To figure out which one is right for your bed, it pays to ask a few questions.
When it comes to bedding that keeps you warm, there’s no beating a fluffy duvet—or a soft comforter. Snuggle up under either one, and you’re pretty much guaranteed coziness that you can enjoy for years to come. But what’s the difference between a comforter and duvet? And which one is right for your bed?
Of course, the answer comes down to what’s most important to you. Each option offers ample warmth with plenty of benefits—and a few things to think about, depending on your style and your lifestyle. But first, let’s get up to speed on the basics.
What is a duvet?
Duvets are ultra-plush quilts that typically come filled with down, feathers, or synthetic fibers. They may feature quilting in a channel or box pattern, or they may look more like a big, fluffy sack. Either way, they’re sized for a minimal amount of hangover on the bed, which gives them a modern look. You’ll find them in white or beige because these light, neutral colors all but disappear under duvet covers. Yes, that’s right: Duvets are designed to be used with protective covers, which are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Think of a pillow with its pillowcase, and you have the basic idea.
People like duvets because they’re warm but surprisingly lightweight. Their removable covers mean you can change the look of your bed without investing in an entirely new duvet. Also, some people skip using a top sheet with their duvet, which means that they reduce the number of layers needed to complete their overall bedding ensemble. This is known as making your bed European-style—which makes sense, given that duvets are even more popular in Europe than they are in the U.S.
In fact, some researchers believe that duvets originated in Europe. The word “duvet” means “down” in Old French, so named because down feathers were (and continue to be) a popular duvet filler. In Hans Christian Andersen’s 1835 children’s story, The Princess and The Pea, the princess rests on beds filled with eiderdown, or duck feathers. It’s also possible that duvets were in use long before this time: Some sources suggest that the Chinese used duvet-like coverings as far back as 3000 B.C.
What is a duvet cover?
A duvet cover is a protective sheet that encases your duvet and keeps it clean; imagine if the outside of your comforter were removable. Duvet covers make refreshing your decor easy: Just swap out the cover, and your duvet (and by extension, your bedroom) can have a whole new look. Boll & Branch duvet covers come in several versatile styles, from the Hemmed collection, which is our cleanest and most classic, to the Banded line, which features a chic pop of color. Some people use the covers on their own in the summer months—it’s like topping your bed with a decorative second sheet. This isn’t the most traditional use for a duvet cover, but if it appeals to you, go for it!
So what equals a great duvet cover, besides looks? Opt for one with practical features to keep your duvet securely in place. Our covers feature four interior ties to help your duvet stay put, along with an unfussy, button-style closure. Our Full/Queen duvets measure 88” x 92”, and our King/California King duvets measure 106” x 92”. Don’t worry too much about getting an ultra-precise fit; part of the appeal of this look is that it’s effortless, something you can toss on the bed without thinking about it too much.
What is a comforter?
Derived from the word “comfort,” comforters first became popular as a bedding choice in the 19th century—and they’ve been in use ever since. Much like a duvet, a comforter is a quilt made from two layers of material that are stitched together and filled with down, feathers or synthetic fibers. However, a comforter is typically far less thick and fluffy than a duvet because it contains less fill to start with. For this reason, some people find that a comforter can go flat more quickly than a duvet.
Still, many people like comforters because they don’t require covers; instead, they’re one-and-done pieces that are decorative in their own right. Comforters often come as part of a pre-coordinated “bed in a bag” ensemble, making them a can’t-miss choice for the aesthetically challenged. If yours doesn’t come as part of a set, you can choose matching pillowcases or pillow shams to complete the look. A comforter is usually placed over a top sheet, but it also can be used on top of a blanket to offer extra coziness and warmth. Comforters are great for people who want to give their bed a layered look.
What is a comforter cover?
This is a trick question! Technically, there is no such thing as a comforter cover—if you have a comforter, you don’t need a cover, because your comforter is already made with decorative material and is ready to place on your bed. You can try putting a duvet cover over your comforter if you want to update the look, but be aware that size may be an issue. Comforters tend to be bigger than duvets, while duvets tend to be much fluffier. As such, your comforter may look overstuffed in its cover, or it may swim a little—it’s hard to predict.
Now that you know the lingo, it’s time to think about how you live, sleep, and like to decorate your bedroom. Here are some factors to consider:
Do you prefer to make your bed as quickly as possible?
If so, a duvet is for you, because it’s made to be used without other layers (you can even skip the top sheet!). A comforter isn’t necessarily that much more work, but you’ll want to use a flat sheet and a top sheet, at minimum, and you may also choose to work in a bed blanket or other layers for extra warmth.
How often do you like to switch up your bedding look?
With a duvet cover, it’s easy to change your bedding without investing in multiple comforters. Instead, you can shop for a selection of covers that you swap out seasonally or whenever you want to refresh the look of your bedroom. When you buy a comforter, you’re committing to its specific design and color palette for the long haul.
How key is the fluffiness factor for you?
If you love a maximally decadent, sink-into-your-bed level of squishiness, duvets are the way to go. They’re specially designed to be ultra-plush. A comforter is a less fluffy option, though it can still feel plenty soft and cozy.
Do layers make you feel cozy or claustrophobic?
A duvet is designed to be used on its own, which is good news for people who like to be warm without feeling confined. A comforter is typically layered with a top sheet and a blanket, especially in the colder months. This can feel a little heavy once you’re in bed—though for some of us, it translates to a welcome degree of snugness.
How essential is ease of washing for you?
If you have a duvet, you’ll only need to wash the cover about once a month. A duvet cover is like a large sheet, making it considerably less bulky and easier to wash than a comforter. (Duvets themselves are generally dry-clean-only, but you can go several years without cleaning a duvet, since it never touches anything other than the inside of its cover.) A comforter, on the other hand, doesn’t have the duvet’s protective outer layer, so you’ll want to wash it seasonally or monthly, spot-cleaning as necessary.
How much storage space do you have for bedding?
If you have a roomy linen closet, you can afford to amass a collection of beautiful comforters, blankets, and throws in different patterns and colors that you mix and match according to the season. But if space is at a premium, a duvet may make more sense. You’ll only need to buy the one duvet, which will stay on your bed year-round. In turn, your storage space can be used to hold a rotation of duvet covers, each of which takes up little more space than a sheet.
Do you prefer natural or synthetic fibers?
Either way, you’re in luck: Duvets and comforters are both available in natural and synthetic fibers.
We hope this information has been helpful! Now, for the final question:
Should you use a duvet or a comforter?
You’ve probably figured this out already, but there’s no one right answer. Duvets feel fluffier, make switching up your bedding a breeze, and are easier to keep clean. That said, lots of people love comforters for their simplicity and their wide range of colors and patterns. They’re still plenty warm, and you can layer them with a throw or a bed blanket for a more traditional look.
Either way, now you know everything you need to find the option that’s best for you—and end up with something you truly love.