Updated April 29, 2021Many people who purchase a new comforter focus most on what it looks like and whether it’ll match the color scheme of their bedrooms. But it’s important to focus on other key aspects as well—like feel, weight, and filling. In fact, filling is one of the most important factors you can take into consideration when buying a comforter because it’s going to dictate feel and weight, as well as how hot the comforter sleeps and how easy it is to clean.Below, we’ll talk a little about the difference between natural down and synthetic down comforter filling and their advantages and drawbacks.Natural DownNatural down is the layer of fluffy feathers found underneath the tougher exterior feathers of birds. Down comforters are usually made of the down found on the underbellies of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl that keeps them warm and dry while they swim in cold waters.Pros of Down ComfortersOne of the best things about down is it holds in your body heat while remaining breathable. That means you’ll get some air circulation through your comforter, which can prevent you from sweating while you sleep while still retaining optimum coziness.Down clusters also have higher fill power, which translates into more insulation, fluff, and loft than synthetic fibers. Fill power is how many cubic inches one ounce of fiber or feathers fills. The more fill power a stuffing has, the more insulating it is.Down comforters are durable and can expect to have a similar lifetime as your mattress—7 to 9 years—if you maintain them well.ConsDown comforters are generally much more expensive than down alternatives, since down is a limited resource and it’s not easy to come by. The fluffy, hairy down feathers can also attract dust, dust mites, and pollen, which may cause reactions in allergy sufferers.Possibly, the most inconvenient con of down fill is it cannot be washed because water can clump each individual feather, leading to loss of warmth and bounce. If you want to clean your down comforter, you’ll have to take it to the dry cleaner. Using a duvet cover with your comforter can help cut down on your need to schlep to the dry cleaner, but it won’t eliminate it entirely.Down AlternativeDown alternative comforters are made of synthetic materials, like polyester and rayon, and are meant to mimic the feel of down without the cost or the tendency to attract allergens. Another great thing about down alternatives is they’re made of synthetic fibers, making them exponentially more likely to be sustainable and cruelty-free.ProsAlternative down comforters are easier to take care of. It’s fine to machine wash them and toss them in the dryer, making them an obvious choice if you don’t use a flat sheet or you’re worried about spills on your bed.Synthetic fill is normally a lot cheaper than natural down because it’s a lot easier to spin up some polyester in a factory than it is to go out and pluck a duck. No plucking also means polyester or rayon filling is more animal-friendly than down, since animals either need to be slaughtered for their feathers or endure live-plucking—a painful and stressful process that can leave them injured.ConsAlternative down has lower breathability and insulating ability, meaning a hot sleeper might suffer more night sweats and a cold sleeper might have more chills. Alternative down also doesn’t have the fill power of natural down, so synthetic down comforters of comparable warmth will be much heavier (though that might not be a con for you if you like a weighted blanket).Alternative fill also isn’t as durable as down, so it won’t last as long. And synthetic fillings aren’t as fluffy as the down from geese and ducks. They won’t squish or bounce, meaning you can’t really get that “sleeping under a cloud” feeling provided by down.FAQsWhat is a duvet?A duvet is similar to a comforter in that it’s a heavier piece of bedding meant to keep you warm. Unlike comforters, which come pre-filled and sewn up, duvets aren’t quilted or stitched. They’re basically a soft, flat bag meant to go inside a removable covering, or duvet cover.The insert/cover combo allows you to have more control over the thickness and look of your top layer of bedding, since you can remove or add duvet inserts or change the cover to switch up the colors and patterns on your bed.Want to learn more about the best duvets? Check out our bedding review guide.How often should I dry clean my down comforter?Using a flat sheet between your body and the comforter will greatly reduce your contact with the comforter and therefore your need to clean it. If you use a top sheet, you should only need to dry clean your comforter about once a quarter. If you don’t use a top sheet or you’re sensitive to allergens, you may need to clean your comforter as often as once a week.What if I spill something on my down comforter?If you stain your comforter but can’t get it to the dry cleaner right away, do not throw it in the washer. Squeeze the filling away from the stained area and apply a spot cleaner like baking soda, club soda and lemon juice, or 50 percent diluted white vinegar. Don’t use bleach. Blot the stain until it’s loosened and rinse only the stained spot with water. Try to blow-dry the area as quickly as possible.Can I buy ethical down?One of the biggest issues a lot of people take with down is that it can be cruel. Live-plucking can cause ducks and geese stress and discomfort, and birds harvested for meat often have experienced multiple live-pluckings and force-feedings before they’re slaughtered and plucked for the final time.If you don’t have a problem with using birds for meat, you can find manufacturers who ensure their birds are never force-fed or live-plucked before being slaughtered. But if you don’t like the idea of slaughtering birds for their meat and feathers, then your only option is “gathered” down, or down that is collected after the birds’ natural molting cycle. However, this down is limited in supply, so it can be expensive.Are there organic down alternatives that don’t include synthetic fabric?Sure. If you want natural fibers and don’t want down, you can spring for a cotton comforter, an ethical wool comforter, or a comforter made of plant-based down alternatives like eucalyptus, hemp, bamboo, or flax fibers.Bottom LineIf you’re looking for a comforter with a high level of warmth, a lightweight feel, and a lot of durability, down is your best friend. But if you want a comforter that’s as easy to take care of as it is sustainable, synthetic fill is probably more your speed. Either way, make sure you’re buying a quality product. When it comes to things you should skimp on, the thing you sleep under every night isn’t one of them.About the author Malik Karman“Professional sleeper” Malik Karman is a freelance writer for the eachnight blog. Over the years, Malik has read countless medical studies and explored hundreds of different bedding products in an effort to better understand what goes into a restorative night’s rest. Malik curates many of our “best mattress” guides to assist readers in the mattress buying process. Find more articles by Malik Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.