Eachnight may earn commissions for products you purchase through our links. Our articles and reviews include affiliate links and advertisements, including amerisleep advertising. Learn more Updated August 25, 2021A comforter serves as the top layer of bedding during the colder months. It’s a quilted, fluffy blanket filled with natural or synthetic fibers, such as down feathers or down alternative. The quilting keeps the fill evenly distributed.What separates a comforter from the average blanket is the number of layers. A blanket is essentially a single-layer piece of fabric, while a comforter is two pieces of cloth sandwiching an insulating material.Difference Between a Comforter and DuvetDuvets and comforters are often confused for each other, particularly in the United States. Many describe a duvet as a flat bag filled with natural or synthetic materials, like a comforter. Duvet comes from the French word for down, which makes sense as down feathers are a standard filling.While a comforter is made to be used with a full set of bed linen to keep you warm, a duvet is meant to replace the typical sheet set. You should be warm enough under a duvet without a top sheet or extra blanket, particularly as many duvets are thicker than the average comforter.That’s not to say you should use a duvet alone. Most are intended for use with a duvet cover.What Is a Duvet Cover?A duvet cover fulfills a similar function to a pillowcase. It slips over the duvet and closes with a zipper or a series of buttons.Why use a cover? Duvets can be tricky to wash, particularly queen and king sizes, while the thinner cover is much easier to throw in your washing machine. The duvet cover also lets you change up your bedspread with a new color or pattern, without buying a new duvet.Some people use a coverlet or a top quilt over a duvet for similar reasons. A coverlet is a non-reversible blanket, usually quilted or woven. And when it gets warm enough to put the duvet away, the coverlet or quilt can serve as an excellent blanket.All of these—a cover, coverlet, and top quilt—can be paired with a comforter to protect it and extend the time between washings.If you choose to use a cover, watch out for bunching or lumps as you place your comforter inside. Sometimes, the comforter won’t stay in place, although many modern covers include ties on the inside to prevent that. You may need a second person to help you wrestle your comforter or duvet into position.What to Look for in a ComforterWarmth is the biggest consideration when you’re shopping for the best comforter, and that’s affected primarily by its weight and thickness. How heavy a comforter you need depends mostly on your local climate and how cool your bedroom is.When in doubt, it’s better to go for a light comforter. You can always add an extra blanket if you need it, while you can’t make a heavy comforter cooler.If you want to stay warm without sweating and sleeping hot, your best option is a comforter with natural materials. A cotton comforter filled with down feathers or wool often lets air flow through more than a polyester comforter with a down-alternative fill.That’s not to say a polyester comforter is the wrong choice. It will keep you warm, and if you’re shopping on a budget, a synthetic fabric comforter is usually cheaper than one made with natural fibers. And if you like a colorful bedspread, you may find more synthetic options than natural ones.Down comforters are traditionally sold with a plain white cover, to hide feathers as they poke through. However, the white fabric may have a longer lifespan than colored textiles; dyeing a cloth thins it and leaves it more likely to break down and unravel. It’s also easier to dress up a white comforter or duvet with a colorful cover because the white won’t show through.Don’t forget to consider thread count as you shop. A good thread count is often 400 or higher, and you might want a tighter weave if you’re buying a down comforter. The closer the knit, the less likely it is that a feather will poke through.How Big of a Comforter Do I Need?Comforters are available in all bed sizes, but their measurements are not standardized. Some run a few inches shorter than the bed’s width and length, while others extend beyond the bed’s edge. A good-sized comforter should drape over the sides of your mattress to keep you warm.Buying a comforter for a full size mattress can be especially tricky. Many companies designate their comforters for a full size and queen size mattress. In practice, this often means the comforter feels oversized on a full bed.Still, your mattress size provides a good guideline for how large your comforter should be. Be aware that if you buy a fluffy comforter, the fabric may puff out from the filling and reduce its coverage space. You may want to buy a deliberately oversized model, designed to be wider than the bed’s standard width.Caring For Your ComforterMost comforters are machine washable. It’s best to double-check the care tag before you throw it in your washing machine because some are dry clean only.Larger comforters such as a queen or king size may be too big for your washer. If you try to fit your comforter in a too-small washer, the filling may become damaged. You might have to take them over to your local laundromat or a dry cleaner with a washing service.In general, a comforter should be washed on the gentle or delicate cycle with cold or warm water. The care tag should specify what kind of detergent to use, and if not, you should reach out to the manufacturer.When you stick your comforter in the dryer, you might want to throw in a few dryer balls or tennis balls. They should fluff up your comforter as it’s tumbled.We recommend washing all your bedding once a week to eliminate dust mites. If you use a duvet cover, you can stretch out the time between washingsto once or twice a year, though the cover should still be cleaned weekly.You can tell your comforter is ready to be replaced when it starts feeling flat instead of fluffy.Other ConsiderationsWhat is a comforter set?Comforter sets, also known as “bed-in-a-bags,” typically have a comforter, bed sheets, and pillow shams in a matching pattern. It’s a quick and easy way to decorate your bed, although some sleepers prefer to mix and match.What does all-season comforter mean?As the name suggests, an all-season comforter is meant for year-round use. It typically has two sides to it, a cool side and a warm side, so it can be used regardless of the weather outside.What does full/queen comforter mean?It’s a comforter designed for use with a full size or queen size mattress. If you sleep on a full size mattress, you might find that the comforter hangs well over the sides of your bed.Do dry cleaners wash comforters?Many dry cleaners do offer professional washing services as well, and those that do should be able to clean your comforter.It’s better to launder your comforter instead of dry clean it unless the care tag says otherwise. The harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning can damage the comforter’s fill.Do you sleep on top of a comforter?No, because the main point of a comforter is to keep you warm as you lie underneath it. Some people sleep with a top sheet and a comforter, while others use only the comforter.ConclusionNext time winter comes around, you might want to snuggle up under a comforter rather than huddle under a pile of thin blankets. A little bit of experimenting will help you decide if you wish to pair a comforter with a top sheet—some find that too warm, while for others, it’s just right.If you’re buying a twin size or even a full size comforter, you should be able to wash it at home easily. However, if you want a queen or king size comforter, you might want to invest in a comforter cover to protect it from stains and dirt. You can slip off the cover for a weekly wash and have your comforter occasionally cleaned by a professional service.About the author Kiera PritchardKiera Pritchard’s curiosity around dreams and dreaming sparked her passion for sleep science. In addition to freelancing for eachnight, Kiera is also a physical trainer and strives to help others lead healthy lives while asleep and awake. Since joining our team, Kiera has compiled multiple sleep health guides offering our readers advice on how to improve their days and evenings. 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