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WHAT IS EIDERDOWN
Eiderdown is the soft, warm underlayer of feathers from the Common Eider Duck. It is considered to be the most desirable insulator in the world as well as the pinnacle of insulation and only around 3.000 kilograms are picked per year globally. Of those 3.000 kilograms, Iceland’s yield is around 80%. Eiderdown is picked in much smaller quantities in Canada, Russia, the Faroe Islands and Norway as well as a few other countries in the northern hemisphere.
It is the world’s only down that is “harvested” from a wild species of bird, as well as being the world’s only down that is naturally hydrophobic. A single eiderdown plume consists of thousands of individual barbs, resembling barbed wire, that stick each plume to another. This makes eiderdown incredibly cohesive and as a result, it sticks together like Velcro.
The International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory (IDFL) conducted a test for us, comparing the popular grey goose down, which is used to fill most down products, to our eiderdown. The test results showed that, “When comparing eiderdown to standard goose down, you will note that eiderdown compresses to a larger degree than goose down, and also recovers better than the goose down. This provides evidence that eiderdown is more durable, making it feel softer while still providing support or loft.”
The result confirms what eiderdown farmers have believed for centuries, that eiderdown is more durable and lasts longer than other down. Eiderdown duvets have been known to be passed down as heirlooms for generations.
Eiderdown is hand-picked over the first days of June each year. At Icelandic Eider, we process our eiderdown in a specially made house known as the “Down House.” In the Down House, the eiderdown is dried straight after picking using geothermal water and heat conductors. The temperature that the down is dried at is around 35°C and will leave the down bone-dry in a matter of hours. The down is then initially cleaned of debris, mostly seaweed, hay and eggshells, but around 60% of the initial weight of the down is debris. After being dried and initially cleaned, the down is baked in specially made ovens at around 130°C to kill fleas and to make it easier to clean during the next steps in the process. After baking, it is put through a couple of machines to clean the rest of the debris and most of the feathers from the down. After machine cleaning, our eiderdown is washed, using a specially made odourless eiderdown soap and a specific water temperature. This rids the down of any unwanted smells and other dirt. As the down is drying after washing, at the same temperature as it initially dried at, we pick the leftover feathers by hand. This means that our eiderdown contains less than 1% feathers.
Cleaning eiderdown is a tedious and labour-intensive process and is part of the reason behind eiderdowns high price, as well as it being an extremely limited resource. For comparison, the annual yield of Rhodium, which is considered to be the rarest metal in the world, is around 30 tonnes per year. The annual yield of eiderdown is around 3 tonnes per year, which gives you an idea of how rare eiderdown really is.
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