Goose Down - A Warm & Fluffy Wonder

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 stiff quills, down does not. A down "cluster" is a soft and fluffy 3 dimensional structure with many filaments growing in all directions. A down cluster looks like this:

image of an 800 fill power goose down cluster
The three dimensional structure of a high quality 800 fill power down cluster


Down is used to insulate your down comforter to make it fluffy and cozy, and as fill for your down pillows to make them resilient, yet supportive. Goose down and duck down is also used in other articles of bedding like featherbeds and blankets, and clothing such as jackets and gloves.


Goose down is chosen for it's luxurious warmth, softness, superior resilience, loft and insulating properties, unmatched by synthetic fills.  How long should a down comforter last - when should I replace my down comforter?


What is Fill Power?

Fill power or "loft" is how the quality and size of 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, 1 ounce of 800 Fill Power down will fill 800 cubic inches of space, 1 ounce of 900 fill power down will fill 900 cubic inches of space:

Image showing the size of different fill power down clusters, from 550 fill power to 900 fill power


Quality Down = Long Lasting Comfort & Resilience

Fill power can range from 300 cubic inches per ounce, to 800 cubic inches per ounce and above, for the highest quality down.  Feather's do not have a fill power rating.


For down comforters: A quality duvet with 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.  For down pillows: A higher quality down will result in a fluffier, more resilient pillow, ounce for ounce, compared to a lower quality down.


The effect of Fill Power is a little easier to see with down pillows.  Here's some more information about fill power and down pillows, along with a video that shows the difference in resiliency and firmness of lower quality and and higher quality fill power goose down.


We use only the finest quality down in our comforters & pillows.  Our Cascade Made™ down comforters & pillows are filled with RDS Certified 700, 800 and 900 Fill Power Hungarian White Goose Down.  Plumeria Bay Eiderdown comforters and pillows are filled with the finest pure Canadian eiderdown.



Down Cluster 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.

image of immature and mature down clusters
Down clusters of the same fill power. The mature cluster is denser and of better quality


Cling is an attribute of eiderdown and very mature goose down. "Cling" is found when tiny hooks develop on the individual filaments of a down cluster. Our 900 Fill Power white goose down used in our Cascade Made™ 900 down comforters and pillows, is quite mature (as evidenced by the size of the 900 fill power down clusters) and has some very nice cling.

Here is a picture that shows this "cling" in action!

an image illustrating the 'cling' of  mature down, or "sticky down"
Mature Goose Down With Cling


Goose Down vs. Duck Down


Goose down and duck down are basically very similar in structure, especially in the lower fill powers. For example, a 550 fill power duck down is equal to a 550 fill power goose down in resilience and ability to insulate. However, because geese are larger than ducks, goose down clusters can be larger than duck down clusters. These larger clusters, represented by a high fill power down, result in better insulation for comforters and fluffier, more resilient, filling for pillows.


Duck down is much less expensive compared to goose down, with one notable exception; the down from the Eider Duck, known as Eiderdown.  Eiderdown clusters are very dense with exceptional "cling".  Eiderdown is the softest and best insulating of all downs, even the very best goose down. Which means that eiderdown also makes the very best comforters and the softest pillows in the world. Eiderdown is also very costly, due to it's rarity.


Down and feathers from ducks can be prone to a "gamy" odor (eider down is also the exception here). As the price of goose down continues to rise, we are seeing duck down and duck & goose feather being used more and more in comforters & pillows as a way to keep costs down. Many consumers simply assume that the "down" pillow they've just purchased is goose down, when it may actually be duck down, or a blend of feather and down. This is why it is important to read, and understand, the Down Bedding Law Label.




Cascade Made RDS Certified Hungarian White Goose Down Bedding

Shop Cascade Made™ RDS Certified Hungarian White Goose Down Comforters & Pillows


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.


We are often asked if one type of goose down is better than another, ie; "Is Hungarian goose down better than Polish goose down?"  "Is Canadian goose down better than Hungarian goose down?", etc.  The answer is an emphatic no: Generally speaking, location does not have any bearing on the quality of goose down.


In other words, goose down clusters of equal fill power will be the same size (fill power measures the size of the goose down cluster) regardless of origin.  For example, an 800 fill power goose down from Hungary will be the same quality as an 800 fill power down from Poland or Canada.


There is one caveat to this however.  While Fill Power is the industry standard for measuring the quality of goose down, the finest downs are more mature, with denser clusters, compared to younger less mature down.  There is no industry standard to measure the maturity and density of a goose down cluster.  These batches of mature down are limited in quantity and are much more costly compared to the "regular" bulk harvested goose down on the market.


You may have seen the term "European Goose Down" or "European White Goose Down" and wondered what that means, exactly.  This "European" goose down can be a blend of goose down from any down producing region in Europe; mostly from Poland and Hungary, but it can also include down from other regions in Europe.


You may notice that I do not mention Siberia as a source of commercially available goose down. That's because, while some small quantity of down does come from Ukraine (bordered by Poland and Hungary), goose down does not come from Siberia.


Down and Feathers

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.


Feathers do not insulate very well, and they are not very soft, so are perhaps not so suitable for use in a comforter.  However, feathers are used frequently in pillows and cushions.  Feather pillows will feel differently, with a firmer more hard packed feel compared to down pillows.


The quills in flight feathers are relatively straight and are not very flexible. Flight feathers are often cut up into small pieces and used as inexpensive fill for furniture & couch cushions, etc.

Image of a curved body feather
A body feather with a "springy" quill


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 Canadian made Alto™ & Stratus™ featherbeds. Feathers do not have a "fill power" rating.


White Down 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.



Cleanliness, 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 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 Turbidity test measures the amount of dust and other non-organic solids that may be present in down.
  • 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 is so clean it is considered to be "hypoallergenic" with Turbidity typically measuring between 900 & 1000 and Oxygen always well below the minimum allowable of 10, typically 4.8 or lower.  How our down is cleaned.


Down: 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.





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