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Down vs. Synthetic Duvet Fills

Anyone who’s read around my site knows that I suffer from allergies. But what about those of you who don’t have this concern…is down or synthetic fill actually the better choice for keeping you warm at night? And are the steep prices for down-filled duvet inserts really worth it?

The Lowdown on Down

Since I’ve always been allergic to feathers, the only experience I’ve ever personally had when I get near a feather pillow or duvet is misery. But many of my friends who are not so afflicted swear by them. They say there’s nothing warmer, and nothing else settles over you as well, filling in the gaps around you. So I decided to do some more objective research to help you decide if perhaps down is the way to go, barring any unpleasant allergy problems. Here are some great, objective reasons to invest in a down-filled duvet.

-On an ounce-for-ounce basis, down has been proven to have more insulating power than any synthetic on the market today. This makes sense, since nature has a way of solving problems in the most elegant manner possible. Whether you believe that God designed geese, or whether their immensely efficient down was selected for over thousands of years of evolution, the fact remains that these animals have cornered the market when it comes to producing the most efficient warmth-retaining substance.

-Assuming all other materials in a duvet are of equal quality, a down-filled duvet insert can last for more than a lifetime. Of course, you must care for the duvet properly in order to get this type of longevity. If you want your duvet to last a lifetime, dry cleaning is mandatory, and should be done at least once per year (assuming the duvet is used during one or more seasons of that year). While some duvet care labels will tell you that machine washing is acceptable, the experts know that down will never have the same loft and fill power after being machine washed.

-Down has natural moisture-wicking properties. This means that, assuming you use the correct weight for the season and your sleeping temperature, you are less likely to feel sweaty under a down duvet than under a synthetic one.

Synthetic Selling Points

THIS is your Mama's fiberfill.

Synthetics have come a long way, especially in recent years. While they will never match down for compressiblity, longevity or fill power, they have some definite advantages. Read on to discover why you might want to go this route, even if you aren’t an allergy sufferer. This ain’t your mama’s fiberfill!

-Synthetics are easier to care for. Many if not most of them may be machine washed. True, sizes larger than twin might not fit in your home machine, but four or five dollars spent at the local laundromat beats the twenty dollars or more spent at the dry cleaners for a feather duvet. If you have a pet in your household, this is an important consideration, as pets (especially dogs) tend to get things noticeably dirtier than quietly sleeping humans. This equates to more frequent cleanings, and hence could lead to some insanely high dry cleaning bills (or even the loss of an expensive duvet, if your pet is prone to “accidents.”

-Synthetics are considerably less expensive than down. As seen here (LINK), you can pick up a decent-quality synthetic duvet for less than $75, whereas a good down-filled one will usually run you $250 and up. Again, if you plan to invest in the care of your duvet to make it last a lifetime, this may not be much of a bargain. But if your duvet will be subjected to any sort of unpredictable wear and tear (children, pets, guests and some husbands :) ), it may be more cost effective to go with less-expensive synthetic

-Dust mites, dust and dander are all less attracted to synthetics than down. Down is good at trapping air, but this also makes it great at trapping tiny particulates. While you may not think this matters if you don’t happen to suffer from allergies, bear in mind that this is also a hygiene issue, and a good argument for the ease and machine washability of synthetics. Less particulate attraction + greater ease of washing = a cleaner bedroom environment.

Down vs. Synthetic Isn’t the Only Choice

Of course, you have to consider the fact that there are other natural duvet fillers available on the market besides down. Though they’re beyond the scope of this article, you will find I have spent considerable time reviewing the options when it comes to these other alternatives. Silk duvet inserts tend to be the most popular choice, while organic cotton duvet inserts are a close second. A relative unknown in the field, are another option, and are both eco-friendly and very warm.

Down feathers photo used via Creative Commons license, courtesy of Metamorphite.