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

Business Insider India logo Business Insider India 30-09-2021 Kelly Burch
What is a duvet cover? Understanding the difference between a duvet and a comforter © Akasha/Shutterstock What is a duvet cover? Understanding the difference between a duvet and a comforter
  • A duvet cover encases a down or down-alternative duvet.
  • Duvet covers protect and prolong the life of your bedding, and make it easy to change out styles.
  • The terms "duvet" and "comforter" are used interchangeably in the US, but they are technically different.

Deciding on a blanket for a bed might seem simple, but as soon as you start shopping you'll encounter a question: comforter or duvet?

It's an unexpectedly complicated question to answer, especially if you don't quite understand what a duvet is, or how it compares to a comforter.

A duvet is a plain down-filled blanket that slips into a duvet cover. A comforter is a one-piece blanket with a polyester fill and a decorative pattern. Here's what you should know about duvets, duvet covers, and comforters, and how to make sense of the differences.

What is a duvet and a duvet cover?

A duvet is a blanket filled with down feathers or a down alternative. It's fluffy and comfortable, but also plain and basic, typically with visible stitching that keeps the fill evenly distributed.

You may find a duvet referred to as a comforter (more on that later) or a "duvet insert." That's because a duvet is designed to be encased in a duvet cover. A duvet cover protects the duvet from dirt and dust, just like a pillowcase protects a pillow.

The duvet goes into the cover - we prefer using the "burrito" method - and is fastened shut with snaps or a zipper. Duvet covers have a similar feel to sheets and are made from the same type of materials.

Duvet covers make it easy to keep your bedding clean and extend its life. Instead of washing the puffy insert, you just need to wash the cover. Because of that, duvets are typically used without the need of a top sheet, a piece of bedding you may very well have an opinion on already.

On top of that, duvet covers make it easy to refresh the look of your bed. From flannel to linen, duvet covers are available in the same materials sheets are made of, and in countless designs.

When a duvet and a duvet cover is sold together, that's considered a full duvet set. But duvets and duvet covers are also sold separately.

Best duvet covers of 2021

© Crane & Canopy

For the full review, check out our guide to the best duvet covers.

Duvet vs. comforter

This is where it gets a little complicated, at least as far as bedding goes.

Many online bedding startups use the terms "duvet" and "comforter" interchangeably. But they are technically two different styles of bed covering.

A comforter is a single piece of bedding that has an outer fabric with a decorative design. While it's typically filled with polyester, they're more flat and less fluffy than a duvet.

You'll find comforters sold in bedding sets with coordinating sheets and pillowcases, which makes achieving a streamlined look easy. Because they're more difficult to launder (some are even dry-clean only), they're typically used with a top sheet as a protective layer against sweat and dirt.

Whether you're looking at a comforter that fits the description just described, or a comforter that is actually a duvet, you can still cover it with a duvet cover. The same advantages apply: It'll make cleaning easier, and you'll be able to swap the cover regularly if you ever want to change it up.

Advantages of a duvet cover

© Olga Nikiforova/Shutterstock

Anki Spets, founder of the bedding brand Area, personally recommends a duvet set instead of a comforter. "Duvets have become an everyday thing," Spets says. "The comforter has lost some popularity." If you're on the fence, here are the reasons why you should consider a duvet over a comforter:

  • They're easier to wash. Duvet covers can easily be laundered at home or the laundromat, whereas comforters often require dry cleaning. This is especially great for people who have dogs or children, or who are prone to spills themselves.
  • They're more versatile. Comforters are one unit used year round. A duvet system is more versatile and can be changed seasonally. During hot summers you can use the cover with a light blanket inside; during the winter you can add a thicker duvet for more warmth.
  • They're cost-effective. After you invest in a quality duvet, you can purchase a few covers and change them frequently to incorporate different colors or styles.
  • They're more plush. Duvets are filled with feathers or similar material, which makes them very flexible and soft. They'll wrap around you more closely than a comforter.
  • They simplify bed making. Many people opt to use just a fitted sheet and duvet cover, which makes it super-easy to make the bed in the morning: just smooth the duvet cover and off you go.
  • They're easier to store. Because duvets are more light-weight, they can be compressed down to a small size or vacuum-packed for easy storage, unlike comforters.

Insider's takeaway

Ultimately, the decision between getting a duvet or a comforter is up to your personal preference.

A duvet is plain, fluffy, and comes with the versatility of a duvet cover. A comforter is one piece of bedding that's sewn shut and ready to go as is. But here in the US, you may find the term "duvet" and "comforter" used interchangeably.

If you're worried about care or you want to be able to change the look of your bed often, a duvet set might be a better choice. If anything, you can cover a comforter with a duvet cover and get the best of both worlds.

What is linen? Behind the enduring appeal of the classic bedding material How to clean a mattress and help it last longer How to wash and dry a down comforter without bringing it to the dry cleaner How to wash pillows - and when it's finally time to replace them
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