Duvet vs Comforter: What Makes Them Different?

Shopping for duvets and comforters can be confusing at first, just like trying to find sheets that fit, and the right pillow. The key thing to remember is that a comforter is really a ready to go blanket kind of an affair, and a duvet is an insert, mean to slip inside of a duvet cover.

Lets’ start out with some definitions on what exactly the terms mean. Wikipedia defines a a duvet, from the French duvet [dyvɛ], meaning ‘down’, is a type of bedding consisting of a soft flat bag filled with down, featherswoolsilk or a synthetic alternative, and typically protected with a removable cover, similar to a pillow and pillow case. 

Sleepers often use a duvet without a top bed sheet, as the duvet cover acts as the sheet, and can readily be removed and laundered as often as the bottom, or flat,  sheet. 

Duvets originated in rural Europe and were filled with the down feathers of ducks or geese. The best quality is taken from the eider duck, known for its effectiveness as a thermal insulator.

In Australian English, a duvet is also called a doona. In American English, it may be called a comforter; however, a comforter is usually a slightly different type of bedding that is not as thick, does not have a cover, and is often used over a top sheet. 

So essentially, a comforter is a thinner blanket type covering, whereas the duvet insert is really designed to act as a piece of bedding that has weight and loftiness, to keep you warm.

Using a duvet insert along with a duvet cover serves several functions. For one, you can remove a duvet cover and machine was or dry clean it, keeping the duvet protected. The duvet insert tends to be a little loftier and fluffier than a comforter, too, 

The duvet cover makes it easier to switch out your theme, fabric style, and is versatile. Washing your duvet cover regularly keeps things fresh, and you would ideally wash the covering (also called a coverlet) about as often as you wash your sheets. The duvet insert itself will not need to be washed anywhere near as often, and typically most inserts manufactured these days can be dry cleaned.

Additionally, duvets tend to be fluffier than comforters, and can simplify bed making if you choose the European style. Comforters tend to be flatter, though both duvets and comforters are increasingly similar, and both tend to be very plush and fluffy, acting as quilts designed to keep us warm at night.

Generally, duvets as well as comforters are all season, meaning they can be used year round, and are typically filled with goose down, feather blends, and synthetic fibers. In fact, synthetic fibers are rapidly becoming more popular, as they simulate down very accurately, maintaining their loftiness and insulate qualities, while a humane alternative to goose plucking, which is a painful process to the birds that produce the natural ingredient.

Duvets tend to be a little loftier and have a heavier weight of material, referred to as “fill power”. Higher quality duvets made with premium goose down for winter, for example, are thicker, heavier, and cost far more than synthetic or lighter weight spring or summer duvet inserts.

Another fundamental difference is that duvet inserts tend not to be quilted or sewn through from top to bottom and are more like a giant bag filled with the inner materials. 

Comforters tend to be quilted, larger in size than a duvet insert, and often drop over the edge of the bed. Duvets tend to advance to the edge of a mattress, or extend slightly over the edge.Basically a duvet cover is much like a pillowcase, designed to sleeve over and protect the duvet insert. 

The concept of sleeping “European style” is essentially ditching your top sheet and using the duvet insert and it’s covering as your top covering over your body. The duvet cover can be removed for washing, whereas washing a comforter is more complicated, and many of them must be dry cleaned and handled with care.

The downside with duvet covers and inserts is that when you wash the cover, you must reinstall the cover and this can be tedious. Once you manage to get the insert back into the cover, you’ll need to do a lot fo shaking, fluffing, and adjusting to redistribute the material. 

A comforter does not have this issue because of the quilting and containment of materials, but again, you’ll need to be cautious about washing or dry cleaning.

One easy solution to detangle the duvet/comforter problem is to use a comforter as the insert, and cover the comforter with a duvet cover. This way, it will be easy to clean to covering like you would your sheets, and occasionally wash or dry clean the comforter, and when you slip it back inside the duvet coverlet, it slides in and there’s no adjusting, shaking, and redistributing the fill material.

What Is The Best Fill Material For A Comforter Or Duvet Insert?

There are several alternatives for the filler material inside of your favorite duvet insert or comforter. Probably the most popular and sought after is premium goose down. It’s the best fill for bedding because nature created this unequaled material that is ultra-lightweight and provides a consistent temperature, year-round. No synthetic can compete precisely with the warmth-to-weight ratio of down. 

Though there are a lot of people who like the feeling of weight upon them while sleeping, and there is even a huge market for weighted blankets these days, the vast majority of people prefer a very light weight solution that delivers maximum efficiency and warmth in the winter, and effective air circulation in the summer to offer a cooler sleep.

And that’s right, down also works well in a summer comforter because its natural properties provide a more consistent temperature than synthetic fills.

Matching your comforter or duvet insert weight to the warmth of your environment is the most important step in selecting the best comforter for you. Many of us sleep excessively hot because of the increasing popularity of foam mattresses, warm climates, increased body temperatures due to age, and perhaps medical conditions, or even sleeping skin to skin with your partner.

When faced with a warm environment, a light weight down comforter or down blanket is definitely the best choice. When in doubt, go light. You can always stack  blankets , but a hot comforter can’t be modified to cool down. On the other hand, people who live in cold climates need consider a down comforter or duvet insert with thicker or more dense fill, which will add a small amount of weight but greatly increased insulation power.

How To Shop For A Down Comforter

There are a few considerations when shopping for the perfect down comforter or duvet insert that involves the amount of fill, the thickness, and the quality of the down that is used. Let’s deal with some of the terminology first, which will make things easier. 

Fill Power vs. Fill Weight

Some people confuse ‘fill power’ with ‘fill weight’ by thinking that a higher fill power down will automatically equal a warmer comforter. To some extent, this is true. Fill power refers to the measurement of loft, or fluff, meaning the height of the actual material, including the outer fabric. It is the true measure of quality and it is tested by measuring the amount of volume that a column filled with 1 ounce of down consumes. The more space it takes; the higher the fill power. A higher fill power will give you a lighter, more fluffy comforter for a given warmth level.

Fill weight is the unit of measurement that determines the degree of warmth or insulation you will experience. It is simply the number of ounces of down in a comforter. As more down is put into the comforter the warmth level increases. It doesn’t take a lot of down to do its work so looks can be deceiving. Warmth level is the end result of the fill power and fill weight working together to make a warm – or not so warm – comforter.

The good news is that in comforters, you can focus on warmth level; no need to worry about the fill power or fill weight. The warmth level is the key measure that will ensure your satisfaction in your new comforter.

In down comforters, a luxury experience comes from the lightness, fluffiness and rarity of the down. There is no better feeling than snuggling into the cloud like comfort of say, a comforter with Canadian goose down, to start off a good night’s sleep. We have already talked about how a higher fill power will get you more fluff and less weight but there are two more considerations when choosing a luxury comforter: thread count and type of down.

Thread Count Can Influence The Breathability And Insulative Quality Of A Down Comforter

Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric. The higher the thread count, the finer and more tightly woven the fabric – to a certain point. Many people use thread count as their sole measure but more isn’t always better. It’s possible for very high thread count fabrics to be stiff and dense because of the way they are woven and the fiber quality. A good rule of thumb is to not buy anything over 800 or under 200. A thread count of 600 is really ideal for most applications. 

Any thread count over 300 is considered premium quality, and over 600 is considered luxury category in most manufacturer’s descriptions.

However, a fabric’s feel and performance over time depends on more than just thread count – particularly when it comes to down-proofing various fabrics.  You need to have a fairly tightly woven thread count to keep the smaller down fibers from poking through the fabric.

Types of Down: Species and Origin

There isn’t much of a difference to the eye between duck vs. goose down, although goose down is heavily touted as far more luxurious. In fact, scientists have to use a microscope or a loupe to check the species for each shipment. Goose down is more expensive because it is more rare. Down is a commodity and therefore follows the laws of supply and demand and there is always down available on the market from ducks than geese, so duck down is more affordable.

Fill power is the equalizer between duck and goose down. A down cluster of a certain size will be, for example, 500 fill power whether it is from a duck or a goose. The fill power tells you more about how it will perform than the species.

The difference between the two types of down comes in at the very high fill powers – above 600 fill power. Goose down is typically available in higher fill powers than duck down. And, our last distinction comes from origin. Down coming from colder regions of the world will be larger and fluffier. Therefore, the European down from Hungary and France is often higher fill power.

Tip: Buying a comforter filled with grey duck down will be your best option to save money without sacrificing quality or performance.


methods of construction of down comforters

There are two main types of construction in down comforters, the sewn-through box and the baffle box. The comforter is stitched through both layers of fabric in a sewn-through box construction. We often use this construction method in lightweight comforters and blankets since there isn’t a lot of down to loft and a sewn-through box will keep the down more evenly distributed. 

The sewn-through construction is more economical as well. Its downside is that cold spots can occur at the stitch lines because the down will move away from that area.

A “baffle box” design refers to three-dimensional fabric-walled boxes that allow the down to loft to its fullest while maintaining even distribution within the boxes – without cold spots. Baffle boxes have a small opening in the corner of each box so they can be filled with down. This construction creates a smooth look to the top of the comforter. 

This method of construction is ideal because the down is concentrated where you need it and you aren’t paying for down that is only hanging on the edges.

How To Measure And Size For An Ideal Fit

When choosing a comforter, size is our last consideration. There are many sizes to choose from: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Full/Queen, Queen, Oversized Queen, King, and Oversized King sized down comforters.

The decision really is whether to get the size corresponding to your bed or an oversized comforter that drapes off the bed. The European style of comforter is sized to sit on top of the bed with little drape. But, in the US, we tend to like our comforters to hang over the bed, more like a bedspread. If you are looking for more drape, an oversized comforter will fit your style better.

Also consider your preference for the fit of the comforter inside the duvet cover, or down comforter cover.

  • Some people like to match the size of the duvet cover as best they can, given there is no industry standard

  • Some like their comforter to be slightly larger so that it fluffs up more inside the duvet

  • Others buy a larger duvet cover with a regular sized comforter to get the draped look without the cost of a larger comforter.

 Lastly, there is the old tug-of-war problem between couples. Some people take the covers with them when they roll over, leaving their partner out in the cold. Their unfortunate partners really appreciate an oversized comforter so they can keep warm at night too!

While there are several considerations when choosing a down comforter, warmth level is the most important to get right. The rest of the considerations – fill power, thread count, down type, fabric type, construction and size – will help you hone in on your ultimate down happiness and give you confidence in your decision. 

Buying a down comforter isn’t something you do often since they last so long. Therefore, you want to get it right the first time and choose the right comforter that suits your style. Our customer service team is always here to help you make the right choice. If you aren’t sure, give us a call and we’ll talk you through it.