• allied feather + down  

In order to identify general quality, down is testing through a number of different parameters – Content, Cleanliness and Fill Power.

Down testing has been done in the same way for the past fifty plus years and much of the testing to this day is done manually and by eye and subjective interpretation. That is why it is important to always test with labs that have a long history of down testing. A tester that isn’t intimately familiar with the material might mis-classify a cluster as a feather and that can have a dramatic impact on how it needs to be labeled.

Down is a very unique and specific material. Much of the testing done on down and feathers continues to rely on subjective interpretations and care in handling material.

Many multi-category testing facilities do not have the expertise or experience to reliably test down. We have seen some egregious errors causing inconsistent and unreliable results in some of the biggest testing facilities.

We will always recommend the International Down and Feather Laboratory globally to provide the most consistent results, but we can also work with any testing facility to ensure the utmost accuracy.

[ AFD-Lab-technicians ]

ALLIED Feather + Down has 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 following down and feather tests.

  • Fill power
  • Content analysis
  • Turbidity
  • Oxygen
  • Fat and Oil
  • Water Resistance
  • PFAS
[ AFD-China-Lab ]

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:

fig caption
[ down-cluster ]

these are complete down clusters

fig caption
[ down-fiber-feather-fiber ]
Down Fiber

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

Feather 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.

fig caption
[ waterfowl-landfowl ]

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 between different supply chains. There are rare occasions where landfowl (chicken for example) might be found in a lot of down from waterfowl. It is rare to find, but possible in lower quality material.

fig caption
[ quill ]

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

fig caption
[ residue ]

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

Down Cleanliness is tested by two different means – turbidity and oxygen. The combination of these tests tells us exactly how clean the down is.


Turbidity generally measures the amount of dirt and dust on the down following processing. The down is agitated in water and the water from this agitation is placed in a long 1000 ml tube with crosshairs visible on the very bottom. The point at which you can not see the crosshairs any longer is the value. So if you can only place 300ml of the water in the tube before the crosshairs are no longer visible, the turbidity number would be 300 and considered fairly dirty low quality material. Any down that measure over 500ml is considered hypoallergenic. ALLIED down regularly measures over 1000ml.


The oxygen test measure the amount of organic matter left in the water that the down is pre-agitated in. Sulphuric acid is added and Individual drops of potassium permanganate are added in 1.6g increments. The potassium permanganate will react with react with the organic matter until it is exhausted at which point the solution will remain pink. Most countries require a number less than 10. ALLIED material regularly tests at 1.6 which is a single drop which shows a tremendously clean material with little to no loose organic matter present following processing.

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.

Fill power is simply a measurement of volume; how much space a given amount of material can fill. It is most commonly measured in cubic inches per 30g of down, but each testing method can differ slightly in both metrics and general outcome.

The most commonly used method ot testing is the IDFB / US method. For brands selling through only to Europe, the EN standard can be used and for the the China domestic market, the GB/T standard is required. While ALLIED always recommends the IDFB/US method, our testing labs can test to any method required.

In general, when testing, there is a pre-conditioning, a rest period and then the material is placed in a large cylinder with a very slight weight placed upon until the final reading is taken. Like with all down testing, a lot of this is done manually and it is critical it is done so by well-trained testers. Mishandling of the down during pre-conditioning, for example, could give a result more than 100 points of what the accurate value might be.


This testing method is the most common globally as it generally gives the most accurate and consistent results of the potential loft of the down tested.

For this method, the down is steamed in a conditioning box and left to rest. The steam conditioning is considered the most consistent method for achieving the full loft of the down.

The down is then placed in its cylinder and agitated again three times before depressing to find the final value.

This is all done under strict humidity control.

EN testing method

The EN testing method was at point the most common method of testing for European sales. In this method there are a small number of different ways a tester can condition the material. This alone can provide a high level of inconsistent results. Recently, the steam conditioning method was approved and now values between EN and IDFB/US testing are far closer for the same material than they had been in the past.

While it is less common, you might see European brands marketing the fill power as “CUIN.” Either way, it is the same – 700 fill power = 700 CUIN.


The GB/T method is required for China domestic sales and is a completely method with a different condition methods and simply measured in cm.

For the GB/T method the down is simply heated for conditioning and placed in a cylinder more narrow than other testing methods. The result is communicated in centimeters so instead of a 600 fill power, the GB/T might have a result of 16cm.

While it has been regularly verified that down has the highest warmth to weight potential of any insulation, it is also difficult to identify exact warmth metrics for any particular specification or fill power. What makes down such an incredibly wide ranging insulation also makes it very difficult to establish a static warmth number since it can be used in so many different ways; creating either a lightweight layering piece or heavy 8000 m parka with the exact same material. Many brands and customers want to see comparisons, but it is important to understand how warmth is usually measured and why this can be misleading.

The normal method for testing warmth is CLO (TOG being another). The CLO measuring system was developed to simplify thermal resistance and measure entire clothing systems.

Generally, panels or blankets are built and laid upon a plate that measures the stability when air is blown over top. The testing machinery measures the thermal resistance of the material on top and formulas are used to determine final CLO number.


One of the biggest problems with CLO measurements in general is the formulas used to determine the CLO from the thermal resistance. While comparative testing can be down within singular labs, It can be grossly misleading to simply compare CLO values with no understanding how they were measured.

Additionally, the entire construction of the blanket used has a measurable effect. Fill weights, stitching lines and fabrics themselves all contribute. So unless everything is the same, to look at a simple CLO value from different sources to compare materials, will likely never be accurate.

And with down, even simply isolating the material, the fill weight has a tremendous effect in the resulting CLO. There is no industry standard for testing insulations for warmth so depending on how much down is being tested, the result will vary. This is why ALLIED will never claim a CLO value for any individual quality and why we think marketing communications like “as warm as down” are grossly misleading.

If brands want to understand and quantify warmth for their garments or sleeping bags, it is necessary to test the final products or within comparative testing for equally built prototype panels.

This is also why it is always impossible to answer the seemingly simple question, “Will 800 fill power be warm enough for …” without a knowledge of the entire holistic product.

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.


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.

The US standard is the most global of the standards and most common. When working with ALLIED, we can ensure and provide material to reach all standards required by sell through regions.

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