Confused about the difference between a duvet and a comforter? You're not alone. There is a lot of misleading terminology in bedding. Duvets may be called down comforters, for example, blurring the line between the two. Here's the real difference between a comforter and a duvet and other terms you will encounter.
What Is a Comforter?
Comforters came into use in the 1800s and have remained popular ever since. Like a duvet, a comforter is a type of quilt made from two sheets stitched together and filled with some type of material such as synthetic fibers, feathers, or down. Comforters are less fluffy and thick than duvets because they have less fill.
Comforters tend to go flat faster than duvets. Comforters are also decorative and designed to be used alone or over a top sheet. Comforters come in endless styles and colors whereas duvets are virtually always white and designed to fit inside a decorative and protective cover.
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What Is a Duvet?
The terms duvet and comforter may be used interchangeably sometimes but they are actually different. A duvet is solid white and filled with down feathers or down alternative.
It's loftier than a comforter and designed to fit inside a decorative duvet cover that protects the duvet cover from getting dirty or needing to be washed. Duvets are sometimes called down comforters but comforter usually refers to patterned or colorful bedding.
Understanding Duvet Terminology: Choosing the Right Duvet
Duvet Cover vs Duvet Insert
There's a lot of terminology associated with duvets. Some people refer to the cover itself as a duvet, others call a duvet a "duvet insert." Feeling a bit overwhelmed? It may help to think of a duvet as a pillow and pillowcase. The "pillow" is the duvet itself, also called a duvet insert because it is inserted in the cover. The "pillowcase" is the duvet cover, a protective sheet that encases the duvet while keeping it clean.
Duvet inserts or duvets are generally white but duvet covers come in a huge array of patterns and colors. A duvet cover makes it easy to change the look of your bedding without the cost of replacing a more expensive duvet insert.
To keep the duvet insert in place on the bed and prevent bunching and flat areas, duvet covers typically feature some way to hold the duvet in place. The most common solution is interior ties at the corners that help the duvet stay flat inside the cover. Some duvet covers are closed at one end with a zipper but others use a button-style closure.
Duvet inserts may look the same at first glance but they are available with different insert fillings, fill power, and construction. These features determine how warm the duvet will be and whether the filling will remain evenly distributed. Here's an easy guide to the options you should understand while shopping for a duvet insert.
Duvets come with two primary types of filling: down or down alternative. Down filling refers to quill-less geese or duck feathers. Down alternative is a more affordable option that's also appropriate for anyone allergic to down feathers. Down alternative can be made from cotton, polyester, or rayon.
Down is the most popular option for a duvet because it regulates temperature very well. It can also be very lightweight while still maintaining warmth and it's more breathable. Down alternative, however, is easier to clean and maintain. A down alternative duvet can be machine washed but this is not recommended for genuine down.
If you decide to get a down duvet, make sure it's labeled "all down," "100% down," or "pure down." If the duvet only says "down filling," it may have as little as 30% down and 70% artificial filling or feathers, which don't insulate as well as down.
Fill power refers to the amount of down per cubic inch of space. The higher the fill power, the loftier the duvet feels and the warmer it will be. Fill power usually begins in the 400s. If you have chilly winters, choose a duvet insert with a fill power of at least 600. A fill power of 800 and up is appropriate for the coldest temperatures.
The final important consideration is the duvet's construction. The way the duvet is constructed affects how well the fill remains in place as a good stitch pattern can prevent flat spots and bunching.
There are a handful of types of duvet construction. Here they are listed in order of quality.
- Baffle-box. This means the duvet has sewn-in square chambers that have side walls. Each square chamber has a precise amount of fill. The side walls prevent shifting. Baffle-box is a better-quality and more expensive type of construction that helps distribute warmth.
- Sewn-through or box-stitch. This means the duvet is made from two pieces of material sewn at the perimeter, filled, and quilted in squares. This construction prevents flat spots.
- Channel. This type of duvet has only parallel seams with channels across the duvet, not individual boxes. The down can shift along the channels but this can be a good choice if you want more down at the bottom of the duvet or on one side.
- Gusset. This type of duvet has fabric walls at the sides for more height and loft. A gusseted duvet is usually baffle-box stitched, too.
Can a Duvet Cover Be Used on a Comforter?
While designed to protect a down or down alternative duvet, a duvet cover can absolutely be used on a comforter, too, as long as it fits. A duvet cover can give a comforter a sleek new look and keep the comforter clean.
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Key Differences When Choosing Between a Duvet and Comforter
Need help choosing between a comforter and a duvet? Consider the following differences.
- Making the bed.
A comforter makes it fast and easy to make the bed as a one-and-done piece. A duvet requires placing the duvet in the duvet cover which can take some time.
- Changing the bedding.
Comforters can be washed but duvets generally aren't. To change the bed, the duvet cover must be removed and then placed over the duvet again after it's laundered.
A duvet is almost always loftier or fluffier than a comforter. Duvets also remain fluffy for a long time, unlike a comforter.
Duvets can make washing a bit easier because only the thin duvet cover is washed. As long as the duvet cover is used, you never need to worry about laundering the thick duvet. Comforters can be washed but they may take up an entire load of laundry.
- Storage and space.
Despite their loftiness, duvets actually take up less space in storage because they are filled with soft down and air that's easy to compress.
- Visual appeal.
Some people prefer the look of a comforter while others prefer a duvet. Comforters are great for achieving a layered look or for simplicity. Duvets make it easy to change out the look of your bedding or simplify your bed by making it European style without a top sheet.