saatva down alternative comforter on top of bed

If you're on the market for a new top layer of bedding, the varying terminology out there might be confusing to you. Do you need a duvet or a comforter? And what's the purpose of a duvet cover

Duvets are one of the most popular bedding options out there, but not many people know what the term refers to exactly. Although the word "duvet" is sometimes used interchangeably with "comforter," these refer to two different things.

In this guide, we explain the differences between duvets, duvet covers, and comforters and answer your most common bedding questions to help you determine what's right for you. 

What is a duvet?

A duvet is an upper layer of bedding that's used to keep you warm at night. It can be made from different fabrics, the most common being cotton because it's soft and comfortable.

Duvets are usually white and filled with natural or synthetic fibers such as down, silk, wool, feathers, polyester, or down alternative. Duvets are stitched all over in such a way as to keep the stuffing evenly distributed.

illustration of down feathers in a duvet, with a caption on it reading: Duvet comes from the French word down, referring to the soft inner features of a duck or goose.

Duvets originated in Europe. The word “duvet” comes from the French word “down,” referring to the soft and fine layer of feathers under the tougher exterior feathers on the bellies of geese and ducks. Traditionally, European duvets were always filled with down. If someone says they sleep "European style," that generally means they use a duvet. 

What is a duvet cover?

The use of a duvet actually requires two different pieces: the duvet itself (sometimes called the duvet insert) and the duvet cover. A duvet cover is a large cloth bag used to cover the duvet. It has a zipper or buttons to keep the duvet inside.

While duvets are usually white, duvet covers come in a variety of colors and patterns and can be made from a variety of natural or synthetic materials including cotton, linen, and silk. Duvet covers can be removed and washed regularly, keeping the duvet itself protected from dirt.

What is a comforter?

A comforter is an American counterpart to a duvet. Unlike duvets, which are usually white, comforters come in a variety of colors and patterns and do not need a cover. Comforters can often be bought as a set with color-coordinated sheets, pillow covers, pillow shams, and in some cases a bed skirt. 

Like a duvet, a comforter is a huge fabric bag filled with stuffing such as down, wool, silk, cotton, or synthetic fillings like down alternative. There is typically less stuffing in a comforter, making it slightly flatter and cooler than a duvet.

illustration of a duvet and a comforter side by side show how the two differ

Unlike a duvet, which is protected by a cover, comforters are typically used with a top sheet for hygienic purposes, as this creates a barrier between the comforter and the sleeper’s body.

Duvet vs. comforter

Consult the chart below to see the main differences between duvets and comforters:



Usually white

Comes in a variety of colors and patterns 

Very fluffy

A slightly flatter feel

Warmer for winter months

A bit cooler

Used with a duvet cover

Used with a top sheet

Doesn't require washing

Requires regular washing

Sold separately

Sold as part of a matching bedding set

Advantages of a duvet

Every type of bedding has its pros and cons. Here are the main benefits of using a duvet:

  • Duvets are easy to clean. Since they’re used with and protected by the duvet cover, the cover is what needs regular washing, not the duvet.
  • Duvets are versatile. You can change the look very easily by changing the duvet cover.
  • Making a bed with a duvet is extremely easy since you don’t have to worry about the top sheet.
  • The extra fiberfill makes them fluffy and warm enough even for cold winter months.

Disadvantages of a duvet

Duvets also have a few drawbacks. The main ones include:

  • Inserting a duvet into a duvet cover might be challenging.
  • A duvet isn't usually sold as part of a bedding set. You'll have to either mix and match or find a set that includes a duvet cover and buy your duvet separately.

Advantages of a comforter

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to choose a comforter as your top layer of bedding. Here are the main advantages of using one: 

  • Comforters are ready to use out of the bag. There's no need to get a cover, making it also the more economical option.
  • Comforters come in a huge variety of beautiful colors and patterns, so you can easily find one that suits your style and complements the rest of your bedding. 
  • Comforters provide a layered look to your bed which might appeal to some.
  • You don't have to deal with a cover, making comforters easier to assemble.

Disadvantages of a comforter

There are a few downsides to comforters as well. Here are the top drawbacks:

  • Comforters need to be cleaned regularly because they’re used without a cover. They're also hard to clean—fitting them into the washing machine might be difficult. (Learn more about how to clean a comforter and other types of bedding.)
  • Making the bed in the morning takes longer since you have to deal with a top sheet.

Questions about duvets, comforters, and duvet covers

We're answering your most commonly asked questions about bedding to help make the choice between a duvet and comforter easier. 

Do you put a comforter in a duvet cover?

You don’t need to put a comforter in a duvet cover—but if you wish, you can use it as a duvet and put it inside a duvet cover for hygienic purposes or a different look.

What's the difference between a duvet and a quilt?

Quilts are much thinner than duvets and are meant to be used in the summer months. Quilts are also made very differently from duvets. Rather than having a filling that makes them fluffy, quilts are a single piece of bedding made of at least three layers: the top layer, which is made from many pieces of fabric stitched together into a pattern, the batting layer (a thin inner layer of cotton or wool), and a bottom layer, which is a solid piece of fabric. 

Which is better: a duvet or comforter?

Both duvets and comforters are designed to keep you warm at night, and both will do this job well. The choice comes down to your personal preference. If you prefer a cozy and layered bedding style and want to be able to change the look quickly without having to deal with a duvet cover, choose a comforter. If you like a clean and simple look, hate wasting time on making your bed, and want the ease of care, go for a duvet.

Can you sleep with just a duvet cover?

Although the primary purpose of a duvet cover is to protect the duvet, you can use it by itself instead of a light summer blanket.

Do you use sheets with a duvet?

You don’t need a top sheet with a duvet, but you do need the duvet cover, as well as the bottom sheet for your bed. 

Is a duvet a blanket?

A blanket is a general term that is used for any top layer of bedding used to keep you warm. A duvet is a type of blanket that is filled with synthetic or natural fibers for warmth and is meant to be used in the winter months.

Is a duvet warmer than a comforter?

There is typically more filling in a duvet, making it slightly warmer than a comforter and therefore more suitable for winter months.

Looking to upgrade your sheets, in addition to the top layer of your bedding? Check out our guide to choosing the softest sheets to find the most comfortable option for your bed.

you may also like