    When you’re faced with a down or down alternative when picking your pillows, duvet, or comforter, keep a few different factors in mind. Your available budget, preferred pillow replacement rate, and the sleep preferences of anyone else using your bed should all influence your decision. Don't get feather and down confused. Feather is different from down material.

    Fill Power

    Fill power is the relative “fluffiness” of your pillows or bedding. Technically, there is no such thing as an “ideal” fill power. What’s important is that you find the bedding density that can give you the best night’s sleep. 

    If you prefer your beddings to feel light and warm, you’ll likely benefit from fillings with a high fill power. The fluffier the down, the warmer it’ll be. In that sense, you don’t need a lot of ultra-fluffy down to fill a pillow or duvet. As such, super warm and fluffy down beddings tend to be lighter in weight as well.

    Alternatively, sleep accessories with a lower fill power are cooler and retain their shape better than those with high fill power. Feathers and down alternative fillings tend to have a lower fill power and are thus better for those who run hot or simply prefer less insulation when they sleep. 


    Down can trigger symptoms in people who are prone to bedroom allergies. It doesn’t just contain allergens from birds, but pollen, dust mites, and other allergens found in plants and animals. Bird feathers and down also tend to trap more skin cells and dust mites than down alternative fillings. 

    As such, down alternative is a great hypoallergenic alternative to down.

    Want to learn more about keeping bedroom allergies in check? Check out our guide to controlling bedroom allergies.


    Despite its insulative properties, down filling is notably breathable. This is because you don’t need a lot of down to fill your bedding. On the other hand, down alternative requires more filling to provide as much insulation as down. 


    Not all down products are machine-washable and dryable. Usually, you’ll need to use mild detergent and use the lowest setting on your machine. 

    You’ll have to use the low heat setting on your dryer as well – high temperatures do not bode well for down filling. Some people find washing bulky down comforters or duvet covers at home too cumbersome and send them off to a laundromat instead.


    If durability and getting the most out of your investment are your most important priorities when purchasing bedding, down is likely your best bet. This is partially because down alternative is easier to wash at home, and is thus more prone to wear and tear from frequent washing. 

    However, that’s not to say that down alternative isn’t durable. Down alternative can still last for years with proper care.


    Sourcing down is costly and labor intensive, making authentic down filling more expensive than synthetic alternatives.

    Personal Preference

    Ultimately, personal preference still plays a big factor in whether down or down alternative is best for you. Down is sourced from birds and is thus not a sustainable or vegan-friendly bedding filling.

    Washing down beddings also requires more care and attention than washing down alternative bedding. For some, the amount of time and care it takes to wash down bedding can be a deal breaker.

    If you’re looking for the best way to get down and down alternative pillows clean, take a look at our guides:

    Upgrade Your Sleep With Purple

    Whether you’re not a fan of the heat-trapping capabilities of down or are looking for a sustainable, hypoallergenic option for your beddings, consider Purple’s range of down alternative pillows. Try out our Cloud Pillow, TwinCloud pillow, and TempBalance duvet for a cloud-like comfort from dusk to dawn.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Down Vs Down Alternative

    What lasts longer, down or down alternative?

    Down typically lasts longer than down alternative. Down is a hardy material that, when cared for properly, can last for many years.

    What is better: down or down alternative?

    Down and down alternative each have their own pros and cons. Down is great at retaining heat, and is fluffy, durable, and lightweight. Down alternative, on the other hand, is typically made of hypoallergenic materials and is more affordable and easier to wash. 

    Is down alternative good for winter?

    Down alternative is not ideal for winter. Down alternative beddings need more filling to reach the same insulation levels as down-filled beddings. In turn, they become heavier and less breathable than down-filled options. 

    Is down alternative firmer than down?

    Down alternative tends to offer more firm support. Whereas down is more fluffy. 


    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.