Down alternative pillows are designed to mimic the plush feel of down without using the plumage of geese or ducks. Instead, they are most commonly made with polyester fibers or microfibers that form fluffy clusters.
Versatile, breathable, and widely available, down alternative pillows offer plenty of options for firmness, cover materials, cooling technologies, and other comfort characteristics.
We’ll take a look at our picks for the best down alternative pillows before exploring how pillow loft, firmness, and other performance and care considerations may impact your purchasing decision.
Sleep Doctor's Picks
Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow
Fill Material: PrimaLoft synthetic microfibers
Firmness: Soft, Medium, Firm
- PrimaLoft fill resists clumping
- Three levels of support for a more customized fit
- Certified by OEKO-TEX to be free of harmful substances
- Side sleepers
- People with allergies
- Those seeking a balance of comfort and support
Filled with PrimaLoft, a high-quality microfiber, the clump-resistant Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow is available in a choice of soft, medium, or firm support. The organic cotton shell features piping around the edge for a smartly finished look.
During testing, our side sleepers were especially impressed with the Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow. The three firmness levels allowed them to select the right fit for their body type to maximize spinal alignment. While the side and back sleepers on our testing team tended to prefer the medium or firm options, our stomach sleepers overwhelmingly chose the soft model, which allowed their heads to sink deeper into the pillow surface.
Each of the firmness options is available in standard and king sizes. Boll & Branch offers shoppers a 30-night sleep trial with free shipping and returns in the contiguous U.S.
An all-around performer, the Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow checks all the boxes in terms of craftsmanship, comfort, and performance. It’s an excellent choice for side sleepers, but it can also work well for stomach and back sleepers given the soft, medium, and firm support options.
FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow
Fill Material: Down alternative microfiber
Firmness: Soft, Firm
- Available in two firmness levels
- 300 thread count cotton cover combines softness and breathability
- Company offers discounts if purchasing multiple pillows
- Side sleepers under 230 pounds and back sleepers under 130 pounds
- Value seekers
- Those looking to recreate the feel of hotel bedding at home
The FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow takes its inspiration from pillows used in high-end hotels. The pillow’s microfiber fill mimics the airy comfort of down but is vegan and hypoallergenic. Soft and firm support levels allow sleepers to choose their best fit. The 300 thread count cotton cover uses double-needle edge sewing for added durability.
During testing, the FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow earned high marks from side sleepers under 230 pounds and back sleepers weighing less than 130 pounds. All our testers cited the pillow’s superior moldability and ease of cleaning.
The pillow’s standard size measures 20 inches wide by 28 inches long, which is 2 inches longer than most standard pillows. It’s also available in a 20-by-26 king size. The company offers a 30-day sleep trial, free U.S. shipping on orders over $75, and free returns.
Light and breathable, the FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow is a good bet for sleepers seeking hotel-quality comfort at a reasonable price.
Nolah AirFiber Pillow
Fill Material: Polyester Fibers
Firmness: Medium Soft
- Buoyant and adaptable AirFiber fill
- Cotton cover infused with phase change material
- Sleeps cool
- Side sleepers under 230 pounds and back sleepers under 130 pounds
- People who tend to sleep hot
- Those who want a highly moldable pillow
The Nolah AirFiber Pillow enhances the airiness of traditional down with proprietary materials and built-in cooling technologies. The company’s AirFiber material is made from high-resilience polyester fibers. A cotton cover incorporates Nolah’s Outlast phase change material that’s designed to reduce the surface temperature of the pillow.
Our testing team’s side sleepers weighing less than 230 pounds and back sleepers under 130 pounds found that the AirFiber Pillow’s 6-inch loft and medium soft firmness provided just-right levels of comfort and support. Testers also noted the pillow’s top-notch moldability, which allowed them to shape it against the curves of their neck and head.
On the other hand, our stomach sleepers felt that the moderately plush feel failed to compensate for the high loft’s incompatibility with their preferred sleep style.
The Nolah AirFiber Pillow is only sold in a queen size that measures 20 by 30 inches. Nolah offers free shipping, a 30-night sleep trial, and a two-year warranty.
Overall, the Nolah AirFiber Pillow delivers an appealing combination of softness and support. Moldable and breathable, the pillow cools while it conforms, delivering a good night’s rest for most side and back sleepers.
Best for Side Sleepers
Parachute Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow
Fill Material: Down alternative microfiber
Firmness: Medium Soft
- Gusset designed to support side sleepers
- Microfiber fill adds plushness and loft
- Three-year warranty protects against flaws in the materials or workmanship
- Side sleepers under 230 pounds
- Those seeking a mix of support and softness
- Shoppers looking for a lightweight, moldable pillow
For side sleepers seeking relief from having to frequently fluff their pillow, the Parachute Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow keeps its shape and loft throughout the night. The pillow’s 3.5-inch gusset raises the neck to relieve pressure points that can result from pillows lying too flat.
While the gusset helps maintain the pillow’s shape and supportiveness, the finely spun microfiber fill mimics the plushness of down for a medium soft firmness level. The cotton shell supplements the pillow’s softness with a smooth and silky sateen weave. All seams are reinforced with double-stitched piping.
Our testers confirmed that this Parachute pillow performs well for side sleepers. They also noted the pillow’s excellent moldability and lightness, which makes it easier to shape and fluff as needed.
The pillow is available in standard and king sizes. Parachute offers free U.S. shipping, free returns within 60 days, and a three-year warranty.
Combining fluffy microfiber fill with a thoughtful design, the Parachute Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow delivers the extra support side sleepers need without sacrificing comfort.
Saatva Down Alternative Pillow
Fill Material: Down Alternative
- Two layers of down alternative fibers combine ultrafine softness and support
- Organic cotton cover with satin piping
- 45-day free returns and a one-year limited warranty
- Back sleepers under 230 pounds and side sleepers under 130 pounds
- Sleepers prioritizing luxe comfort
- Those seeking mid-level firmness
The Saatva Down Alternative Pillow uses two kinds of fibers to create extra plushness and support. An organic cotton cover encases a layer of microdenier fibers with an ultrafine construction that mimics the feel of down. Meanwhile, an inner layer of memory fiber clusters offers buoyant support.
The pillow’s combined layers have a medium firmness level that works well for back sleepers. During our sleep lab tests, back sleepers under 230 pounds and side sleepers weighing less than 130 pounds gave the Saatva Down Alternative Pillow excellent scores, finding that the dual fiber layers provided just the right level of softness and support.
Saatva’s down alternative offering comes in slightly undersized 16-by-28-inch queen and 20-by-34 king sizes. Purchases include free shipping within the contiguous U.S., 45-day free returns, and a one-year limited warranty.
Blending premium materials and durable construction, the Saatva Down Alternative Pillow combines temperature neutrality and lofty comfort in a luxury design that benefits most back and side sleepers.
Best for Back Sleepers
Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow
Fill Material: Polyester down alternative fibers
- Combines high loft with mid-range firmness
- 100-night sleep trial
- Back and side sleepers up to 230 pounds
- People who want a moldable pillow that sleeps cool
- Those who value ease of cleaning
Polyester fibers simulate the airy feel of down in the Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow. This synthetic down alternative is fluffy and light, giving the pillow an 8-inch profile that sinks down slightly to cushion your head. With a medium firmness level, the pillow offers support without sacrificing comfort.
Back sleepers weighing less than 230 pounds gave the Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow excellent marks during our sleep lab tests. This intermediate level of support and superior moldability also earned high praise from our side sleepers under 230 pounds.
The Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow is available in standard and king sizes. The pillow ships free within the contiguous U.S. and comes with a two-year warranty and a 100-night sleep trial. Pillows are sold in a set of two.
Light and comfy with excellent moldability, the Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow is a solid choice for back sleepers in any weight group, though it particularly excels for those under 230 pounds.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our diverse team of sleep experts with a range of body types and preferred sleep positions has personally researched and tested hundreds of pillows over the years. Using standards similar to our mattress testing methodology, we tested each pillow in our sleep lab to provide a carefully vetted selection of the best down alternative pillows across a variety of product categories.
What Is Down Alternative?
Traditional down pillows are filled with the soft inner layer of fine feathers from the chest and underbelly of ducks and geese. These feathers combine into the fluffy clusters that give down pillows their signature loft. When compressed by a sleeper’s body, the feathers deliver soft support to the head and neck.
Down alternative is a synthetic fill that mimics the performance characteristics of down. It is most often made from ultrafine polyester fibers or microfibers, as these most closely resemble the loft and supportiveness of natural down. Occasionally, you can also find down alternative pillows filled with cotton, kapok, or wool.
Down alternative does not come from animals, nor does it trap allergens like regular down tends to do. The vegan-friendly, cost-effective, hypoallergenic fill is a good choice for people with allergies, shoppers on a budget, and those concerned about animal welfare.
Down Alternative vs. Down in Your Pillows
Down alternative performs very similarly to down by design. However, each material has its own characteristics that can affect the way it performs inside a pillow. Down is natural and durable with lightweight loft and support. Down alternative is heavier and less durable, but it is also hypoallergenic, vegan-friendly, and often machine-washable.
Down Alternative vs. Down
Is an Alternative Down Pillow Right for You?
Down alternative pillows are a popular option because they can do an excellent job of mimicking down’s positive qualities while offering their own advantages. Sleepers searching for versatile, hypoallergenic, easy-to-clean, or vegan-friendly bedding options may find that a down alternative pillow makes sense.
Tiny spaces between the ultrafine down alternative fibers create loft and allow air to pass through the pillow. This breathability helps keep the sleep surface cool.
People With Down Allergies
Pillows made with synthetic fibers are generally easier to clean than natural down and do not have the cracks and crevices that tend to attract and trap dust mites and other allergens.
Good for Most Sleep Positions
Fine and flexible, down alternative fibers are a versatile fill that can be adjusted to match most sleep position preferences. Some pillows come in different firmness levels, while certain models feature adjustable fill.
People Looking for Vegan Products
Down alternative fibers create loft and softness without using feathers, making them a vegan-friendly option for shoppers looking to keep animal products out of their pillows.
What Should You Know About Down Alternative Pillows?
Down alternative pillows are one of the most common pillow types. We’ll take a closer look at what you should know about down alternative pillows, including how much they cost, how to wash them, and whether there are adjustable fill options.
How Much Do Down Alternative Pillows Cost?
Shoppers can find a basic, serviceable down alternative pillow in a big-box store or online for around $20 to $30. For above-average performance and higher-quality materials, prices start around $80 and can exceed $100 in some cases.
Are Down Alternative Pillows Adjustable?
Many down alternative pillows are adjustable, meaning owners can access the interior of the pillow, usually via a zipper, and remove some of the fill for customized firmness and loft. If an adjustable pillow isn’t an option, sellers will often offer the same pillow in two or three firmness levels.
Can You Wash a Down Alternative Pillow?
Ease of cleaning is one of down alternative’s major advantages over traditional down. While you should always check the care instructions, many down alternative pillows can be machine-washed and tumble dried on low. Consider adding tennis balls to the dryer to speed drying and promote loft.
Spot-cleaning with a vinegar solution or a gentle detergent can work for small stains or for pillows that are not recommended for machine-washing.
Is It Better to Have Polyester or Cotton Fibers in Your Down Alternative Pillows?
Polyester and cotton fibers have different performance characteristics that will appeal to different sleepers. In terms of options and availability, polyester is easier to find and generally has a wider range of choices, including support levels and cover materials. Polyester is usually cheaper, but this can depend on the quality of the fibers and the current market for cotton.
Both materials function similarly to down, though polyester is typically the closer match. Cotton is comparably easy to wash and breathable, but it generally sleeps firmer. It can be a good option for those looking for a natural alternative to down.
Pillow Height, Firmness, Support, and Keeping Your Spine Aligned
Different sleeping positions need different levels of support from a pillow. We’ll explore both loft and firmness in relation to sleep position and how they work together to promote healthy spinal alignment.
Your Pillow’s Loft
Loft is another term for the height or thickness of a pillow. The loft of a pillow contributes to keeping your head, neck, and spine in proper alignment, making it an important factor in a pillow’s supportiveness and overall comfort. Selecting the best pillow with the right loft depends on your preferred sleep position.
What Pillow Loft Do You Need?
Side sleepers typically benefit from a high-loft pillow measuring 5 inches or more that can raise the head away from the shoulders.
A pillow with a mid-level loft between 3 and 5 inches generally provides just enough support under a back sleeper’s neck to ensure the head isn’t tilted at an inappropriate angle.
Low-loft pillows work best for stomach sleepers, who often need just a few inches of loft to maintain proper alignment.
Combination sleepers should aim for a mid-level loft to accommodate their shifting positions. Hedge toward a higher loft if you spend more time on your side and a lower loft if you find yourself on your stomach more often.
How Firm Should Your Down Alternative Pillow Be?
Along with loft, firmness is also an important factor when selecting a pillow. It plays a key role in alignment and can greatly impact comfort. As with loft, choosing the right firmness level comes down to your preferred sleep position.
What Firmness Do You Need?
Side sleepers generally benefit from a moderately firm pillow. Softer firmnesses allow the head to sink too far into the sleep surface, while firmer pillows resist compression and may result in neck pain.
Back sleepers often fare best with medium firm pillows. This mid-range firmness level helps avoid the neck strain that may come from a pillow that’s too hard or too soft.
Pillows that are less firm keep stomach sleepers’ heads from resting too high. A soft pillow raises the head just enough to maintain comfort without placing uncomfortable strain on the neck and shoulders.
Combination sleepers may find that a mid-range firmness level keeps them adequately supported through most of their shifting sleep positions. You can lean toward a softer or firmer pillow depending on which position you spend the most time.
Pillow Support and Keeping Your Spine Aligned
Supportive pillows promote spinal alignment. In particular, your pillow should keep your neck in a neutral position. Sleepers can avoid uncomfortable pressure points and sleep-related pain by selecting a pillow with proper support.
The supportiveness of a down alternative pillow depends on its loft and firmness and how well they match your preferred sleep position and body type. This means there is no universally supportive down alternative pillow.
Instead, sleepers need to take into account their preference for side, back, or stomach sleeping, as well as their shoulder, neck, and head proportions. Thoughtfully shopping with these personal needs in mind can increase the odds you’ll find a pillow that keeps you comfortably supported.