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At ALLIED, we have always said that not all down is created equal. And what allows down to become such an incredible insulation lies in how the material was processed. Down can be sourced from some of the best – and even certified – farms, but how it is further processed is the difference between cheap down and feathers and a high quality, technical, sustainable and durable insulation. 

Lab Shake Testing

Down is comprised of beta-keratin, which is a protein extremely similar to our human hair. When down is processed, it needs to be treated in a way that provides the necessary cleanliness, but while still retaining a precise amount of the natural fat and oil so that it retains its resiliency so it can take years of extreme compression and still loft back to its full potential to provide warmth and comfort. There is a lot of cheaper down sourced in the market that might even come with RDS certification, but that has been processed with harsh chemicals, bleach and dried extremely fast. While this may save a small percentage in cost, the insulation may provide clean test results and even look good in the garment right away. But after just a little use, this harsh processing will have taken its toll and the product will quickly start to lose its loft as the now brittle clusters quickly degrade into fiber. 


This type of processing is also usually accompanied by the use of harsh chemicals that have extremely detrimental impacts on their local environments. The current down standards do not incorporate any form of chemical management so it is important to not only know where your down came from, but how it has been processed. 

ALLIED has developed a proprietary processing method called DURAWASH which has long led the industry in sustainable processing and stands as the benchmark of cleanliness as tested by an independent third party laboratory. The DURAWASH processing is incredibly complex and consists of no less than 13 stages that includes constantly being run through magnets to pick up any impurities, unique drying chambers that ensure we do not overheat the down, vortices that help to reduce additional residue and filter out the finest clusters and proprietary dedusting bins to ensure only the purest down is shipped. The DURAWASH process also incorporates a complex water filtration system to ensure we are able to recycle all the water we use. Part of this filtration is a purification which helps soften all water so minimal detergents can be used. The detergents ALLIED uses have been developed with our long time bluesign® chemical partner to precisely clean the down with no harm to the environment. 


In 2018, ALLIED was only the fourth company in the US to earn Palm Oil Free Certification.

Cleanliness, alongside fill power, is another important qualitative measurement currently used for down and measured through turbidity and oxygen tests. Clean down is incredibly important in that most people that have experienced an allergic reaction to down products are not reacting to the down itself, but dust and other allergens that can be present in unclean down. Clean down will also perform the best, realizing its warmth to weight potential. 


Turbidity testing measures the amount of “dirt” that remains on the down after washing. A given amount down is submerged in a predetermined amount of distilled water and agitated according to the standards protocol. The down is strained out and the water is transferred to a large tube with a marker inside. The turbidity represents the volume of water present that still allows for a clear reading of the mark. If the mark can not be read through more than 200mm of water, it would represent quite dirty material still and have significantly cloudy water present. But if the water is clear and the mark can still be read after 1000mm of water is filled in the cylinder, it would represent extremely clean material. 

Any measurement beyond 500mm is considered hypoallergenic. ALLIED material almost always registers beyond 1000mm where the testing stops.


Following the turbidity testing, the water used for that test is then subjected to oxygen testing in which it is determined how much organic matter remains in that water. Measurements are in 1.6 unit increments because that represents the volume of a droplet of agent used to determine the result. The more drops of the agent required to clear the liquid, the more organic matter is present. Anything under 10 is considered acceptable by the industry, but ALLIED material is almost always at 1.6. 

It’s important to note, however, that it still does not take into account fat and oil content which means one can use harsh chemicals to get the down very clean initially, but do so by stripping the fat and oil from the down cluster resulting in a “clean” down, but one that will break down very quickly. There is a reason ALLIED’s DuraWASH process involves so many steps and why we have extremely precise measurements for fat and oil we need to maintain in order to offer a high quality and long lasting insulation.

ALLIED Feather + Down have accredited down and feather testing laboratories in our facilities in Los Angeles and Hangzhou, China. The technicians are amongst the most experienced in the world with at least 20 years of down and feather testing with our primary technicians in California. 

Having accredited testing labs at our main facilities helps maintain the quality and cleanliness our partners have come to expect. Every raw material lot is tested for quality, content and banned substances that can occasionally be found in material collected from some regions (most often the result of a contaminated water supply). And at shipping, every production lot is further tested to ensure the highest quality material is being shipped for our partner brands. 

Our internal labs all provide the down and feather tests. 

Nomenclature and labeling are perhaps the most confusing communications around down. For labeling purposes, down is specified primarily through cluster % and then usually followed by fill power for marketing purposes. Species is usually specified for goose and left as simply “down” for duck down or a down blend that does not fit the requirements to be labeled as goose down. 

Different countries and regions also have differing requirements ranging from minimum % of species to passable fat and oil to fiber or feather content allowable. 


Cluster Ratio + Content Analysis

The cluster ratio you normally see is a percentage of down cluster to everything else. Normally, for ease of communication, this “other” is represented as feather. But in reality, a 90 / 10 down, for example, will actually have very little “feather” in it. Using a Montane lot and looking at the TrackMyDown.com report for lot number 13150315388, you can see in this 90 / 10 lot, we see 95.6% down cluster, 2.0% down fiber, 0.8% feather fiber, 1.5% waterfowl, 0.0% landfowl, 0.0% quill and 0.0% residue.

To explain the different elements, the content analysis is broken down as follows:

These are complete down clusters

Broken pieces of down. It is normal for the cluster to shed some of its tendrils… these are considered “fiber.”

These are small pieces that do not constitute a complete feather but are identifiable as coming from a feather and not a down cluster.

These are the small “feathers” that are identifiable as coming from waterfowl.

These would be small feathers identifiable as not coming from waterfowl. As a by-product of the food industry with a lot of overlap

These would be identified as larger sharp quills from feathers. It is extremely rare if not impossible to find any volume of quill in an ALLIED lot of down.

This is reserved for tiny broken pieces or flakes where the source is not able to be identified.

Labeling Requirements / Restrictions

There are many different region and country-specific requirements for appropriate labeling. The US standard, in general, is the most difficult requiring at least 95% goose for labeling as goose down (where in Europe as example, that could be as low as 85%). There are also limitations certain regions place on the different elements above. China, for example, limits the amount of feather that can be present.

For further comparisons and different standards and requirements, see the downloads below.

It is critically important to understand the best way to handle and store down. Too much humidity during storage of the bulk material can accelerate the growth of mold and cause significant and sometimes irreparable damage. Additionally, down needs to breath so we bag in breathable bags. This necessitates storage off the floor in order to keep it both clean and protected from foreign elements that could eventually find their way into the filled products.