What Should I Consider When Buying a Down Comforter?

R. Kayne

A down comforter is a soft, warm, light quilt, filled with down from waterfowl like geese or ducks. Its breathable insulation means that it can be warm in winter and cool enough for summer. When investing in a comforter stuffed with down, there are a few things to consider to ensure you’ve made a good choice that will suit your needs.

A bed with a down comforter.
A bed with a down comforter.

The first consideration is the down itself. Down feathers come from the fluffy undercoat and do not have a central quill. Because down is naturally curly, clusters of down form insulated pockets that hold in heat while allowing air to pass, or the body to breathe. Down from adult birds is larger and forms better clusters. Down clusters are separated by baffles sewn into the quilt to keep the down properly distributed.

Down comforters are typically filled with either goose or duck feathers.
Down comforters are typically filled with either goose or duck feathers.

Down comforter packaging might only advertise the weight of the fill. This isn’t necessarily a good indication of the warmth or quality of the comforter. It can be filled with many different types of down, and a less expensive one might have down mixed with feathers. Top feathers add to weight, yet have a hard central quill, are flat, and detract from the softness and insulation properties of down.

Down comforters may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to feathers..
Down comforters may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to feathers..

The fill power rating is a much better indicator of quality. Fill power describes the expansion properties of one ounce of down in cubic inches. In other words, if the type of down used is from adult birds, one ounce, when fluffed, will loft and expand to fill a larger cubic space than one ounce of smaller down. The higher the fill power, the warmer and fluffier the comforter.

For people who require an electric blanket or several warm blankets, a fill power rating of 600 indicates a very warm, high quality, down comforter. For those with naturally warm blood who toss blankets aside, lower fill powers will suit better and be less expensive. A comforter with a very low fill power will not be fluffy, however, and will not have good insulation properties.

The other major consideration when buying a down comforter is the quilt’s thread count. A low thread count allows down to escape through tiny holes in the weave of the fabric. Higher thread counts mean more tightly woven fabrics that will keep the down contained. Material with a high thread count might also allow the comforter to be washed in a large, commercial machine per manufacturer’s instructions.

A down comforter is smaller than a bedspread or blanket, so one packaged as a “queen” will cover a queen mattress, but will only drape over the mattress’ sides a few inches (centimeters) or so. If you’d like the comforter to drape further, you’ll have to buy a larger one. If you have a king bed, this isn’t possible, but a dust ruffle might help. Remember too, that a California king bed is longer but narrower than a standard king.

Though a quality down comforter is more expensive than a blanket, it is also something you will enjoy each and every night when you slip into bed. A good quality comforter should last years, giving you a solid return on your investment.

Down comforters are considered to be soft and light.
Down comforters are considered to be soft and light.

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Discussion Comments


Heavanet, I have had several comforters made of synthetic down, and I also think these alternative down comforters are much easier to care for and just as warm as those made of real down.


I have had a down comforter, and I found it to be quite difficult to wash. Not only was it bulky to put into a washing machine, but it also seemed to lose its shape from the feathers clumping together each time I washed it. It was definitely warm, but I dreaded when it was time to wash it. A synthetic down comforter might be a better option since it would not consist of real feathers.

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