Down & Down Alternative Buying Guide

Bedding Basics Buying Guide > Down & Down Alternative Buying Guide


What is Down & Down Alternative?

Natural down and man-made down-alternative comforters can be used year round, and depending on their “fill power,” offer varying degrees of warmth to help control body temperature. Use this guide to help you find your perfect comforter.

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What is Down?

Down is the light, fluffy coating clustered beneath the feathers of waterfowl that protect them from the elements and keep them warm. The temperature of one down comforter can be compared to 14 wool blankets. Down comforters also breathe well.


What are the Benefits of Down?

Even on the coldest nights, down comforters can keep you warm with their amazing insulation. Down pillows offer unsurpassed, cushy comfort and flexibility. Down bedding offers comfortable, lightweight breathability and year-round comfort.


What is Down Alternative?

Synthetic-filled down-alternative products are fluffy and simulate the softness of down without the allergens or cost. Light, strong and durable, polyester is popular as both a standalone fill and a blend. Down alternatives are typically inexpensive, versatile, hypoallergenic and washable.


What is Fill Power?

Fill power indicates the potential warmth level of the comforter. It is calculated by noting the space an ounce of down will occupy in a cylinder. Higher fill power means more fluff in the down, which traps more air, creating warmth. Generally, the higher the fill power, the warmer the down will be.


How To Wash a Down Comforter

Manufacturers usually offer cleaning suggestions for their down items. Unless soiled, most will recommend professionally cleaning down comforters once every couple years. Using a duvet cover over the comforter will help keep body oils and dirt from penetrating the down comforter.


  • Repair any tears and spot clean stains prior to laundering.
  • Most comforters are probably too big for your home washer, so consider using a large-capacity front-loading washing machine at a local laundromat. Even if you have a larger top loader, you may want to use the laundromat as agitators can damage the comforter. Use a delicate-cycle setting, warm water and a minimal amount of mild or all-natural laundry detergent with your load. Too much soap can strip the down, so be sparing. Run through an extra rinse cycle to ensure all soap is rinsed out.
  • After the wash is complete, load your comforter into a dryer large enough for plenty of room to fluff. Run the dryer on air fluff or the lowest temperature possible. Stop the dryer periodically and break up any lumps that are forming. You can also toss dryer balls, a canvas sneaker shoe with no laces, or sock-covered tennis balls into the dryer along with the comforter. Any of these items can help break up the clumps and fluff the comforter as it dries.
  • Expect the drying process to take a few hours but ensure that all the down is completely dry to prevent mold and mildew growth. If the item is still slightly damp, lay it outside on a flat surface or clothesline on a warm day or in an area in the house that will allow circulation on all sides. You can also lay it outside a few times a year to freshen as well.
  • If you're storing the comforter, wrap it in a cotton sheet.