What Exactly is the Difference Between Down and Down Alternative?

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Finding Lovely

When it comes to outfitting your bedroom for a great night's sleep, getting your bedding right is key. From the sheets all the way to the comforter, the right linens can make the difference between a restless night and a serene slumber. Whether you're buying a comforter or investing in new pillows, you will likely come across the words "down" and "down alternative."

But how do you decide between the two? We polled two sleep experts to find out—and help you make the decision before you upgrade your bedding. The right choice for you comes down to budget, preferences, and sleep style. Read on for everything you need to know about down and down alternative.

What is Down?

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Gold a la Mode

When you think of bedding, you probably think of down. Deanna Wu, Vice President of Merchandising at Brooklinen, says to think of down as the fluffiest option out there, giving you a cloud-like feel. "Down is a natural material found as soft clusters beneath bird feathers," she says. "Down is ideal for customers looking for a soft, fluffy, cloud-like comforter that is still supremely breathable."

The more down a product has, the fluffier the feel. You can usually find down pillows and comforters as well as mattress toppers.

What is Down Alternative?

So now that you know what down is, what exactly is down alternative? Ariel Kaye, Founder & CEO of Parachute, says to think of down alternative as the hypoallergenic cousin to down. "Down alternative is made with a hypoallergenic microfiber fill that mimics the fluffiness and insulating ability of luxury down," she says.

Down alternative can be made from polyester, cotton, or rayon—and similarly to down, the more fill you have, the fluffier your comforter or pillow.

Is Down More Expensive Than Down Alternative?

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Gold a la Mode

If you're on a budget, it's important to understand the difference in price between the two. According to Wu, you should expect to pay more for down, which makes down alternative a great option for someone on a budget. Down is extremely difficult to procure, which can make down products cost double (or more) that of a down alternative product.

Which is Better for Allergies?

One of the best things about down alternative is that it's a great solution for anyone who suffers from allergies. "I would definitely recommend a down alternative product for someone with allergies," says Wu. "The synthetic fibers are gentle and hypoallergenic, and well-made down alternatives have advanced to be able to flawlessly mimic the weight and feel of down, too."

Down can cause flareups for anyone with allergies or asthma, so opting for a high-quality down alternative is a great solution.

Is Down or Down Alternative Good for Hot Sleepers?

Anyone who sleeps hot knows the agony of waking up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat. If you're a sweaty sleeper, the good news is that either option can work for you. According to Wu, "As most down alternative products very closely mimic that feel of down, there is not a huge difference between the two in identical weights when it comes to insulation." This means a high-end down alternative will feel very similar to a down comforter.

That said, many companies will offer down and down alternative in both heavy and lightweight versions, so you can buy the right type for your sleeping temperature.

Which is Easier to Clean?

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Gray Space Interior Design

While down and down alternative have a lot of similarities, this is one category where there is a clear winner. If you are concerned about washing your bedding often, down alternative is easier to clean. Many down products are dry clean only, while most down alternatives can be cleaned in your washing machine.

If ease of maintenance is important to you and you don't mind synthetic fibers, consider down alternative instead of down.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, both down and down alternative have many benefits—and because down alternative was created to mimic down, a well-made down alternative is very similar to the real thing, making it difficult to decide between the two.

Deciding between the two "really comes down to personal preference, as they are both fluffy, lofty, and cozy," says Kaye. "Down comes from the undercoating of ducks and geese and provides a softer sleeping experience, while [alternative] is great if you have seasonal allergies or prefer vegan home decor."

In the end, both options are great choices for making up a bed that will make you want to hit snooze again and again.