What to Look for When Buying Feather Pillows

Updated March 21, 2017

For many consumers, the unique, plush texture of feather pillows is comparable to no other type of pillow. This item of down bedding can be extremely affordable, if you're willing to make concessions. But if you want a feather pillow that gives you the most comfort and maintains its quality over several years, there are certain things to look for in its overall construction before your purchase.

Fill Type

When selecting a feather pillow, look inside the fabric cover for the type of fill, called fill power. Classic feather pillows typically consist of a certain percentage of feathers and down. These pillows are generally affordable. On the higher end of bedding luxury is the feather pillow, filled with 100 per cent down.

Down pillows, especially those with a high fill power, last longer than other feather pillows. They have more loft and feel less weighty. Feathers are brittler and more likely to poke through the small gaps in your pillow's ticking. Yet classic feather-down pillow have more substance and can be scrunched and moulded to a desired shape.

Goose down is considered to be of better quality than duck down. Yet in the world of down bedding, eiderdown harvested from the nests of Eider ducks reigns supreme: a standard-sized eiderdown pillow can cost more than £1,300.

If a pillow's label does not state that it contains goose down, it's probably filled with duck down.

Fill Power vs. Firmness

Many consumers confuse a feather pillow's fill power with its level of firmness. Fill power refers to the size of the down clusters contained in the pillow. For example, a pillow with 800 fill power contains down clusters that are slightly smaller than a quarter. Clusters from a pillow with 600 fill power will be considerably smaller. Higher fill power is associated with the overall quality of the pillow. Not only will it last longer, it retains its firmness better over time and has more lofting power.

However, a higher fill power doesn't necessarily mean that the pillow will be firmer. Firmness depends on how many ounces of fill are in the pillow itself. A soft regular-sized pillow may contain only 340gr. of down, while an extra-firm pillow may contain 539gr.

If you don't know what level of firmness you desire in your feather pillow, consider your sleeping habits. Soft feather pillows are recommended for those who sleep on their stomachs. Back sleepers usually enjoy a feather pillow with medium firmness. Those who sleep on their sides may prefer a pillow that's medium, firm or extra-firm.

Feather Pillow Ticking

Of final consideration when buying a feather pillow is the pillow's ticking, or fabric shell. Cottons with high thread counts are desirable in sheets and pillow cases because the feel of this fabric is silk and soft against the skin. Since you will cover your pillow with a pillowcase, the thread count of your ticking may not seem significant.

However, fabric with a high thread count is woven very tightly, making it less likely that tiny pieces of feather or down poke through the fabric and escape. The closer the thread count in your feather pillow's ticking is to 800, the better.

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About the Author

Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.