How to Choose a Duvet or Comforter for Your Bed

bed with a duvet and cover

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Snuggly and warm, a well-chosen duvet or comforter will keep you cozy and sleeping soundly through the coldest winter nights. With some research, you can also find something that will not be excessively hot or heavy during the summer.

When you start shopping, you'll see terms and choices that can make the buying process a bit confusing, such as "fill power," "down" versus "down alternative," and "channel" versus "baffle construction"? Read on to learn more about these terms and what you need to know when choosing your perfect duvet.

What is the difference between a duvet, duvet cover, and comforter?

The terms "duvet," "duvet cover," and "comforter" are often used interchangeably, but they are slightly different. They all provide warmth and comfort as a covering on your bed. A duvet is typically a solid white comforter filled with down or a down alternative. A comforter is generally the same as a duvet but usually comes in colors and patterns and doesn't use a cover. A duvet cover envelops a duvet or comforter, similar to how a pillowcase covers a pillow and is enclosed on all sides, so the duvet doesn't slip out.

Duvet
Duvet

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

duvet cover
Duvet cover

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Before Replacing Your Duvet or Comforter

A well-constructed duvet or comforter can last you 10 to 25 years. If your comforter or duvet is still in great shape, but you think it no longer goes with your bedroom, or you're looking to change up the style, consider getting a duvet cover for your old comforter. Duvet covers come in many colors and styles, and sets often come with matching pillow shams. They are much cheaper than buying a new comforter or duvet, so you'll save money and have one less item headed for a landfill.

Also, if your old duvet or comforter has worn down or lost its fluff, you could give it minor rehab, which can save you hundreds of dollars. If a goose-down comforter or alternative fill has lost some filling, buy some more, restuff it, and sew it up. For about $20 for 1/4 pound of down and 30 minutes of your time, you can save more than $300 on a new comforter. Or, if you're not so handy, give the task to a professional who is good with a needle and thread. Hiring a sewer will still save you money in the end.

Buying Considerations for a Duvet or Comforter

Space

The design or style of your duvet or comforter should match your motif or design aesthetic for the room. The beauty of a duvet or comforter is you don't need extra space to store it; it lives on top of your bed and helps a room look orderly when the bed is made. You can find many children's styles, too.

For those who live in climates with weather extremes, you may have two comforters per room—a winter set and a summer set. In that case, think about storing one comforter during the off-season. A vacuum-seal bag works nicely in that situation.

Outer Fabric

The outer shell of a duvet or comforter is typically cotton and, as with cotton sheets, has a thread count that indicates how many threads are contained in a square inch of fabric. While a higher thread count means softer material—making it a significant factor in sheet comfort—with duvets, it’s also important because the denser weave does a better job of containing the down. Your duvet should have a thread count of at least 300, not needing more than that, especially if you are wrapping it in a duvet cover. Alternatives to cotton shell material include silk, linen, and cotton/polyester blends.

Inner Fill

Down: When it comes to lightweight warmth and superior breathability, it's hard to beat the power of the soft downy undercoating of ducks and geese. Down is not the same as feathers; feathers don't insulate as well as down. Down is the soft fluff that helps birds stay warm in chilly water, so make that insulating, cozy warmth work for you.

When choosing a down-filled duvet, look for the words "100% down," "Pure down," or "All down." If the duvet is only marked "down," it might contain as little as 30% down, with feathers making up the remaining 70% of fill. Feathers are far less expensive, so expect to pay more for an all-down duvet. While both duck and goose down are warm, goose down is fluffier, so generally, it's used in all but the cheapest duvets.

If you are sensitive to allergens, look for a duvet with cleaned, sterilized down. This removes most potential allergens, making the down suitable for most sleepers.

Down alternatives: If you are highly allergic to feathers, choose a duvet with a down-alternative fill. These are generally synthetic materials, mainly polyester or rayon, with a similar feel to down. You can also find cotton or wool-filled duvets. These all have the benefit of being hypoallergenic and less expensive than 100% down but are typically heavier and less breathable than down.

Fill Features

Fill Power: You'll often find a down comforter or duvet's fill power listed on the packaging. Fill power is a measurement of the down's fluffiness: it refers to how much space one ounce of the down occupies. The better the down quality, the higher its fill power, and the thicker and more insulating the duvet. As a rough rule of thumb, here's a guide to comfortable fill powers:

  • 400 or below: Lightweight, suitable for summer use
  • 400 to 600: Great any time of year
  • 600 to 800: For cold weather
  • 800 and up: When you need extra warmth; a cold sleeper

Fill weight: The number of ounces of down inside a comforter or duvet is its fill weight. Generally, down with a high fill power will have a low fill weight, meaning that a hot, high fill-power duvet might be lighter than a duvet better suited for warmer weather due to its low fill power. The balance between fill weight and fill power determines a duvet's warmth. You'll sleep best when you're not too hot, not too cold.

Size

Like bed sizes, comforters and duvets come in matching bed sizes, such as twin, twin XL, full, queen, oversized queen, king, and oversized king. Mattresses sizes vary especially deeper mattresses and mattress toppers that throw off proportions even more. You want your bed covering to hang equally on the sides, foot, and bed. If you have a bed skirt, you want the covering to reach the top of the bed skirt.

It's common for two people who share a bed to struggle for the covers, so those with extra deep mattresses and mattress toppers may opt to get an oversized queen or king comforter or duvet for a queen-sized bed. The best way to gauge the right size is to take measurements of your bed.

Duvet Covers

While duvets are usually white, duvet covers come in a nearly endless choice of colors and patterns. Duvet covers are sewn shut on three sides, but the fourth side closes with buttons, ties, a zipper, or has a hole to slip the duvet in and out. It's not essential to use a duvet cover, but since duvets and comforters can be expensive and difficult to clean, covers are helpful. They are easily removed and easy to wash.

Many also like them for their decorative impact. You can change the look of a room with a different cover—a welcome prospect during the change of seasons.

The size you get should depend on your style preference. To ensure your duvet or comforter fits the duvet cover, allow for it to be either two inches larger or smaller than the duvet. If it's a little larger, it will make your duvet feel more substantial; if it's smaller, it will give the duvet a light, airy quality.

Types of Duvets or Comforters

A duvet without construction, or extra stitching, would allow the down fill to shift and create lumps and pockets instead of an even spread of filling. To prevent the stuffing from clumping, duvets have various constructions to keep the down contained evenly throughout the bedding.

Baffle Box

The warmest and generally most expensive duvets have baffle-box construction. This stitching means there are small fabric baffles inside the duvet’s “checkerboard” construction to hold it down while still allowing it to reach its maximum loft.

Quilt Stitching

These duvets have the same quilted checkerboard appearance as baffle box duvets but without reinforcing fabric strips. You’ll pay less for this type of construction, which is suitable for lower fill-power duvets.

Channel

These duvets have parallel seams only, so instead of a checkerboard pattern, there are “channels” across the bedding. These seams allow the down to shift somewhat inside the duvet, which works if you want more down across your feet or if your bed partner prefers less warmth on their side.

Gusset

Gussetted duvets have fabric “walls” around the sides, giving the duvet more height and loft. Gusseted duvets are usually also baffle-stitched. You’ll pay more for these duvets, but you’ll be rewarded with superior coziness and warmth.

duvet construction

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Cost

The price of comforters and duvets runs the gamut. The price goes up and down based on the blanket's size, fill power, type of filling, and outer fabric. You can find poly-filled comforters for less than $50 and at the highest end is $16,000 eiderdown bedding, made from down that naturally sheds from a sea duck in Iceland.

Generally, the worst time to buy warm bedding from in-store retailers is in the summer, when stock is at its lowest on the shelves. January is usually the best time to buy bedding—just after the winter holiday rush. Sellers are looking to unload their old stock during their annual "white sale" period. Pay attention to Memorial Day and Labor Day sales, too. During Memorial Day sales, sellers are looking to clear their current year's merchandise; during Labor Day sales, they may have gotten new stock on the shelves.

How to Choose a Duvet or Comforter

If you're looking for more clarity on the differences between "duvet" vs. "comforter," consider them the same. Most manufacturers and retailers use the terms interchangeably. Remember that both can go inside a duvet cover. Both can contain down or alternative filling. The most significant difference is that duvets are generally white only, while comforters can have patterns or usually come in different colors.

Duvet
  • Typically only comes in white

  • Usually used with a duvet cover

  • Can be filled with down or alternative fill

Comforter
  • Can come in patterns or choice of colors

  • Does not need a cover

  • Can be filled with down or alternative fill

Where to Buy a Duvet or Comforter

The No. 1 benefit to buying a duvet or comforter in the store is looking at and feeling the item's quality before purchasing it. Often, an online photo can be misguiding, or the color may be off from what you're expecting. There are tradeoffs, especially since the selection is much more expansive if you search online.

Buying In-Store

In-person buying still reigns supreme when you are a discerning customer looking for a higher quality product or something in particular. Big retail stores where you can look at the selection, feel the quality, and make visual comparisons include Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Macy's, and Target, among others.

Take measurements of the bed you're buying for. Start from the floor surface on one side, spanning the top of the bed mattress, and going to the other side of the bed to the floor's surface. You don't want the bed covering to exceed that. You likely want it lifted several inches on each side (more or less; it depends on your bed and if it has a skirt or not). It's a personal preference to determine your ideal size and set "measurements" as one of your eliminating criteria.

Buying Online

Online, your options are seemingly endless. You can spend hours combing through different sizes, textures, fabrics, colors, patterns, and all the unique features for duvets and comforters, such as fill power and weight, construction, and more. Your online retailers are endless, including higher-end retailers like Brooklinen, Snowe, and Boll & Branch. You can often find online deals through major retailers with brick and mortar stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, and other department stores. You can also find numerous inexpensive options through Amazon, Wayfair, and Overstock. Wherever you buy online, check their shipping and return policies before buying. If any retailers charge you to return an item for any reason, you might want to consider a different retailer.

Where to Buy

The best place to buy your bedding will depend on your priorities. For some, quality is the only thing that matters. For others, price or style is more important. You have so many options online and in stores that you can likely find the best one that meets your criteria, including style and size, quality and comfort, and price.

FAQ
  • How can you tell the quality of a duvet or comforter?

    It's difficult to tell quality without seeing a duvet or comforter. Still, certain tell-tale signs are thread-count (at least 300), good outer shell material, good inner fill material, and the stitching type (baffle box is best). If you are looking at the bedding in person, feel the material and its loft and look to make sure the stitching is even and there are no loose threads. Look at customer reviews of the product (if it has many reviews) to help you form an opinion. Scattered or piecemeal customer feedback is less helpful.

  • How do you choose a duvet cover size?

    Measure your duvet insert (comforter or duvet) dimensions. Determine if you prefer a duvet with a snug, more close fit or a loose, airy quality. If you want a snugger fit, you should purchase a comforter or duvet that is bigger than your duvet cover by two inches in length and width. For a loose, fluffy bed covering, undercut the dimensions by about two inches. Also, ensure your duvet and cover have interior ties, so the insert doesn't swim around inside the cover.

  • Should I go up a size in the duvet or comforter?

    In many cases, you should get a duvet that matches the size of your mattress. The few exceptions include very deep mattresses, particularly adjustable mattresses or mattresses that go over 12 to 18 inches, and beds with a thick feather or foam mattress toppers. Also, some people prefer that the duvet covers the box spring on either side. So, take measurements to determine your coverage needs. Sizing up may also be a practical preference if you share a bed and often play tug of war with the covers.

Watch Now: This Climate-Controlled Bed Also Makes Itself