Rest Assured: Exceptional Values in Pillows, Comforters & Blankets

Volatile prices for down and cotton mean that you’ll pay more than you did before for comforters and pillows that contain these desirable materials. But microfiber-covered comforters, fiberfill pillows that have improved cushioning and softer polyester blankets should have you sleeping like a baby.

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When it comes to bedding, down is up—and so is cotton. Prices for two staple materials in bedding, down and cotton, are sharply higher today than they were 4 years ago. As a result, you can expect to pay from 10 percent to 30 percent more for comforters and pillows that use a down stuffing, or fill, and a cotton cover than you would have 4 years ago.

But you don’t have to lose sleep over new bedding products themselves, because the latest synthetic materials that are used for bedding are getting softer and more comfortable than ever before, according to independent experts. In addition, the latest pillows provide even more personalized pampering for your head, including a pillow that uses a layer of gel over viscoelastic foam, also known as memory foam, to cool your head and another model that allows you to adjust the amount of air that’s inside of the pillow.

COST OF COMFORT. Higher prices for down and cotton don’t necessarily translate into a bedding nightmare, but you’ll notice a difference in retail prices for premium and midrange comforters and pillows and that manufacturers have eliminated their economy all-down comforters and pillows.

For instance, 4 years ago, you could get a down comforter that had a cotton cover for as little as $59. Such products that were in that price range have disappeared. The least expensive down comforters that you’ll find today are $99, and instead of a cotton cover, they likely will have a cotton-blend or a microfiber polyester cover. Meanwhile, our premium Best Buy selection in comforters, which has a white-goose-down fill and a cotton cover, has seen its price in all sizes increase to $250−$375, which is up from $200−$350 in 2008. In addition, all sizes of our midrange Best Buy comforter, which has a duck-down fill and a cotton cover, cost about $30 more than they did in 2008. As for pillows, you can expect to pay at least $10 extra for even the least expensive down-filled products.

In addition, cotton-shell pillows now start at about $15; they used to be less  than $10. Now the pillows that cost less than $10 have shells that are made of microfiber, a cotton blend or polyester.

Andy Schantz, who is CEO of bedding manufacturer Allied Home, says even inexpensive down-alternative comforters (comforters that are filled with a polyester fiberfill that’s engineered to mimic down) that have cotton covers, which 4 years ago started at $30, have more than doubled in price.

The higher prices for down and for cotton largely are attributed to a shortage in these raw materials. At press time, bedding manufacturers paid $25−$40 per pound for goose down, which is dramatically higher than the all-time low of $11−$15 per pound that manufacturers paid as recently as April 2011. As for cotton, the price at press time was about 90 cents a pound, which is more than double its cost in 2009. The price climbed to $2.30 a pound in March 2011, but manufacturers whom we interviewed believe that cotton prices will remain stable for 2012.

If down and cotton bedding has slipped out of your price range, you’ll be happy to know that synthetic materials that are used in bedding deliver better performance than they did 4 years ago but at no change in price. In fact, synthetics always have had performance advantages over down and cotton: They are machine washable and dryable, and they aren’t likely to cause allergic reactions. (Down can cause such reactions.) The only knock against synthetics was that they weren’t as soft as cotton is, and many polyester fills weren’t as cushiony as down is. But that drawback has changed in the past 4 years, and now synthetics have a softness that’s comparable with that of down and cotton.

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