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Guide to Duvets & Duvet Covers: Everything You Need to Know

Duvet insert on bed
Written By
Parachute Team
Photographs By
Jessica Schamm for Parachute
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Sometimes, the difference between a cozy snooze and a restless night is all in the duvet. The right duvet insert and duvet cover combination can make or break a good night’s sleep. Choose the wrong fabric, and you might find yourself freezing or sweating in the middle of the night, begging your alarm clock to give you just a couple more hours. Nonetheless, many people still view duvets as an afterthought, but why? Bedding is the one place where you truly can have it all – from aesthetic to comfort – so why settle for less?

The idea of choosing a duvet may seem intimidating to some, especially if you’re coming from the comforter school of thought, which is one and done. With a comforter, there’s no duvet cover to fiddle with, but duvets can actually offer a whole lot more versatility, especially when it comes to style. This guide breaks it down: what actually is a duvet, how do duvet covers work and what type will give you the best sleep ever?

What is a Duvet?

Our duvet inserts and duvet covers are some of the most important parts of your bed, but they also garner the most questions. You might be asking yourself what’s a duvet, what is a duvet insert, what is a duvet cover set and how does this all fit in?

The anatomy of this type of bedding is simple. Duvets are a fluffy, pillowy blanket (typically filled with down, wool, feathers or a synthetic material) that you put on top of your bed to keep you warm while you’re sleeping. Colloquially, people may also refer to duvets as comforters, but as Metro points out, they’re not exactly the same thing. Comforters stand alone, and a duvet is what goes inside a duvet cover. They’re always meant to be used as an insert, like the pillow to your pillowcase.

What is a Duvet Cover?

If duvet inserts are like a pillow, duvet covers are like a pillowcase. They’re what covers your duvet insert to protect it from the germs and bacteria on your body (or, for those of us who enjoy eating in bed, any midnight snacks you might accidentally spill). A duvet insert slides inside the cover and is tied in place.

Since washing duvets and comforters can be a pain in smaller washing machines, people generally find it a lot easier to pop off a duvet cover and wash it with the rest of their sheets and pillowcases. That’s not the only draw to this kind of bedding. It’s also very versatile. 

Many people like to change their duvet covers with the seasons. Summer is for lightweight fabrics like linen, and colder months are for the heavy-duty stuff. Additionally, some people like to style their duvet covers with a quilt or blanket, which can really bring together a room’s color palette and keep you warm. Whether it’s a new season or you simply need some new scenery, it’s easier (and cheaper) to change a duvet cover than the entire duvet or comforter.

What's the Difference Between a Duvet and a Comforter?

Since so many types of bedding are similar, the choices tend to spark debate (think: duvet vs. comforter vs. quilt or duvet vs. blanket). Nonetheless, few bedding arguments are as polarizing as that of duvet vs. comforter. Some people claim they’re different names for the same thing. Other’s fervently stand by their comforters and top sheets (though 40% of Americans threw caution to the wind and have abandoned the latter). The debate has even sparked online arguments between nations. (Britain is largely in favor of duvets and duvet covers, whereas Americans tend to also utilize comforters.) So, what’s the real difference? 

The short answer is that both are bed toppers, but comforters stand alone. Also, duvets are designed to be used inside of removable duvet covers. Of course, comforters can also be used with a top sheet to limit the amount they need to be washed, though that is falling out of favor one tangled ankle and bunched up sheet at a time. All in all, neither option is better than the other. It just depends on what you’re looking for.

Duvets vs. Comforters: Pros and Cons

Duvets are a great option for someone who regularly changes up their room’s decor. Instead of having to buy a new comforter – which is expensive – you can just swap out the duvet cover to get a different look and feel. They’re also easier to care for because they don’t need to be washed all the time (because they’re protected by a cover).

Comforters, on the other hand, don’t have the same versatility, but they can be a little less fussy. Duvet inserts, especially when not properly tied, have a tendency to bunch up inside the duvet cover. Plus, changing covers is an extra step in the bed-making process. While the change is easier than, say, trying to stretch a fitted sheet over a mattress that’s tucked into a corner of the room, it sometimes requires a little finessing.

Types of Duvets: Down, Down Alternative and Wool

Like comforters, duvets are stuffed with different materials. Typically, they’re either filled with down (or a combination of down and feathers), wool or a synthetic alternative. Down is one of the most popular options because it’s both warm and breathable. Nonetheless, it does pose some ethical concerns because it comes from ducks and geese.

All of Parachute’s feathers and down are sourced from a supplier that’s Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified. This ensures that the ducks and geese who provide our fillings are treated humanely. RDS prohibits force-feeding and the removal of down and feathers from live birds. Alternatively, you can also purchase a duvet that’s made from a down alternative. Our natural down alternative inserts mimic the warmth and breathability of genuine down with a superfine, 100% hypoallergenic microfiber.

Lastly, wool duvets are a common choice for those who suffer from indoor allergies. Much like hypoallergenic down alternatives, high-quality wool guards against dust mites, mold and fungus. Those with allergies may also want to use one of our duvet protectors, which are made from a tightly-wound cotton and act as an allergen barrier.

Types of Duvet Covers: Linen vs. Cotton

Like sheets, duvet covers come in just about every kind of fabric under the sun, from linen and silk to various types of cotton and even wool flannel. How to clean a duvet depends on the fabric, which is partly why silk duvet covers have fallen out of popularity. (Dry clean or hand wash only fabrics are very high-maintenance.) Cotton and linen, which are easier to care for, are typically the most popular options.

Linen is known for being a summer fabric because of its wicking properties and breathability, but it can be used year round. It’s a natural insulator that keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s also the most durable natural fiber in the world and naturally prevents bacterial growth.

Cotton is a little more versatile because it comes in a number of different looks and feels. For example, our sateen fabric mimics the feel of silk, while brushed cotton feels more like a comfy t-shirt. Alternatively, if you can’t decide on cotton or linen, you can always opt for a blend, like our Waffle Duvet Cover Set.

How to Use a Duvet Cover

Most duvet covers come with ties that you can attach to your duvet insert. Others have buttons or clips that prevent the insert from sliding around or bunching up. Nonetheless, some people struggle with how to keep a duvet in place, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to figure out how to tie your duvet cover properly, on at least two sides.

Some days you may not feel like fussing with a duvet cover. Maybe you waited to do laundry until midnight. Maybe it’s just too hot for your full duvet and you find yourself wondering: can you use a duvet cover by itself? The answer is yes. A duvet cover on its own is a lightweight option akin to sleeping with two top sheets.

Duvet Sizes and Measurements

Duvets and duvet covers come in sizes for every type of bed available on the market, even those oft-forgotten Twin XL beds that are popular in college dormitories. Standard bed measurements are as follows:

  • Twin: 38” x 75”

  • Twin XL: 38” x 80”

  • Full: 53” x 75”

  • Queen: 60” x 80”

  • King: 76” x 80”

  • California King: 72” x 84”

Size is all about personal preference. Most people in highly populated urban areas like NYC or San Francisco don’t have the space for a California King. Queen-sized beds are the most popular choice, but twins work for children and single adults with limited space. 

As a rule, you’ll want to purchase a duvet at least 12 inches longer and 16 inches wider than your bed. If you have an extra-deep mattress, are using a fluffy mattress pad or have a partner that’s always stealing the sheets, you may want to size up even more. Sizing up with your insert and using a smaller duvet cover gives your bed a fluffier look, but if you like a flatter, smoother-looking bed, opt for a cover and insert that are the same size.

Which Duvet and Duvet Cover Should I Buy?

Only you can determine which type of duvet and duvet cover best suits your bedroom. Parachute’s options are versatile enough to work with any kind of lifestyle and aesthetic, whether your home is modern, eclectic or boho chic. Get more details on how to best style your bedding. If you can’t choose, a duvet cover is about as non-committal as bedding gets. Get a couple and change them up with your mood or the weather. You can read more about Parachute’s fabric options or browse our duvet covers and duvet inserts to find one that’s right for you.

For more help picking the best bedding for you, read on:

Mattress & Bedding Protector Guide

How to Choose the Right Pillow

Bed Sheet Fabrics & Materials

Best Organic Sheets: What to Look For

Best Organic Pillowcases & Shams: What to Look For

How to Choose the Right Bed Sheets

Side Sleeping: How to Best Sleep on Your Side

Pillowcases & Shams: Everything to Know

Blanket & Quilt Guide: What to Look For

Bed Sheet, Blanket, & Quilt Dimensions

Bed Sheet Color Trends

What is the Right Bedroom Color For You?