Down Products Guide: Down Pillows

General Organic Natural & Organic Bedding Organic Bedding Resources

So many choices!

With so many options for down pillows, it can be downright confusing to shop for them.  With our guide in hand, you’ll learn the terminology (with words such as “fill power”), learn what the best fill is for your pillows, what a thread count is, and why it is important. Then, we’ll discuss how to choose the right firmness based on your sleeping position. We’ll talk about allergies. Finally, we will tell you how to care for your down pillow.  Let’s begin!

Type of Down

Goose down is considered to be the best fill for pillows. That is because goose down is large and fluffy. It is quite important to know where your down is coming from. The colder the climate and the older and bigger the bird is, the larger and thicker the clusters will be. Geese are considered cold-climate birds and larger than ducks; hence, goose down is of higher quality. Additionally, geese only eat grass, so goose down is almost odorless. You can determine the size of goose-down clusters by looking at the fill power.

Down is the soft fiber immediately covering the flesh of a duck or goose, while feathers are attached to the body with a shaft.

Fill power

Fill power is a measure of how much space (in cubic inches) an ounce of down will fill. For example, a pillow with 800 fill power means that an ounce of down will fill 800 cubic inches. Higher fill power means larger down clusters. Larger down clusters tend to be of the higher loft. So a higher fill power means a higher loft. The top-of-the-line down pillows will typically be 800 fill power and above. 600 and 700 can also be practical; it all depends on the type of loft you are looking for and how long you want the pillow to last. Typically, if your pillow has a higher fill power, it will last longer, remain firmer, have expanded loft, and in general, a longer life. So, while a higher fill power may be a more substantial initial investment, it will pay off over time.  What about feathers? Feathers tend to flatten out more than fluffy down, so down is the preferred fill for pillows. Also, the quills of feathers can tend to stick through pillow casings and not be as comfortable. Therefore, it is important to be cautious about feather fill in pillows and be aware of what type of cover your pillow has.

Thread count 

What is thread count, and why is it important? Thread count refers to the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch. If the thread count is higher, it typically means there is a tighter weave and a better barrier to prevent the passing of dust mites, dirt, and feathers. Also, higher thread counts usually mean there is a softer feel to the fabric. A good number to look for is 300 thread count or above.  There are other characteristics to look for in your shopping. A double-shell design will provide more security and a longer life for your pillow. Piping is attractive along the seams, but it has a functional purpose as well. Piping helps your pillow withstand wear and tear by providing support around the seams to prevent leakage. A gusseted pillow will have a higher loft since there is more room for expansion.

Your pillow should help your spine be perfectly aligned.

Sleeping Positions and Pillow Firmness

Whatever position you sleep in, the rule of thumb is this:  Your pillow should help your spine be perfectly aligned and straight for your sleeping comfort. Here are considerations based on sleeping positions. 

  • Side Sleepers.   In the most common sleeping position, side sleepers typically need a medium-to-high loft of at least 4 inches for the pillow to provide proper support. This firmer support will help keep a neutral position for your spine and support your head, shoulders, and neck.
  • Stomach Sleepers. Those who sleep on their stomachs typically need a soft pillow that gently cradles your head while supporting your neck. A thinner pillow will provide the best cushion while also maintaining the best position for your spine.
  • Back Sleepers. For good spinal alignment, back sleepers need a medium-thickness pillow. Somewhere between 4-6 inches and a medium thickness should do the trick. A slight s-curve will place the head just a little above the shoulders.


Down pillows are naturally hypoallergenic, as long as the down is cleaned thoroughly. This is another area where it is good to know the origin of your down and how well it was cleaned. You will also want to make sure that there is a tight weave to your cover, as it will hamper any nasties, such as dust mites, from getting into your pillow. Another option is to buy a pillow filled with a combination of down and syriaca or milkweed. This fiber calms down the allergens in down, making the down pillow hypoallergenic. 

Pillow Care

First and foremost, always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Secondly, we strongly recommend the use of a washable pillow protector and of a pillowcase. These will cut down on how often you need to clean your pillow. If you decide to go the professional route for cleaning, make sure to choose an establishment with extensive experience in cleaning down products. Each manufacturer will inform you as to the care of their particular pillow. One of the most important things to remember is to make sure the pillow is completely dry when finished. Please consult with your manufacturer for specific care.

We are proud to offer a variety of quality down pillows with various pricing to fit any budget. If you seek to buy a down comforter, check out our blog post on that particular topic here.