With such a broad range of comforter styles and prices it is important to remember that not all down, synthetic, wool or silk comforters are created equally. Intuitively, we know this but the criteria for distinguishing between comforters is more complicated than realized, especially if you suffer from allergies. To help we have put together this guide which highlights important comforter features to consider.
Features of Down Comforters
In layman's terms this means how fluffy and lofty is the fill. Higher fill power means your down comforter will last longer. Fill Power equals the space one ounce of down occupies in cubic inches. 800+ fill power comforters are superb quality, 700+ fill power comforters are excellent quality and 600+ fill power comforter are good quality comforters.
How is fill Power tested?
American Standard Testing. One ounce of down is placed in a cylinder and stirred.The loft is measured in cubic inches. The sample is compressed. The down is left alone to "rest" for 24 hours. After the resting period, the down is re-measured. The down remains undisturbed and should regain it's original loft within 72 hours.
Down Proof Cover Fabric:
A down comforter should have a high thread count, tightly woven yet lightweight cover or shell. The thread count is the number of threads that are contained in one square inch of fabric. Higher thread counts in a comforter's fabric mean it is lighter and softer. The tightness of the weave helps contain the fill and prevents feathers from poking through and tiny down pieces from escaping. The lightness of the fabric helps the fill to loft or "puff up" in layman's terms. A comforter's down proofness is measure in millimeters. Lower numbers mean the cover is a better down proof barrier. An air porosity test (how much air can pass through a fabric) is a measure of "down proofness". A simple rule of thumb is to choose a comforter with a high thread count cover and stay away from covers that are less than 300 thread count.
Cleanliness of the Down:
There are acceptable government standards for the cleanliness of feathers and down used in down comforters. This cleanliness is a primary variable in determining the hypoallergenic nature of some down comforters. Some comforter fills are washed as many as fifteen times to get rid of dust, dirt and organic matter. There are two "cleanliness" tests in the industry. (a). A Oxygen test determines the amount of organic matter left in the material being tested. The industry acceptable standard is 10. Better products have lower numbers than that. (b). Turbidity tests. Turbidity is a measure of suspended solids, dust, dirt etc suspended in the comforters material. The scale goes from about 60 (unwashed feathers) to 550 best.
The method and quality used to stitch or quilt a comforter makes a differences. Better quality craftsmanship means more durability and less tendency for the stitching to break. Down comforters are generally constructed with a sewn through box stitch or baffle box stitch. A true baffle box stitch construction uses an internal fabric wall which allows the fill to loft more creating a fluffier comforter that offers equally distributed warmth - no cold spots. It also adds strength to the comforter. A sewn through box stitch construction is generally better suited for use on a lighter weight comforter.
A comforter can be made with material sewn around the edges. The piping is the type of material that runs around the entire exterior edge of the down comforter. Pipping also adds a nice look to the comforter should it be used without a duvet cover.
A comforter can be made warmer in two ways. Fill power and weight. Clearly the aim is to get the maximum warmth at the lightest weight. To get this you would choose a higher fill power that primarily consists of down and down pieces rather than feathers. Once you have selected the fill power, choose a higher fill weight for extra warmth.
Average bedroom temperature and comforter weight recommended:
70+ ° F
Below 55° F
Type of Down for Comforters:
These comforters are in order of quality. Please note that in some comforters labeled "pure down" or 100% down are not pure, as some feathers remain in the fill. As long as the comforter is 75% down it can be labeled 100% in many states.
Siberian Down (Best)
Goose feather and Down
Duck feather and Down
Duck feather (Worst)
Siberian Goose Down considered the finest Goose Down available for comforters. Collected from Geese that live in very cold climates, it is the heaviest of all the downs, used in 800 fill, and will last the longest.
Hungarian Down the next step down from the Siberian Goose Down, this is also cold Climate down, the a fill power of 650+ Comforters.
White Goose Down is a by-product from Geese used for food. Smaller more condensed down 550+ Fill Power Comforters.
Feathers have quills. Therefore are
manly used as fillers in large comforters, or pillows. Can poke out of comforters and be sharp to your skin.
Comforters Down (Goose and Duck):
A comforters down is harvested during the natural molting process from farm raised geese. Goose down is also the by-product of the worldwide poultry industry. The biggest difference between goose and duck down is odor. Goose down has little to no odor. If it does not say goose down on the label, it is most likely duck down and a lot less expensive.
Down vs. Feathers in Comforters:
Down is used for insulation and loft in duvets and pillows and feathers are used for bulk and durability for feather beds and some pillows. Sometimes these are mixed to create a firm, durable product. The more down in the mix, the fluffier and more expensive the comforter or pillow.
Goose down can cause allergic reactions in some people. It is not the down that does this however, but rather it is the dust particles remaining on the down after washing and processing. Some manufacturers such as Ogallala and Pacific Coast Feather use special cleaning processes and manufacture comforters and pillows that are hypoallergenic and come with an Allergy-free Guarantee.
Ogallala's Hypodown Fill:
Hypodown is a natural hypoallergenic combination of white goose down and Syriaca clusters used in comforters and pillows. Asclepias Syriaca, or Syriaca, is also known as milkweed. Syriaca grows abundantly in the United States and is now cultivated on Nebraska farms. The fall harvest reaps soft and silky clusters from the plants pod. The Hypodown naturally traps and suppresses the dust and dander that people with allergies react to in traditional down products. This combination makes Hypodown the only natural, hypoallergenic down product in the bedding industry. Hypodown is warmer, more breathable, and more durable than down alone. With a Hypodown comforter, the moisture is transferred away from your body and released into the air 30% quicker than traditional down and about 70% quicker than synthetic filled comforters and blankets. Hypodown is four times warmer than most synthetic comforters and up to eleven times as durable.
Note: Hypodown has been tested in the offices of Allergy and Asthma Doctors in the United States and Europe. These tests prove that most people who are allergic to down can use Hypodown without reactions.
A natural hypoallergenic down like material that stabilize the components in down fill that cause allergic reactions. Syriaca floss is a natural hollow fiber that is hypoallergenic by itself. When Syriaca floss and goose down are combined, the floss traps and suppresses the dust and dander to which some people have allergic reactions to. These clusters actually enhance the natural properties of down are a fantastic fill for comforters and pillows. Syriaca clusters are cleaned and separated from the pods through mechanical action and air. No chemicals are used. It takes 800 pods to make one pound of Syriaca clusters.
We suggest that you protect your comforter from soil and wear by covering it with a duvet cover. Spot clean when possible. Most down comforters can be placed in the dryer on low heat to refresh the down or hang on a clean line on a sunny day. Please do not leave your comforter in direct sunlight. Most down comforters are machine washable in a large commercial machine using a mild down-safe detergent. However, we recommend professionally laundering by a company familiar with cleaning down comforters. You can send your comforter away to be cleaned by the Blanc Plume French Laundry (1-800- 307-0229), a company that specializes in cleaning fine linens, antiques and comforters. They use a special, natural process which preserves the life of delicate goose down comforters and ensure the down is dried properly and thoroughly, at low temperatures, to allow for maximum loft in your comforter. They offer comforter restoration services as well.
Features of Silk Comforters
What is silk?
Silk is a luxurious textile which is produced by a silkworm and woven into a naturally thermal and hypoallergenic material. Silk fill is an excellent all natural and hypoallergenic alternative to down fill.
The best silk comforters are filled with mulberry silk floss. Silk comforter manufacturers produce this high quality silk from feeding the silkworms a diet of mulberry leaves - exclusively. Mulberry silk is comprised of long fiber silk which is heavier than other silks, hence its superlative thermal qualities used in making light but warm silk comforters. Mulberry silk will also shift less over time in comparison to other silks. Tussah or wild silk is used in silk comforters but is not as soft and drape-able as mulberry and has more impurities which promote a shorter life span. Most silk filled comforters are lightweight and can be used all year round. They are best suited for moderate climates or homes that are climate controlled.
Maintenance of Silk Comforters:
Although it is hard to beat the luxurious feeling and soft "hand" of a silk comforter, silk is quite fragile and requires a duvet cover in most cases or manufacturers' warranty will be voided. The life of a silk comforter is not as long as a high quality down: 5 years can be the average lifespan. A good quality comforter can last for 10 years with good care. Silk comforters must be professionally dry cleaned.
Why Choose a Silk Comforter:
A silk comforter is delightfully lightweight and feels even lighter than a summer blanket or a coverlet. Silk comforters are warmer than a Primaloft blanket or a Hyperclean down blanket. A silk comforter is not as warm as a Hypodown comforter. If warmth is a concern, then down is the way to go. Unlike down, silk has a slight odor when first unpacked. The odor is natural and not offensive to most people. The odor will easily dissipate when the comforter is aired for 24-48 hours. Mulberry silk has less odor than Tussah or wild silk in a comforter. Silk filled comforters are best used as a summer comforter in the North, and year-round in the South.
Construction of Silk Comforters:
Even the finest Mulberry silk will have short fibers. These short fibers are kept in place by squares on the comforter sometimes called box stitching, quilting or the hand tying method. Hand ties or "hand tacking" is a traditional Chinese method to keep the longer finer silk fibers in place.
Visit our Comforter department to see all or our top choices for hypoallergenic and allergy-friendly comforters.