Feathers are the oldest, softest fillings for a relaxing pillow. Of the feather group, the softest is down, a short, fuzzy feather that does not have a sharp center or spine. Down comes from the underside of birds like ducks. Down-filled pillows are the most expensive but they feel luxurious, cool and comfortable. Pillows listed as "down-filled" must have no more than 15 percent regular feather filling; the rest is strictly fuzzy down. People prefer down because it is supportive but yielding.
Feather-filled pillows are stuffed with turkey, chicken or goose feathers. Goose feather pillows last the longest, 10 to 15 years with good pillow care. Goose feathers are curved with natural spring that resists head weight. Duck feather pillows are light but don't last as long as goose feathers or down. Turkey and chicken feather pillows are the least expensive, but they may shed and eventually lose fluffiness. Some people like feather pillows because they allow air to circulate during sleep.
Polyester and Foam Fillings
Polyester fiberfill pillows are cheap, and they don't develop the musty smell the feather variety can. Fiberfill pillows provide soft comfort but are allergen resistant. Other allergy-free pillows like the foam kind are made from chopped latex. Both fiberfill and foam cushions are springy and absorb weight fairly evenly. Pillows made from a single piece of foam are harder to move and manipulate but hold their shape longer. Pillows made from chopped materials give neck support but the pieces can clump together over time.
Another way to make a pillow softer is by covering it with a cozy pillowcase. Cotton linens with high thread counts of 300 or more make the softest fabrics for the face. You can launder the pillowcase in fabric softeners and use gentle detergents to make the pillowcases softer. Some people prefer pillowcase materials like satin or silk for the ultimate in softness. Doubling the pillowcases by adding a protective pillowcase and then a soft outer case will make a pillow softer too.