Ever seen a shivering goose? No – this is why…
Down duvets are luxurious. Down is the lightest of materials, while also offering the best heat insulation making them wonderfully warm.
Siberian, Hungarian, British, European or Canadian ? Down bedding now comes from a variety of different places. Goose down or duck down? If you’re confused about which is best, read on or scroll down to our Different Types of Down comparison chart for quick understanding.
Down – what you need to know
- Where is the down from?
- What is the ‘fill power’ – fluffiness and warmth of the duvet?
- Is the down from an ethical company?
- Can I use down or feathers with an allergy? – Yes, if you’re careful. See our About Anti Allergy Duvets section.
To sum it up: you tend to get what you pay for. Cheap can often mean down that’s not washed and is unethically produced.
If you find a down duvet or pillow which is crazily cheap, don’t be tempted. Manufacturers can take short-cuts like not washing or combing their down and feathers thoroughly, or choosing lower grade feathers from less desirable areas of the bird! At their worst, bedding and pillows can smell like a farmyard – and they’re also not as soft as the more expensive stuff.
- Where is the down from?
Down feathers come from either ducks or geese and as a guide, generally the colder the environment the bird is from, the warmer and more expensive the duvet. Thus, Siberian goose down duvets are competing for the lead in the premier league of duvets along with Canadian and of course traditional Eider-down duvets.
- What is the fill power of the duvet? How warm and fluffy is the down?
You should also bear in mind ‘fill power’. Fill power (FP) tells you how fluffy the particular type of down is and how much warmth it will have. The fluffier the down is, the more air it will trap between its fibres and the more insulating properties it will have. Mature birds and those from very cold climates tend to produce fluffier down with higher fill factors hence why they tend to be more expensive. Fill power links to tog rating, and this is why down duvets are so clever – the better quality the duvet, the more warmth it will generate whilst still being very light.
Wikipedia has an even more scientific explanation of fill power here if you’re interested.
- Is down ethical?
We should all be concerned that down comes from manufacturers with good animal welfare reputations. The best down has been traditionally collected from nests (see eider-down below) but this is increasingly rare and extremely expensive. Now, most commonly companies use the feathers and down from birds which have been raised for food where their welfare is monitored and this makes environmental and ethical sense.
Most European sources of down will be under EU legislation regarding animal welfare. Look for where the down is from, and choose one of the retailers we recommend on our ‘Best Places to Buy Duvets‘ page. Soak and Sleep, John Lewis, The White Company, amongst others, all promise that they only use ethically produced down – we’ve linked their policies about down to the store names above if you click. Most large companies will have a policy or you might spot those who are members of the ‘Ethical Trading Initiative’ .
What down? Eider-down?
The word ‘eiderdown’ tells us exactly what filling would be used – the down of the common eider duck, a large duck which breeds inside the Arctic circle and is commonly found on coasts of Northern Europe, America and Siberia.
The eider duck plucks the down from its breast and uses it to line its nest to provide a warm, soft, insulating layer for its eggs. The down is harvested by farmers and gatherers in these countries to make into duvets, pillows and quilts and is now entirely sustainable and eco-friendly. Down is gathered either after the ducklings have left the nest, or is taken and replaced by an alternative which works just as well to keep the eggs warm.
However, as you can imagine, real eiderdown is expensive to harvest – market prices vary, but eider down farmers get paid around 2000 Euros for a kilo of down! Unless you’re happy paying thousands for a pure eiderdown duvet, most down fillings for duvets, quilts and pillows now come from farmed geese or ducks.
There’s more information about eider down harvesting here.
If you want to compare different duvet filling types, look at our ‘duvet comparison charts’ or go straight to our Down Duvet Reviews pages.
Down or Feathers? Brilliantly clear video.