Duvet vs. Comforter: What's the Difference?

Learn about the differences between a duvet cover and comforter to find the right bedding solution for your needs

By Sheryl Grassie

A duvet and a comforter are both types of bedding used for warmth and decoration. Although the terms are somewhat interchangeable, these two items are different. 

The primary difference between the two is a duvet has a changeable cover that can be removed and washed, a comforter does not.

The question is, duvet vs. comforter, which one is right for you? Read these considerations to help you choose the best bedding for your lifestyle and needs.

Duvet Comforter
Use Used with a removable cover, meaning you can skip the top sheet when making your bed Built-in cover
Style Usually plain white; can customize style with changeable covers Various colors and textures available to appeal to various style preferences
Price Saves you money in the long run as changing a cover to change style is cheaper than buying a complete new bedding set Varies based on material, size, quality, and style design
Cleaning Easy – just remove and wash the cover Usually machine-washable but not always guaranteed; large and somewhat difficult to wash

Duvets and comforters are the most common types of bed covers and are readily available online and in stores. Most bedding websites have a dropdown menu with separate headings for duvet covers, comforters, quilts, and coverlets. 

Comforters tend to be the heaviest, with quilts and coverlets being a lighter version of a comforter. Duvets are a soft, flat bag filled down, feathers, wool, or a synthetic alternative with a removable cover.


What is a Duvet?

Pros Cons
  • Easy Maintenance – Just take off the cover and throw it in the wash!
  • A Bit of a Hassle – The struggle is real when it comes to changing the cover sometimes. You may need to phone a friend the first few times.
  • Flexible Styling – Tired of your bed’s look? Changing it up is as simple (and affordable) as swapping the duvet cover.
  • Less Options – You won’t find as many patterns/styles/textures when it comes to duvet covers so you won’t get as much artsy flare.
  • Save Money – Duvets in general are often pretty cheap, and it saves you from having to buy a complete new set like you may have to with a comforter.
  • Duvet Drifting – Oftentimes your duvet will shift around in the cover making your bed look lumpy.

Dictionary.com defines a duvet as a “Down filled quilt, often with a removable cover.” The word duvet comes from mid-18th century French, and literally translates to, “Down, the feathers of a young bird.” 

Duvets originated in Europe where bedding was stuffed with the feathers of geese and ducks to create warmth. The small feathers close to the bird’s body (down) have an increased insulating effect and are softer. 

These down feathers are the most desirable for filling, but sometimes duvets are made with a mix of down and feathers. Although the word duvet means “down,” and when we speak of a duvet we think of a down comforter, sometimes they are made with synthetic fiber.

The duvet distinguishes itself by having a removable cover. The cover, called a “duvet cover,” is essentially a large flat bag to place the duvet into. This cover is very much like a pillow case with a closure on one side. 

The closure might be made with buttons, fastened with Velcro, or have a zipper. The cover allows for easy washing of just the outside, saving on wear and tear of the more expensive duvet inside.

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IKEA duvet

What is a Comforter?

Pros Cons
  • Easy Styling – Typically sold in a set.
  • Harder to Clean – If it’s not machine washable, it’s going to be a pain to dry-clean. 
  • Wide Selection – Comforters are available in many styles, textures, sizes, and designs.
  • Larger Commitment – More expensive to change styles when you become bored of it.
  • No Hassle – Just throw it on the bed! Don’t worry about struggling to maneuver a cover over it.
  • More Expensive – In general, you may find that comforters are more expensive, plus the cost of changing a whole set when you need a style change.

Mirriam-Webster defines comforter as, “A thick bed covering made of two layers of cloth with a filling (such as down).” The name has origins in both Latin and French and means “to keep warm.” 

In contrast to a blanket, which is a single layer, a comforter has two outside pieces of fabric with some kind of fill. The fill might be down, cotton, or a synthetic material. 

The cover and the filling are stitched together to make a single item. Comforters are designed to keep you warmer than a blanket by providing multiple layers. The cover is not removable.

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Duvet vs. Comforter: Which One is Best for You?

The main difference between a duvet and a comforter is that the duvet is a two piece set, whereas a comforter is one piece. The duvet has a cover that is removable; the cover on the comforter is not removable. 

What it comes down to is individual choice, what is comfortable for you, and what works with your lifestyle. Take a look at the pros and cons to help you decide which is best for you. 

Then, dig deeper into the details by looking at the differences between these two types of bedding in terms of comfort, care, cost, and decorating options.

Comfort

Whether you find a duvet or a comforter more comfortable depends on what you like. Duvets range from light to heavy, depending on the amount of fill, and are very pliable at any weight. They can be molded and tucked around the body creating a tight secure fit, but they can also get tangled.

Comforters on the other hand, tend not to be as heavy, and are stiffer floating better atop the body and staying in shape. The choice between the two regarding comfort might come down to how intimate you like to be with your bedding. Do you like to be all wrapped up in it? Or do you prefer it to lay flat on top of you?

Care

When it comes to care, there are some major differences between a duvet and a comforter. The inside duvet does not need to be washed as often as the cover, saving on time and work with bed maintenance. Just take off the cover, throw it in the wash, and put it back on over the duvet. Once or twice a year the inside duvet can be washed or dry-cleaned. 

Further, the duvet can be used with a set of sheets or European style on top of just a bottom sheet. Skipping the top sheet cuts down further on laundry and makes the bed very simple to make.

The comforter, on the other hand, does not have a cover and so must be washed as a whole. It is easy to wash at home and does not usually need to be dry-cleaned. Both a top and bottom sheet are used with a comforter to keep it clean. 

When making the bed, it can be easier to just throw the stiffer comforter over the bed and have it look good, but there is the issue of a top and bottom sheet along with the comforter to manage.

Cost

Either a duvet or a comforter can be purchased at a variety of different price points. Duvets, because they are two pieces, can add up. But you can skip the top sheet, cutting that cost. Comforters come separately, or as comforter sets with sheets in the popular “bed-in-a-bag” version that can be quite inexpensive.

Decorating Options

Both types of bedding come in a variety of colors and patterns to make any room look great. The duvet cover can be changed easily for seasonal decorating or just because you want something different. The covers can be made by sewing two sheets together or purchased relatively inexpensively so you can have more than one cover.

Summary

In the debate over duvet vs comforter you can use the following criteria to help you choose:

  • What do you find most comfortable?
  • How much time do you want to spend making the bed?
  • How much washing, dry cleaning, or care is involved?
  • What do you want to spend?
  • How do you like to decorate?

To continue dressing your bed in the most comfortable items, check out Mattress Advisor’s extensive sleep accessories reviews.


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