The allure of down bedding is powerful year-round, but as cold winter nights get even colder, we’re in hot pursuit of a particularly cozy place to rest our heads. If you’re looking to upgrade your slumber situation, we’ve taken the guesswork out of buying new bedding with help from Chanielle McMillan, resident pro at one of our favorite names in down, Ogallala. Check out her thorough guide to selecting the right styles for your home, then shop down essentials from Ogallala and more top brands:
Break down the different types of down (goose, duck, etc.) What are some highlights of each one?
Down is a three dimensional, intricate sphere with lots of filaments extending from the center. It is under a goose’s feathers to provide warmth. We sell our down based on cluster content — the higher the down quality, the larger the clusters in the Hypodown® and the longer it lasts. White goose down has been the long-coveted and best-in-quality down for ages. Geese are larger than ducks, so they will produce larger clusters of down. Gray goose down or gray duck down are not going to be ideal for a comforter or a pillow. Generally, the quality will be a lot lower (anything “white” is sterilized differently and is regarded as a better product, and more luxurious). Also, the more mature the goose, the larger and better-in-quality the down will be (think 800-fill). Duck down will have a bit of an odor, whether it’s gray or white (another reason goose down is preferred), but the white duck down will always be the better of the two (less odor since the white is sterilized better).
What do fill numbers refer to? And what’s an ideal one?
The fill numbers refer to the quality of the down. Down quality is rated by fill power, or the amount of space one ounce of down occupies. The larger the down clusters, the better the down quality. Larger clusters produce warmer, fluffier products that are higher in density and longevity. Think of marshmallows: mini marshmallows would be like Hypodown® 600, regular marshmallows would be like Hypodown® 700, and jumbo marshmallows the Hypodown® 800.
How about stitch technique – why does that matter? And what are the best options in that department?
Ticking: The shell or outer covering of your pillows and comforters should be a lightweight, down-proof cotton fabric. Ogallala’s ticking is all 100% cotton and is down-proof (the fabric must be “down-proof” or the small down clusters will leak out of the fabric). The thread count of the ticking is the number of threads in a square inch of fabric. We have various types of ticking; however, most of our comforters boast a beautiful 353 long-staple Egyptian cotton thread count.
Baffles: A “baffled” box comforter is the best option when it comes to the style of comforter. A baffle is a piece of material that runs vertically between the top and bottom fabric. Baffles allow Hypodown® to loft to its fullest potential, without unnecessarily compressing the down. It also prevents the down from shifting.
What about down blends? What are the benefits to those vs. 100% down?
Our Hypodown® fills are made up of 70% of the finest white goose down, and 30% syriaca (milkweed) clusters. Syriaca is not a synthetic, nor is it used as a down filler. It is the natural fiber from the milkweed plant and it is non-treated. Milkweed traps and suppresses allergens found in down that cause allergic reactions, making the product naturally hypo-allergenic. Syriaca makes the down more breathable, more durable, and helps the body regulate temperature by whisking moisture away from the body 70% faster than down by itself (or synthetic down). The combination of milkweed in our down is the reason that you can sleep comfortably all season long, and it keeps you cool even in the hot summer months!
How do you clean and care for down bedding without spending half your paycheck at the dry cleaner? (Any DIY tips?)
Since our products are unique, they cannot be cared for like other down products. Spot cleaning is the best practice for cleaning any Hypodown® products. In the event you need to do a major cleaning, we highly recommend a professional launderer familiar with down. Do not dry clean! The chemicals used actually break down the composition of down fiber. When professional laundering is needed to keep your product luxurious, we recommend Blanc Plume French Laundry (1-800-307-0229) for guaranteed cleaning results.
Many of our customers ask, “may I launder my comforter or pillows myself?” Yes; however, the “do-it-yourself” approach is at your own risk. We would opt to leave it to the professionals! If you are feeling brave, here’s how:
* Use a large capacity front-loading washing machine. Do not use a top-loading washing machine.
* Detergent must be an approved down wash, such as Down Wash (by Le Blanc), or Dreft. Do not use Woolite.
* Washing machine settings should be on cold water, and cycle should be “delicate” or “hand wash”.
* After the first cycle is complete, run the cycle again without detergent to ensure all of the soap is removed.
* Dry in a large capacity dryer at medium heat for a minimum of 6-8 hours, checking every 30 minutes to pull apart down clumps.
* When you think your comforter or pillows are dry, put them back into the dryer for one more cycle. Do not attempt to air dry since they will not dry quickly enough and will cause mildew.
Finally, what should you run from when selecting down bedding?
Avoid selecting a product that has a greater ratio of “other blend,” “feather,” or a “filler.” These will generally be lower in quality, and will be very warm. Most blends, feather, and fillers do not breathe. A lot of products are blended with synthetic fibers, which are what enables the product to be at such a low price point, but this means that product will be very poor quality. Always pay attention to the “other blend” in your down product. If the ratio of the “other blend” or “filler” is greater than the down content, then this won’t be the greatest choice for a high-quality down product.