Down comforters and duvets make for soft, luxurious bedding. Stuffed with the soft, fluffy innermost feathers of ducks or geese, they reflect back body heat in an even way that makes for toasty comfort during the coldest weather. However, those with allergies to birds or pet dander can end up spending nights sniffling, sneezing and itching. Down alternatives have the luxurious feel and warmth of down, without the allergens.

Scottish Terrier Lies at the End of a Bed Under the Duvet, a Couple in the Background
credit: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
The warmth of down comforters can't be beat, but substitutes can come close.

Natural-Fiber Down Alternatives

Silk, wool and alpaca are commonly used in down-alternative throws, pillows and duvets. Silk comforters are quite expensive compared to some man-made down alternatives. Comforters made from silk are not only luxurious, but moisture-resistant and odor-resistant. Wool comforters are a lightweight alternative made from lamb's wool, making them very warm, but also light and breathable.

Man-Made Fiber Down Alternatives

For people allergic to wool and alpaca or those looking for a less expensive alternative, there are man-made fiber alternatives. Fiber-filled bedding tends to be less expensive than wool or silk options; price varies depending on brand name, thread count and construction. Microfiber and other fiber-filled duvets and comforters are as soft and smooth to the touch as original down, but with relief from the allergens.

Thread Count and Warmth

Many people associate thread count with linens, knowing a higher thread count means smoother, silkier sheets, but thread count in duvets is a little different from sheets and pillowcases. The thread count in down-alternative duvets and comforters is closely associated with their warmth. The lower the thread count, the cooler the comforter, making it great for spring and summer months. For instance, 210 thread count is ideal for warmer weather. Higher thread counts mean much warmer comforters for fall and winter months: 800 thread count is very warm.

Construction

Make sure to check the construction of the comforter; it should be tightly constructed and woven to ensure that all the fibers don't fall to one side over time, leaving you with a blob of stuffing on the outsides and mere thin sheets to cover you in the middle. Comforters sewn in a grid pattern prevent fibers from shifting, meaning your covers last longer.

Watch Out For "Hypo-Allergenic"

Many stores and websites offer "hypo-allergenic" comforters and duvets as well, but these are not actually "down alternative." They are usually made from 80 percent down feathers and 20 percent additional fibers. The down is treated with chemicals to remove dander, but those with the worst allergies to ducks and geese won't find much relief in a hypo-allergenic duvet because they are actually allergic to the feathers themselves. Make sure to note the difference before purchasing. Check the care tag to find out what the duvet is made of.