This post was most recently updated on April 14th, 2020
Are you frequently confused when shopping for bedding? Do you find yourself wondering what kind of bedding you need for your vacation rental?
Actually, most people have this same confusion, whether they’re buying bedding for personal use, or a vacation rental. With so many unfamiliar terms, it can feel like reading a legal document.
Let’s make sense of all of these foreign terms, and break it all down so you know what to shop for.
Function and Filling Types
It’s important to understand the purpose of the different fill types. Feathers are for support and are typically used in feather beds, pillows and decorative pillow inserts. Down fill is for softness and insulation, and is primarily used in duvet inserts and pillows; items that are for personal use, not decorative.
For example, pillow inserts that are covered with decorative fabric and not used as a bed pillow do not need to be filled with an expensive type of fill. A synthetic fiber or 5/95 down and feather blend is appropriate. Natural filled bedding should outlast man-made polyester and other fiber products.
With proper care down comforters and blankets can last up to ten years. Pillows and feather beds should last two or three years. When used in conjunction with pillow or featherbed protectors, you can generally add another year or two to the lifespan.
Down Alternative Products
Synthetic bedding items are good when dealing with budget constraints or allergy and climate constraints. In general, these products are completely non-allergenic and less expensive than down or feather filled items. For duvet and decorative pillow inserts, some properties choose to control costs by utilizing a synthetic filled product.
These are usually easier and cheaper to properly launder than natural down. In humid climates, many hotels prefer synthetic filled bedding to address concern that the moisture will get trapped in natural-fill bedding and develop mold and/or odor.
Synthetic products are generally a batted fiber, continuous filament fiber, or a blown fiber. Each has its advantages and is designed to offer different features. For a more down-like feel, blown polyester works best.
Featherbeds and fiberbeds
Feather beds are available in a variety of constructions (baffle-box, channel construction, down topped, polyester-topped, etc.) and utilize a variety of fill types. Generally, they are filled with a down and feather blend to provide support under the sleeper.
Feather beds should be used with a protector and placed under the bottom sheet of the bed. This provides additional warmth and softness to the bed. The down-alternative version is called a fiber bed, and functions much in the same way.
Mattress Pads and Toppers
There are a variety of pads and toppers that can be placed on top of a mattress to add softness, increase mattress loft, protect the mattress, and add insulation to the sleeper, or a combination of the above.
Traditionally a mattress pad is placed on top of a hotel mattress to simply add a protective barrier to the mattress. Mattress toppers are thicker than pads and provide protection against stains while enhancing the sleep experience with additional softness. Pads and toppers usually come with anchor bands, or a skirted bottom to hold them in place.
Terms for Natural Fill Blends BLENDS – 5 /95 – 25 / 75 – 50 / 50
These terms refer to the percentage of down and feather content inside of bedding. Typically, the first number refers to how much down and the second to how much feather, are in a given product by percentage of weight.
These terms are most commonly used when referring to pillows. The most common hotel pillows are 5/95 pillows. These pillows offer the support that most sleepers desire, while offering the durability in service life that is required for hospitality use.
Sewn Thru Box Construction
Sewn-through-box, sometimes referred to as Bavarian, or Bavarian box, keeps the fill from clumping into one area. Once filled, the top and bottom layers of fabric are sewn together into a box pattern to lock the fill into place.
This construction of comforter is most common with lighter weight down comforters and blankets.
Baffle Box Construction
Baffle box comforters utilize baffle walls in the interior of the comforter that can connect the top and bottom layers of fabric of the comforter shell. The walls are stitched in a box pattern so the filling material is fixed in place.
They are filled with a blowing tube that fills each box separately. These types of comforters tend to be loftier than quilted sewn-through box comforters.
Typically 100% cotton is used on down filled bedding, as it allows air to pass through the product. A minimum thread count of 230 is required to prevent feather & down from escaping through the fabric. To further ensure more leak proof pillows and comforters, some products are finished with double needle sewn edges.
For sheets, you’ll often find cotton and cotton-rich fabrics.
Cotton-rich, which is just a marketing term for a blend of cotton and polyester, is an economical alternative to 100% cotton. Cotton-polyester blend sheets are more durable, wrinkle-free, and easier to maintain.
While you might opt for 100% cotton at home – most hotels, motels, and vacation rentals will use cotton-rich sheeting.
The term Hypoallergenic refers to the cleanliness of the natural filling. It is only with thorough washing, sanitizing and drying that down and feathers are removed of impurities, dust and allergens. The two most common measurements of natural fill cleanliness are referred to as Turbidity and Oxygen Content. Both can be scientifically measured to determine how clean the down and feather is.
As the world’s most efficient insulator, down will moderate the body’s warmth even with smaller amounts. Both fill weight and quality (fill power, species, etc.) will affect the insulating value of down bedding. Down traps air – which is why the sleeper’s own body heat is what keeps him or her cozy.
The higher the fill weight, the more down that is contained inside. Essentially, fill power is a reference of each down particle’s size. Longer fibers trap more air – and warmth.
For the average climate, most people find 550-650 as the most comfortable fill power. The higher fill powers are generally used in colder climates.
Grey vs. White
The color of down or feather has no bearing on its quality. White natural fill is typically more expensive, as most bedding fabrics in which the fill is used are white. The perception that the white look is cleaner has caused the price of white natural fill to be higher than grey natural fill. Once a pillowcase is put on a pillow, they down types are virtually identical.
Down and feathers can come in various shades ranging from pure white to black speckled grey. Typically, the industry has placed a premium on white feathers and down due to its ability to visually blend in better when filled into light color bedding products.
American perception has also reinforced this premium on white down over grey; however, there are many grades of grey down that rival the best white down, as color of the feathers and down has no relevance to its quality.
White down can achieve a higher level of fill power; but at equal fill powers, grey and white down are equal in their insulating power.
What is Fill Power?
The primary measurement for the quality of down is fill power, or how much volume a given weight of down will occupy.
This is a measurement of efficiency; the higher the fill power number, the better the down and the greater the insulating value. Fill power is directly related to the size of the down cluster.
What is the difference between goose and duck?
Although many people consider goose down and feathers superior natural products for bedding, duck feathers and down can be just as high in quality. When the fill power is the same, the down types are very similar. However, goose down is capable of a higher fill power. Geese are normally larger birds; therefore producing larger down clusters – which creates a higher fill power rating. T
he worldwide supply of goose materials is more limited than duck with greater consumer demand. The pricing on goose feather and down is typically around 25% higher than duck. For hospitality use, and for most people in general, duck down/feather products are just as good as down filled – and more economical.
What is the difference between down and feather?
Down is found only on waterfowl ~ the light fluffy coating found on the underbellies of geese and ducks. Down is a three dimensional cluster with thousands of tiny fibers but no quill. As nature’s most efficient insulator, down is warm, yet light and lofty. Down also has the magnificent ability to breathe, lifting away moisture from the sleeper.
Feathers are two dimensional, and can add support and weight, but lack the insulating qualities of down.
Will my guests notice and appreciate the difference of natural fill bedding?
Yes! Who wouldn’t want a cozier cover, loftier mattress, and more gentle and supportive pillows on their bed? If your guests don’t directly communicate their positive feedback to you… rest assured, they are thinking it. And a better rested customer, is a repeat customer!
What if my guest says he/she is allergic to down and feathers?
Some people can have allergies to natural feather and down. The allergic reaction is caused by the dust and dander on the materials – not the down or feather itself. With careful and strict washing and sanitizing standards, 99% of these allergens can be removed from down and feather.
The cleaner the natural fill – the less likely it will cause an allergic reaction. With that being said, most hospitality providers offer down-alternative pillows along with natural filled so that the guest can make the final choice.
Do I need to offer heavyweight down comforters to provide real warmth?
No. As the world’s most efficient insulator, down will moderate your body’s warmth even with smaller amounts. Both fill weight, as well as fill quality (fill power, specie, etc.) affect the insulating value of a down product.
Many people are most comfortable with a year-round or all-season weight comforter… Not too hot, not too cool.
How can I extend the life of my natural fill bedding?
We recommend covering your bedding products with some sort of fabric cover. Washing a pillow, comforter, or feather bed protector is much simpler than the bedding itself and helps to avoid any over-laundering of the natural fill products.
Protectors will prolong the life of your investment my keeping the fill in, and keeping spills, and dust mites out. They will also provide a one more layer of protection for normal outer wear and tear.
How exactly should I clean my down comforters and pillows?
You should wash your natural filled bedding in commercial washers, set on delicate, using a mild dish detergent. Avoid using your normal detergent or bleach, as these cleaning agents will leave a residue on the down clusters, thereby reducing their ability to regain loft.
It is very important to thoroughly dry the bedding in low heat, and to let it air dry for some time to allow all of the moisture to be removed. Try placing a few tennis balls along with the comforters and pillows in the dryer, to help fluff up the products.
What is the difference between retail sheets and hospitality sheets?
You might see sheeting being sold from brand names like Standard Textile, Westpoint Hospitality, 1888 Mills, Riegel, or Thomaston. These are hospitality sheets, and differ from the sheets you might find at a department store, under brands like Charter Club, Hotel Collection, Tommy Hilfiger, Martha Stewart, etc.
Sheets intended for hospitality use (like hotels, motels, etc.), are manufactured for endurance. They are designed to last for around 300 washing cycles without noticeable wear – whereas retail sheets might survive about 100 washing cycles.
For home use, it doesn’t make too much of a difference, as you might wash your sheets weekly, or bi-weekly. For a vacation rental, depending on how busy the property is, sheets might get washed several times per week.
If you can find sheeting from the manufacturers listed above – use them! I would personally recommend Standard Textile. Their quality is far and away the best I have seen in over 15 years of experience in the field.