Posted on

5 things to consider before buying a down duvet!

Ditch the down duvet

South Africa’s summer is fast approaching, and every morning it seems to get slightly warmer. Very soon, those of us in the colder parts of the country will be folding up the winter bedding to store away until next year’s freezing temperatures arrive.

I know many of you will possibly lambaste me for this blog, because essentially I am advocating for you to throw away your down or plastic duvets. 

Yes, dear readers, that is the message of my blog post, and hopefully if you read to the end of it, you will run to your cupboards, bag the old duvets and give the plastic ones to your local animal shelter, and send the down to the waste heap.

When I launched Karoo Creations, I spent endless hours researching the manufacture and construction of duvets. Some of the information I came across was horrifying. In the paragraphs below, I’ll give you a breakdown of why I firmly believe down duvets should be binned.

Down duvets do not thermo-regulate

OK, so I know this is a bit of jargon.

What I mean to say is that down (and plastic duvets too) are insulators. They trap heat generated by your body under the duvet and will cause you to overheat. This is true especially if you are a “hot sleeper”, or have those pesky “power surges” caused by menopause.

Because of the structure of down and feathers, any heat generated will stay close to your body – exactly what it does on a duck or goose’s body when swimming or sitting in the snow as is the case with Hungarian Geese. These former communist bloc geese supposedly produce the best quality down, and that is why you will pay absolute fortunes for a duvet filled with their bodily offerings.

This insulating also means that the heat generated by your body, and by the person who is sleeping next to you, is combined, resulting in that oftentimes uncomfortable heat causing you to throw the duvet off yourself in the dark of night. 

Your body needs a specific temperature range to ensure optimal sleep. Down increases body temperature. It does not allow heat and moisture to dissapate, so you’re stuck with a dutch oven effect around your body.

Not conducive to a blissful night where you body can regenerate and rest easy?

Down does not manage moisture very well…

I am being quite tactful here when I refer to moisture. I should rather call it sweat.

Because of the insulating properties of down, your body temperature will always be hotter than normal, causing your body’s natural reaction to kick in, and you begin to sweat to try to cool down.

I’m sure many of us who have slept under down duvets have had that moment of wanting to stick your foot out from under the duvet to try and cool down a bit. I’m right, huh?

For those of you with older down duvets, have you perhaps noticed a colour change on the casing of the duvet? The crisp, clean white fading away to a sepia yellow colour?

This, sadly, is not due to age. It is accumulated sweat that has been absorbed by the cotton casing.

Down is hygroscopic… I know… another technical term! But what it means is that it absorbs moisture.  When down absorbs moisture, it loses its loft and springiness. Because of its natural structure, evaporation of the sweat into the atmosphere is severely limited. This means that the down clusters are mostly always slightly damp. Eeeww.

So, because all your sweat is being absorbed by the casing and down, it is the perfect breeding ground for dust mites and other fungi that thrive in a damp, moist environment. When these pesky mites multiply, there will obviously be more mite feaces (…yes… poop…), which is the main trigger for allergies!

You spend one third of your life sleeping. And sweating while you sleep. Down is not the greatest to manage your body’s sweat to make sure you sleep soundly.

Despite what they say, down is NOT cruelty free…

During my many months of research, I distinctly remember coming across the website of a local South African down and feather duvet and pillow manufacturer. Their prices were amazingly cheap, and their product looked really good. They gushed about how their ducks were treated to their best lives ever… meaning that their feathers were always fabulously soft and lofty.

Then I saw a tiny little paragraph on their “ethics and sustainability” page that all of their ducks were destined to become a culinary feast for someone. They could price their products so low because the feathers are just a by-product of the meat industry.

Other big brand manufacturers also brag about their membership of voluntary associations that monitor where their down and feathers originate from. That’s all good and well, until you find out that most down and feathers are imported from China. Sadly this country is not known for its ethical treatment of animals.

There is a process called “live plucking” to harvest feathers and down from geese. Please, for your own sanity, DO NOT Google this! You have been forewarned.

Down duvets could be affecting your breathing…

How this topic hasn’t had more press coverage really baffles my mind!

Did you know that there is a debilitating syndrome called “down duvet lung”?

The Cleveland Clinic in the USA have done research on how your bedding could be affecting your health, and the results are shocking.

When the little spines in the goose down or feathers breaks down over time, they form a very fine dust that is trapped in the fabric of your duvet’s casing.

Every time you move in bed, or shake out your duvet to refluff the feathers, these microscopic particles fly around in the air, that you eventually breathe in.

In some people, inhaling this dust causes an inflammatory response where the tiny air sacs in your lungs become swollen and inflamed. It’s a form of lung condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which  is one of many disorders that fall under the umbrella of interstitial lung disease.

One case I read about while doing research for our products was incredibly scary. A 43 year old man in London eventually could not even climb the stairs to his bedroom because he was so out of breath. His symptoms, X-Rays and lung function tests improved after he got rid of his down duvet and pillows.

So, If you suffer with shortness of breath, coughs and chest pains — and sleep with down bedding ­— perhaps mention it to your doctor. Your bedding might be the culprit.

Pesky pockets that need constant fluffing…

We’ve all been there. Down duvets look luscious and fluffy, with lots of loft in all of the marketing photos. But when you sleep under it, all the down disappears into the corners of the pockets!

No matter what you do, you’ll never get the down or feathers to fully fill the entire pocket.   

This is even more prevalent with a channel design where there are long rows across or down the duvet.  After paying for a decent product, you land up with two layers of cotton covering you, and all the feathers and down at the bottom of the bed.


Having been in hospitality for over a decade, we have had vast experience with down duvets. Now that we have pivoted our business to manufacturing natural fibre duvets, we are able to give valid and experienced opinions on bedroom linen.