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Down vs. Feather: What's the difference?

When it comes to choosing your bedding, we believe that comfort is the priority. Choosing the right pillow and duvet can make or break the quality of your sleep. Some of the most popular questions from our customers are about the filling of our down pillows and duvets. What is down? Why is it so expensive? Are feathers and down the same thing? What’s the difference between goose and duck down?

To answer these questions, we need to go back to the source. Down and feathers come from exactly the same place: a goose or a duck. Feathers are the outer covering of the bird; they make it possible for the animal to fly, and they contain quills.




Down fibres lie beneath the protective feather covering of the bird. They typically come from the soft underside of the animal's belly and provide insulation to keep it warm. Down fibres are light and fluffy, and do not contain any quills. For this reason, pure down is considered to be one of the best fillings for your pillows. Their light and airy fibres make the pillow malleable, and ideal for a soft, supportive pillow. Down is perfectly conducive to a comfortable sleep and also provides excellent temperature control, adapting to your body's internal temperature. This will help keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Unlike pure down pillows, feather-filled pillows are typically decorative in nature. They give your toss cushions a soft and sumptuous look, but you would probably find a pure feather pillow too firm for sleeping, and the sharp quills can often poke through the protective cover. Alternatively, you may want to look for a blend of feathers and down - the feathers offering a bit more firmness and the down giving the pillow more softness and malleability. For a really firm pillow without the potential for being poked by quills, we like a down-wrapped pillow in which the centre of the fill (80%) is feather, with a soft outer layer (20%) of down (such as our Summit pillow).


As for the down itself, we’re often asked - why is goose down better than duck? The answer is simple! Geese are larger birds than ducks, making their down clusters larger. Larger down clusters equal a higher fill power, and therefore a fluffier pillow.

With the ubiquity of down-filled jackets on the market, the global price of down has skyrocketed (read more here). Many suppliers are passing off chicken and duck feathers, or blends thereof, as authentic goose down products. Before you buy a down product, make sure that it is regulated by your regional down association. In Canada, this is DownMark. In the U.S, it’s the United States Down Association.

We offer a variety of pure goose down and feather pillow options. If you're confused about which pillow is right for you, give our dream bed experts a call at 1-800-363-6080.