Terms to know
When researching down and feather bedding, you'll come across some general terms. To help your understanding of down and feather products, we'll outline and explain these terms in better depth.
Allergies and down: lots of people blame down and feather bedding for allergy problems. However, studies have shown that less than 1% of the population is actually allergic to down and feathers. The majority of allergy problems blamed on these types of bedding are actually the fault of dust mites.
Baffle box construction: the product has boxes sewn into it, and the boxes have vertical strips of fabric sewn from the top to the bottom of the fabrics, creating baffled walls between each box. The baffles allow down to move into the boxes initially, but prevent the down from shifting out of the boxes later.
Down: down is, essentially, the soft and airy plumage underneath the feathers of water fowl. Water fowl stay warm, even in arctic conditions, because of their down.
Note: Down is an amazingly efficient insulator; it resists moisture while providing lightweight heat. It consists of separate fibers that are connected to each other at a central point, making it three-dimensional, and is only found on water fowl. Land fowl such as chickens and turkeys do not produce down. Down has a quill point but no quill shaft, making it more lightweight than feathers, and it has more loft (or fill power), so it is more durable. Down has been a wildly popular filling for bedding (comforters, blankets, and pillows, mainly) for years because of its lightweight warmth, consistency, and resiliency. Goose down is usually superior to duck down because geese are grown larger than ducks, thus the down is larger in size and more plush.
Dust mites: the most common cause of allergy from house dust. They belong to a family of eight-legged creatures called arachnids that also includes spiders, chiggers, and ticks. They live best in warm, highly humid climates (70 or more degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 75 to 80 percent).
Note: Studies have shown that feather- and down-filled bedding is not a preferred habitat for dust mites, as the dense ticking presents an almost impenetrable barrier for mites, and moisture and humidity is not fostered in down and feathers as much as in some other bedding materials.
Feathers: feathers are the plumage, or outer covering, of fowl. They differ from down in that they are two-dimensional, consisting of a quill point and a quill shaft, and cover the outside of all fowl. Feathers used for bedding are usually from ducks and geese. Feathers are lightweight and resilient; they are uniquely flexible and will conform to each individual's sleeping needs.
Fill Power: the amount of volume, or space, of one ounce of down or feathers (as measured under laboratory conditions) is called fill power or loft. The higher fill power or loft of the product, the higher the insulation it will provide per ounce.
Note: One of the major advantages of down and feather bedding is its ability to provide insulating warmth and still be lightweight. As the fill power of down increases, it is possible to use less weight in the product while achieving the same warmth as bulkier, less comfortable materials.
Loft: down products are often described as having loft, which essentially indicates the fluffiness of the product.
Note: The three-dimensional quality of the down, itself, is what gives a product its loft. When a down product becomes flat with use, the loft is easily restored by plumping or shaking (making the product much more durable and adaptable than some other materials used for bedding.)
Sewn-through construction: the top and bottom of the fabric are sewn together in small segments of football-shaped channels, helping to prevent the down from shifting.
Thread count: the higher the thread count, the softer the fabric. Higher thread counts produce a tighter fabric, which increases the fabric's ability to keep small pieces of feather securely packed inside. Look for the highest thread count you can afford, and you'll enjoy the softest fabric.