The 6 Best Down Alternative Pillows of 2021

Rest your weary head on these fluffy, cruelty-free clouds.

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Down is an effective insulator, has a low carbon footprint, and promises a comfy night of sleep, however it's not a vegan material. Down feathers come from the plumage of ducks or geese, and in some cases may even be plucked while the birds are still alive. For those who prefer to avoid animal products, the good news is that there are many down alternative pillows that are also eco-friendly.

The pillows we’ve selected are kind to our avian flock and include globally accepted environmental, health, and social certifications. The list includes GOLS (indicating the product has 95% or more organic latex), GOTS (a standard for textiles made from organic fibres), Oeko-Tex (meaning the product is free from toxic chemicals and is safe for human health), and Fair Trade (ensuring fair terms for workers and farmers).

So, snuggle into these soft, cruelty-free marshmallows for a peaceful night of slumber. Ahead our picks of the best down alternative pillows.

The Rundown
Avocado has plumped out the perfect vegan, organic, and adjustable pillow for fussy sleepers.
Burrow your head in Buffy’s cloud-like pillow that’s easy on your pocket and cradles your head gently.
Coyuchi’s shredded latex pillow is suffused with durable GOLS-certified organic Dunlop latex.
If you’re looking for the fluffiness of down with ample heft to prop your neck, look no further than Birch’s Organic Pillow.
Naturepedic’s adjustable pillow lets you rejig the filling to the perfect level, propping up your neck while cushioning your head.
We love Boll & Branch’s snuggle-worthy down alternative pillows that are fit for royalty.

Best Overall: Avocado Green Pillow

Avocado Green Pillow

Certified B Corp and Climate Neutral company Avocado has plumped the perfect vegan, organic and adjustable pillow for fussy sleepers. Our top pick of down alternative pillows is the Green Pillow, which comes in a soft GOTS organic and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified quilted cotton casing.

It is stuffed with a filling made from eco-INSTITUT and GOLS organic certified upcycled shredded latex along with GOTS organic certified kapok fiber (a silky soft, luxurious fiber akin to cotton, see FAQs), giving it the fluffiness of down with the supportive contouring of foam. What’s more, the pillow comes with a zipper and an extra bag of filling, so you can adjust the stuffing at will. You can buy additional filling, too. A cool sleeper, it’s available in standard, queen, and king sizes. The pillow is compressed, rolled-up, and shipped in a craft box.

If you’re undecided, Avocado’ generous 100-night sleep trial (with a full refund) and year-long warranty is tempting. To seal the deal, the pillow is crafted in their FSC-certified, renewable-energy powered factory and is MADE SAFE, Vegan, and GREENGUARD Gold Certified.

Best Budget: Buffy Cloud Pillow

Buffy Cloud Pillow

Burrow your head in Buffy’s cloud-like pillow that’s easy on your pocket and cradles your head gently. Available in two sizes, standard and king, and three types of firmness, you can pick one to suit your sleep style, be it sprawled on your back, curled up on the side or flat on your belly.

The cover is made from Oeko-Tex certified 300 thread count Eucalyptus fiber fabric. Each pillow’s fluffy recycled filling is made from air blown fiber derived from BPA-free PET, nixing approximately 24-30 plastic bottles from reaching landfills and oceans. Shipped to you in FSC-certified recycled material, Buffy offers a seven-night trial for this cooling puff.

Best Organic: Coyuchi Organic Shredded Latex Pillow

Coyuchi Organic Shredded Latex Pillow

With nearly a third of our lifetime spent deep in slumber, a green pillow is a wise investment. Coyuchi’s shredded latex pillow is natural inside-out. It is suffused with durable GOLS-certified organic Dunlop latex, with the inner and outer cover made from GOTS certified organic cotton. The velvety pillowcase, crafted from a 400 thread count GOTS certified organic cotton sateen, feels decadent against your cheek.

Inside, the non-removable organic cotton jersey cover is packed with breathable and durable latex, which you can shift, remove, or add to keep it the pillow lump-free, with just the right amount of support. Choose among standard, queen and king sizes. If by chance this versatile natural pillow isn’t what you dreamt of, return it for a full refund within 30 days (after this window you can exchange the pillow or get a store credit).

Best Support: Birch by Helix Organic Pillow

Birch by Helix Organic Pillow

If you’re looking for the fluffiness of down with ample heft to prop your neck, look no further than Birch’s Organic Pillow. It's soft and comfy, with a good bounce, thanks to the core of shredded eco-INSTITUT certified Talalay latex. The result is a soft, breathable and homogeneous pillow giving oodles of support to all styles of sleepers.

The core is wrapped in moisture-wicking, ethically-sourced organic Birch wool sourced from a New Zealand farm that’s a part of a Wool Integrity program (so note that it's not vegan). The filling is enclosed in a GOTS organic certified cotton case. The pillow is GREENGUARD Gold and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, and handmade in the United States. Birch is available in two sizes and comes with a 100 night sleep trial. With a one year warranty, rest assured, you can sleep peacefully.

Best Adjustable: Naturepedic Organic 2-in-1 Adjustable Latex Pillow

Naturepedic Organic 2-in-1 Adjustable Latex Pillow

A one-size-fits-all pillow might end up being stratospherically high or sunken like a mud-flat. Green America Gold certified bedding company Naturepedic pillow is adjustable. It lets you rejig the filling to the perfect level, propping up your neck while cushioning your head. The plush stuffing is a mix of shreds of organic latex which can be adjusted to fit your sleep style.

What we like is the dual-sided washable pillowcase. On one side there’s a soft stretchy GOTS certified organic cotton knit, while the other quilted side is a blend of quilted organic cotton sateen with PLA batting (PLA is a fiber made from non-GMO sugarcane). Available in three-sizes, the pillow is MADE SAFE and GREENGUARD Gold, among other global standards. We approve.

Best Luxury: Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

We love Boll & Branch’s snuggle-worthy down alternative pillow that is fit for royalty. The glamorous pillow is embellished with a beautiful piping and comes in delicately embroidered Fair Trade and GOTS certified organic cotton shams. Available in two sizes and three densities, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified pillow is filled with PrimaLoft fibers which contain post-consumer recycled content.

The bedding company offers a 30-night sleep trial for you to test them out. Packed in recycled and recyclable wrapping, it’s shipped in FSC-certified packaging. Committed to producing ethically by putting people and the planet first, Boll & Branch brings out a detailed impact report for you to delve deeper into its values. It’s truly suite-style decadence with a sustainable side on your bed.

Final Verdict

Avocado’s Green Pillow (view at Avocado) with a filling of eco-INSTITUT and GOLS organic certified upcycled shredded latex along with GOTS organic certified kapok fiber is our first pick of down alternative pillows. Another great option is Buffy’s Cloud Pillow (view at Buffy), which is more affordable and available in two sizes and three types of firmness.

What to Look for in a Down Alternative Pillow

The perfect down alternative pillow is neither too lofty nor too limp, but is the perfect plush bed fellow. Here’s what to look for while shopping for these dumplings:

The Filling

Look for eco-friendly alternatives (see FAQs) that best suit your sleeping style and pocket. An adjustable pillow is an added bonus, so that you can adjust the softness and firmness according to your needs.

Sleep Style

Depending on whether you sprawl out on your stomach (pick a slimmer pillow) or sleep on one side (pick a pillow that will support your neck), or favor any other sleep style, choose a pillow that packs in both the smush and the support for your head and neck. Most companies offer very generous trial periods, so do take advantage of that. 

Third Party Certifications

While all pillows have their pros and cons, check if the pillow is supported by appropriate third party certifications. 

FAQs

Are down alternatives eco-friendly?

There are many down alternative pillow options available, but not all are eco-friendly. For instance, some popular alternatives are fluffy pillows stuffed with synthetic fiber (such as polyester). However, you can also find pillows with fillings made from recycled plastic bottles, like as the Buffy Cloud Pillow (view on Buffy.co).

There are other Earth-friendly down alternative pillows too. We’ve picked pillows with fillings such as GOLS-certified organic latex (natural latex rubber that comes from the sap of the rubber tree and is renewable, toxin-free and compostable) and GOTS-certified organic kapok (a cotton-style fiber that’s soft silky and naturally plush).

How do you wash down alternative pillows?

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance on how to wash your pillow and the case. Pillow cases can be easily cleaned in washing machines or dry cleaned. Depending on the stuffing, a pillow can either be dry cleaned or spot cleaned, and occasionally, washed in the washing machine. Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • Most down alternative pillows with synthetic fillings (such as those made from 100% synthetic fibers) can be washed in a machine. Some companies recommend dry cleaning, thus look for eco-friendly dry cleaners. 
  • It is recommended that pillows containing latex, foam, and other similar stuffing be spot cleaned only. 
  • It’s recommended to spot clean kapok stuffed pillows. If the pillow filling escapes, it can damage the washing machine or dryer. Also, kapok takes time to dry, and a damp pillow can lead to mildew. However, you can put the pillow out in the sun occasionally. 

Why Trust Treehugger?

To make this list, we looked for pillows that are not only feather-free, but also have robust eco-credentials, like organic certification. We also researched bedding companies' reputation and ethics.

Author Neeti Mehra writes on sustainability, and also runs a platform that promotes slow and mindful living. Her pillow collection includes a body pillow and several other soft pillows strategically placed for a good night of sleep.