Fill Power and Down Quality

Though this may sound like a term more suited to a car than your pillows, fill power is something every down shopper needs to know about.

In a nut shell, fill power means fluff power; the higher the FP, the fluffier your pillow or comforter is going to be. And the fluffier the product, the better it will keep you warm.

In technical speak, fill power refers to how much air the down fibers trap. More air = better insulation = better quality. How do they figure this out? First they stir an ounce of down in a cylinder. Then they squish it down and leave it for a day. After 24 hours, the down is remeasured … and if it is worth its salt, it should have regained its loft (fluff) within 72 hours. At the end of this process, they give the sample a number representing the number of cubic inches one ounce of that down occupies.

Higher fill power means the down will be more resilient and subject to less wear and tear.

Comforters with a fill count of 800 and higher are of superb quality, 700 and up are very good, and 600 and up are decent. When down is concerned, the fluffier, the better!

Something else to be aware of when shopping for a down pillow or comforter, is that even if the label says it is 100 percent down, it really may be only 75 percent (industry standards let them get away with this!) Down is used for fluffiness and warmth, while feathers add bulk and durability – but also prickly spines. Sometimes the two are mixed to create a product that lasts longer … or just cheaper. The more down in the mix, the better the quality – and the more expensive it will be.

Besides fill power, it’s important to know what kind of down you’re looking at. The quality of down in order from best to worst is: Siberian goose or Eiderdown, Hungarian goose down, goose down with goose feathers, duck down with duck feathers. Sometimes down is mixed with milkweed to give it hypoallergenic properties – the milkweed absorbs dust and dirt from the feathers. As long as the down itself is of good quality, this works fine. There are also synthetic fillers that imitate down for those with sensitive sniffers.

Happy down shopping!