About Goose Down
Down is the soft under plumage (a layer of insulation underneath feathers) that geese, ducks and other waterfowl have to keep them warm and dry.
Feathers have hard quills, down does not. A down "cluster" is soft and fluffy and will have many filaments growing in all directions. A down cluster looks like this:
Goose Down is used to fill comforters, pillows, and other articles of bedding and clothing.
It is chosen for it's luxurious warmth, softness, superior resilience, loft and insulating properties, unmatched by modern synthetic fills.
Down from geese and ducks is basically very similar. However, because geese are larger than ducks, their down clusters can be larger than duck down clusters, resulting in better insulation for comforters and fluffier filling for pillows.
Larger waterfowl = larger down clusters. As well as having smaller down clusters, duck down may also be more prone to a "gamy" odor.
Duck down is much less expensive, compared to goose down. As the price of goose down continues to rise, we are seeing duck down being used more and more as a way to keep costs down.
Where Goose Down Comes From
Most of the goose down and duck down produced in the world today comes from China. A smaller percentage comes from Europe, particularly from Poland and Hungary.
Goose down also comes from Canada and the United States, in still smaller quantities relative to the amount of down that China and Europe produce.
You may notice that I do not mention Siberia as a source of goose down. That's because, while some small quantity of down does come from the Ukraine (bordered by Poland and Hungary), there is no goose down that comes from Siberia. So called "Siberian Goose Down" is a myth.
Feathers & Down
Feathers are often confused with down by the average person. But there are important differences to note.
As mentioned above, feathers have quills (the center shaft). "Flight" feathers are found on the wings or tail of the bird and will vary greatly in size, from quite small to over a foot long.
The quills in flight feathers are relatively straight and are not very flexible. Flight feathers are often cut up into small pieces and are used as an inexpensive fill for furniture and lower quality "down" bedding.
Body feathers are small and have a flexible springy curved quill, like the feather shown above. This type of feather is often blended with down and used in better quality bedding, such as the feather and down blends found in our Alto™ & Stratus™ featherbeds. Feathers do not have a "fill power" rating.
White vs. Gray Down
Down can vary in color, from white to dark gray depending on the age of the bird and the season in which the down was harvested.
The color of down does not affect its ability to insulate - in other words, a dark gray down will insulate just as well as a white down of the same size cluster and maturity.
Aesthetically speaking, white down is generally more preferable to gray down since a gray down can show through a fine white down proof ticking, making the comforter appear "dingy".
White goose is more expensive then gray down. Like duck down, we are seeing more gray down being used as a way to keep costs down.
Fill power or "loft" is how the quality and size of various down clusters are defined.
The larger the down cluster, the higher the fill power rating, which is the number of cubic inches one ounce of down will fill under specific laboratory testing conditions; for example:
Quality = Comfort & Resilience
For down comforters: A higher quality, large cluster down, will keep you more comfortable, ie; warmer when it is cold and cooler when it is warm, compared to a lower quality down. This can matter when choosing your comforter.
For down pillows: A higher quality down will result in a fluffier, more resilient pillow, ounce for ounce, compared to a lower quality down. This can be an important consideration when choosing a goose down pillow.
Fill power can range from 300 cubic inches per ounce, to 800 cubic inches per ounce and above, for the highest quality down.
We use only the finest quality down in our comforters & pillows, including a 675 fill, an 850 fill Canadian white goose down, & an especially mature and dense 800 fill Polish white goose down that, due to it's exceptional "cling" (much like Eiderdown) is considered to be the best white goose down in the world.
Density and Cling
Fill power is important, and it is what everyone focuses on as a measure of quality down because it is relatively easy to measure and quantify. But "density" and "cling" are at least as important when evaluating the highest quality down.
Density is an attribute of mature down. A mature down cluster with a denser center will insulate better and be more "resilient" compared to an immature down cluster of the same size.
Cling is an attribute of very mature down, also known as"sticky down". "Cling" is found when tiny hooks develop on the individual filaments of a down cluster.
Cling is found in genuine eiderdown and very mature goose down. The Polish White Goose Down found in our Plumeria™ duvets and pillows is exemplary of the finest mature goose down, with superior attributes of fill power, density and cling.
Here is a picture that shows this "cling" in action!
Mature "sticky" Goose Down
Oxygen & Turbidity
Cleanliness: Improperly cleaned down can have dander, dust mites and odor issues.
Most people that experience a reaction to down are actually experiencing a reaction to the dander and dust mites in dirty down.
There are a couple of important tests that help manufacturers assure that down is properly cleaned; Oxygen and Turbidity.
The "Oxygen" number test measures the presence of organic material.
The Turbidity test measures the amount of dust and other non-organic solids that may be present in down.
The lower the "Oxygen" number, the better, in a range from 1 to 30+. USA standards require the minimum oxygen number to be 10 or lower.
The higher the "Turbidity number, the better, in a range from 20 to 1000. There is no minimum standard for Turbidity in the USA.
All Plumeria Bay® goose down and eiderdown has minimum standards of 2 (or less) for Oxygen, and 900 to 1000 for Turbidity. How our down is cleaned.
The Best Insulation, Naturally
Ounce for ounce, goose down is the finest lightweight insulator known, natural or synthetic, except for eiderdown.
The down cluster's unique three dimensional structure creates thousands of tiny air pockets.
These air pockets, created by the down fibers, provide the superior insulating ability that down is known for.
Quality down is also extremely resilient - the ability to be compressed then spring back to it's original shape with all of those wonderfully warm air pockets.
No other material is as resilient as a high quality large cluster down, except for eiderdown.
Goose down is also extremely breathable compared to other materials. It allows water vapor to pass through, wicking it away through the filaments while retaining the warmth in the air pockets.