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Four Questions to Ask When Choosing a Comforter

BY: ZACK MAST | 1.18.2017 |

White comforter and bedding in luxurious bedroom

Before you can make your bed, you have to make your bed perfect. That begins with finding the right mattress and sheets, but it’s just as important to is find a comforter that matches your style and sleep needs. As you shop around, weighing factors such as comforters vs. duvets or “What is down?”, answering a few simple questions will help you zero in on the option that’s right for you:

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What is a Comforter?

The better question to ask might be what is a comforter—and what is a duvet? The terms comforter vs. duvet cause a lot of confusion, since the U.S. and Europe use the terms differently (and, in some cases, interchangeably). Here’s an easy way for stateside shoppers to tell the difference:

Comforter

Bedding with comforter and pillows

  • What it is: a thick, fluffy blanket that’s quilted to keep its filling spread evenly throughout
  • Style: comforters come in an endless variety of colors and patterns, and can feature accents such as intricate embroidery, ruffles, and metallic accents that add visual appeal to your bedroom
  • Good to know: a bedding set saves you shopping time and keeps coordination simple, since it typically includes the comforter and either matching pillow shams, sheets, or pillows

Duvet

white down comforter duvet bedding in bedroom

  • What it is: if you're in Europe, a thick, fluffy blanket that’s quilted to keep its filling spread evenly throughout… in other words, a comforter. If you're in the U.S., however, "duvet" usually refers to the duvet cover, which protects the comforter from the wear-and-tear of everyday use, extending its functional life.
  • Style: duvet covers offer a variety of colors and patterns
  • Good to know: since the duvet cover is removable, they’re easy to switch out. If you have eclectic tastes, duvet covers give you a low-cost way to switch up your bedroom’s look whenever you like.

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Which Comforter Filling Should I Choose?

Fill type is the first and most important factor to consider. Down comforters, the most popular choice on the market, can be filled with three forms of down, each with its own unique benefits:

What is Down? Derived from geese or ducks, down is not simply feathers (a common misconception). Rather, down is made from the coating clustered underneath a bird’s feather, making it a natural insulator that’s light, fluffy, and warm.

Goose Down

Compared to ducks, geese are larger and cleaner sources of down. As a result, goose down consists of larger down clusters than duck down.

  • Pros: naturally fluffier than duck down
  • Cons: more expensive

Duck Down

Duck down is far more abundant than goose down, since there are far more ducks out there than geese (science!). This helps drive down the price, but it won’t detract from the quality of the fill.

  • Pros: more affordable than goose down
  • Cons: slight decrease in quality from goose down, though it is still a resilient, durable fill material

Down-Alternative

Down-alternative uses rayon or polyester fibers to mimic the warmth of a natural down comforter, making it a great option for people with allergies.

  • Pros: most affordable of the three; not harvested from animals; free of odors; hypoallergenic
  • Cons: may be heavier and less warming

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Which Fill Power Should I Choose?

Another important factor to consider when shopping for your ideal comforter is the fill power, defined as the amount of space that an ounce of down will take up if allowed to reach its maximum loft. For example, 800 fill power means that 1 ounce of down will loft to approximately 800 cubic inches.

Generally speaking, the higher the fill power, the softer and fluffier the comforter will be. A fill power between 550 and 750 is considered to be very good, while anything over 750 would be considered excellent. A higher fill power doesn’t mean a warmer comforter, however. Warmth is determined by the comforter's weight. If you like things toasty, compare comforter weights while shopping and seek one on the heavy end of the spectrum.

Pro Tip: Down-alternative comforters don’t list fill powers, but some brands do list a “fill power equivalent” to help you compare.

How Do I Tailor a Comforter to My Needs?

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Extend Your Comforter’s Life with a High Thread Count

Thread count refers to the outside material—sometimes called the shell or ticking—that keeps the filling inside the comforter. If you tend to kick blankets around in your sleep, you’ll want a comforter with a durable shell. The higher the thread count, the better the shell can withstand all those midnight dances.

Match the Warmth Rating to Your Climate

Manufacturer terms may vary, but comforters come in a variety of warmth ratings, from extra-warm to all-season. Extra-warm is the most insulated—ideal for winter nights in cold climates—whereas all-season comforters are typically light enough for scorching summers, making them excellent choices if you just need to feel a little weight on you to fall asleep.

Couples: Consider Buying a Size Up

Is your S.O. a blanket hog? Going one size larger than your bed ensures that there’s plenty of coverage for everyone.


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