Comforters are thick, filled blankets that usually have a decorative design printed on them directly. They are meant to be placed over bed linens. Duvets tend to be plain white and more thickly filled. They are intended to either replace a regular comforter altogether or to be an extra cover on top of a regular comforter. Removable and washable duvet covers can be purchased to add decoration to plain duvets and protect them from dirt.
|Use||Bedding that is placed atop bedsheets and sometimes atop other thin covers.||Bedding that, depending on its filling, may be placed on top of a comforter or replace the comforter altogether.|
|Size||Larger than the bed size||Equal to the bed size|
|Filling||Polyester, down||Feathers, down, and sometimes natural or synthetic material|
|Washing and Care||Can be washed, but regular washing may lead to fabric pilling of the comforter's design/decorations.||Filling should not be washed. Duvet covers are sold separately and can be washed or replaced.|
Both comforters and duvets are used to keep warm. What they are called and how they are placed on a bed, exactly, varies by region. In the U.S., a comforter is placed atop bedsheets and sometimes atop other thin covers (e.g., an electric blanket, quilt, or a bedspread, which is a very thin blanket). Depending on its filling, a duvet may be placed on top of this comforter or replace the comforter altogether.
With their decorative designs usually stitched right on them, comforters often stay on a bed year-round. Down-filled duvets or down comforters, however, are usually only brought out for exceedingly cold weather when more warmth is needed. Down is ideal for wintry conditions, as it is a good insulator.
Filling in a Comforter vs. Duvet
The word "duvet" was originally and specifically associated with down feathers. (In French, "duvet" literally means "down," as in bird plumage.) In contrast, comforters were typically filled with other natural fibers, like cotton, or synthetic fibers, like polyester.
Today, both comforters and duvets are often filled with synthetic fibers, but it is also easy to find either cover with a natural filling, such as down, wool, or silk. In most cases, duvets are a little more thickly filled than comforters. The filling of both is often stitched in such a way that it will not move and clump together in one portion of the blanket, but will instead remain evenly distributed.
Down-filled duvets, which are often called down comforters, are typically filled with goose feathers, but it is possible to find duck down and bedding that uses a mixed variety of bird feathers.
Comforters come in typical bed sizes: single/twin, double/full, queen, king and California king. Usually they are a little larger, so that they drape over the sides of a bed. In contrast, duvets and down comforters tend to fit to or near the dimensions of standard-sized mattresses for a snug cover.
Washing and Care
Most comforters do not have a natural filling that is difficult to wash, and so most are made to be put directly into a washing machine. This means the entire comforter must be washed, rather than simply a cover. This is especially true of comforters from bed-in-a-bag sets. Large queen- or king-sized comforters are best washed in a large washing machine, like one found at a laundromat.
Depending on their filling, duvets may or may not be washed in a washing machine. Those with a natural filling, like the down feathers in a down comforter, should not be put in a washing machine. This is one good reason why a duvet cover should be purchased for a duvet. That way the cover itself can be removed and washed, just like a pillowcase, even if the duvet cannot be. This has the benefit of making covered duvets easier to wash than comforters and more versatile than in some ways, as the design can easily be changed with a new cover.
In all cases, follow the washing instructions found on bedding tags.
The cost of comforters and duvets varies considerably according to size, filling, and design. Many comforters will be cheaper than duvets, however, and may be sold in bed-in-a-bag sets.
Comforter vs. Duvet in Other Countries
In other countries, like Norway, a duvet (usually with a cover) replaces a top bedsheet altogether; moreover, couples usually have two small duvets — one each — rather than a duvet large enough to cover both people.
Some countries have other terms for comforters. In Australia, it is common for a comforter to be called a "doona," a term borrowed from Scandinavian languages' "dyne," which means "down" and refers to duvets. In British English, comforters may be known as "continental quilts."