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Choosing a Down Comforter

Updated on March 24, 2009

A good quality down comforter may be the best bedding purchase you'll ever make. Cozy, fluffy, and soft, down comforters have a well deserved reputation for night-time bliss. However, not all down comforters are created equal.

Here are some tips on choosing a down comforter that's perfect for your needs:

Photo by IndyDina and Mr. Wonderful
Photo by IndyDina and Mr. Wonderful

Thread Count

Thread count is the number of threads per square inch. The higher the thread count, the softer and more durable the comforter. Higher thread counts also prevent dirt and dust from passing through and mingling with the down, and, if you purchase a comforter that contains a mix of down and feather, they prevent feathers from sticking through the fabric and poking you.

However, because it is recommended that you use down comforters with a duvet cover anyway, it is not as important to choose an extremely high thread count down comforter as it might be to choose high thread count sheets and pillow cases. If you are on a tighter budget, this is one area where you can safely skimp a little.

Baffle Box Construction

Baffle box construction, or baffling, is a type of down comforter construction, in which "walls" are sewn into the comforter in order to prevent the down from shifting. It is very important to choose a down comforter with baffling, because if you don't, the down will shift over time, leaving some areas overly full and others empty, which can result in uncomfortable lumps and cold spots.

Fill Power

Another important factor to consider when choosing a down comforter is the fill power (FP). Fill power is a measure of the quality of the down. The higher the fill power, the lighter, fluffier, and warmer the down. In general, anything over 600 FP is considered to be good. Over 800 FP is considered excellent.

The type of down has a significant effect on the fill power and quality of the comforter. Canadian and Hungarian goose downs are considered the best, and have the highest fill power. Other goose downs are medium quality, and mixes of goose down and feathers, or duck down and feathers are the lowest quality. (In addition to being lower quality than goose down, duck down may have an unpleasant odor.) I do not recommend choosing a down-feather mix, as they can be irritating or scratchy to the skin.

One exception to the generally lower quality of duck down is eider down. Eider down comes from the eider duck and it is considered one of the finest quality downs of all.

Weight

High fill power results in a warmer comforter. Another way to increase the warmth of a comforter is to add weight. Most down comforters come with a measure of weight. The most common names are Light Weight or Summer Weight, Classic Weight, and Arctic Weight.

When choosing a weight, consider your sleeping preferences. Most people find Arctic Weight comforters to be far too heavy and warm for comfort, especially during the summer months. However, if your home is drafty or poorly heated, or if you constantly feel cold at night, an Arctic Weight comforter might be exactly what you need. Likewise, though many people, especially in northern climates, find Summer Weight comforters too cold, if you overheat easily while sleeping, Summer Weight may be the most comfortable choice for you.

When in doubt, stick with Classic Weight.

Humane Treatment

If you are concerned about humane treatment of the geese and ducks raised for down, avoid any down that has been "live plucked." Live plucking is the practice of plucking down from a live bird. It is generally done several times over the course of the bird's lifetime and it is painful and stressful for the birds, much like pulling hair from the head of a live human. A few countries where live plucking is known to occur include China, Poland, and Hungary.

Live plucked down is sometimes labelled "hand harvested" in an attempt to make it sound more humane than it actually is.

Milkweed floss, by ms.Tea
Milkweed floss, by ms.Tea

Hypo-Allergenic Down Comforters

Some people have an allergic reaction to down, but thanks to a beautiful wildflower named Asclepias syriaca (better known as Common Milkweed, the favorite food of Monarch butterflies) even people with down allergies can now enjoy the comfort and warmth of down comforters.

Milkweed floss is mixed with goose down, where the floss traps the dust and dander that lead to allergic reactions. Floss-down mixes, which are sometimes marketed as "hypodown," are actually even warmer and more durable than pure down.

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    • profile image

      Nicoline 

      5 years ago

      Thank you, Kerry

      May I ask you for suggestion

      I am thinking to buy a new down comforter and cannot choose between

      My Luxe comforter from Bloomingdales and Hotel Collection from Macys. Both in light weight.

      I would like it to be very fluffy and light in the same time.

      The one from Macys feels beautiful, but I am afraid will be too warm for me. And I don’t have Bloomingdales around to check. You probably know both of them. Can you compare those two.

    • MyFavoriteBedding profile image

      MyFavoriteBedding 

      6 years ago from United States

      There is great information in this hub. The box stitching is very important, to keep the down comforter from shifting. The one thing that caught my eye was the cat on the down comforter. I like animals, but would never put an animal on my bedding! I know a lot of people do, but I could not sleep on anything a cat or dog was on without washing it! Great hub!

    • profile image

      Leenagella 

      7 years ago

      American Down and Feather Council. They have a members list that assures humane, quality, hypoallergenic, and properly labeled products!

    • profile image

      marvs 

      8 years ago

      Thanks i think i pick this one thanks for sharing...

    • relica profile image

      relica 

      8 years ago from California

      Baffle box construction is the key to a good comforter, because without it you end up with a giant goose down lump. Nice hub.

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 

      8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Actually super high thread counts are less durable. They are much softer through. At some point the threads per inch reaches it's maximum potential. To cram even more threads per inch into any bedding after about 400-600 tpi and you get threads that are so thin they are actually weaker. Nice hub though.

    • homedesign profile image

      homedesign 

      9 years ago

      This is really useful information about choosing a comforter which I am assuming applies to duvets too? I am a bit confused about the difference as you were talking about using a comforter with a duvet cover and I always thought comforters came with a patterned cover for placing right on the bed.

    • MindField profile image

      MindField 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Kerry, thanks for enlightening me. I feel better knowing that the down is a byproduct of ducks raised to be eaten. (Not a vegan just yet!)

    • kerryg profile imageAUTHOR

      kerryg 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks for your kind words, MindField!

      Unfortunately, avoiding live plucking does mean taking down from dead birds. However, the ducks and geese aren't raised specifically for down - in most cases, the down is actually a side product of the meat! The most humane method is collecting down from nests, but this seems to be relatively rare, and produces very expensive down.

      I guess in short, down is never going to be vegan friendly, but with a little effort it is possible to find down that has been humanely raised and killed. I was hoping to learn of some kind of certification when I researched this hub but didn't find one, so educating yourself as much about the origins of the down as possible will probably be your best bet. I do know that some companies, including Patagonia, claim to use only humanely raised goose down in their products.

      Laughing Mom, thanks for your comment!

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 

      9 years ago

      I've never had a down comforter. I always figured they would be way too hot for me to be able to sleep. I didn't realize they came in all the different weights and configurations.

      A lot of useful information here, Kerry.

    • MindField profile image

      MindField 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      This is very useful, Kerry, and, as always, beautifully written. (I've started a list of HP writers to be my long-distance mentors. PGrundy and you head it up!) When I was in Austria many years ago, I stayed in a hotel in Salzburg where the mattresses and comforters were eiderdown-filled. Sleeping on a cloud, it was - as you imagine clouds to be when you are looking up at them from a green lawn on a summer's day.

      Now I hate to ask but if we're to avoid live- or hand-plucked comforters, does that mean what I think it means? Are ducks and geese raised specifically for their down and then...well, you know?

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