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Bed Basics
Bed Basics

The Complete Guide to Duvets and Duvet Covers

Smiling Black woman in pajamas making bed after waking up in her bedroom.
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When making your bed, you may very well top your sheets with a duvet inside a duvet cover—like comforters, duvets can play an important role in how comfortably you sleep at night. Originally from Europe, the duvet and its cover have become increasingly popular here in America, with many switching over from a traditional quilt or comforter to this fluffier alternative, which you can use on any size of bed. In Europe, the duvet actually takes the place of a top sheet. Whether you’re looking to replace your comforter, your quilt, your blankets or even your top sheet, a duvet can be a great choice, but which exact choice to make can be overwhelming.

Duvets can be very warming, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to understand the styles and materials of duvets to best suit your sleep needs. Below, we’ll simplify the task by explaining everything you need to know about duvets and covers so you can be sure you’re buying the perfect duvet for your bed.

What Is a Duvet Cover?

First things first, there are two parts to a duvet. The duvet itself is most often a quilted blanket, filled with down or a down alternative material. It is meant to keep you warm without weighing you down. For hygiene and aesthetics, the duvet is inserted into a duvet cover, which is removable for washing or style swaps, much the same way you’d swap a pillowcase. “You can essentially think of a duvet cover as two sheets sewn together,” says Mattress Firm Merchandising Manager Sydney Decesare.

What Is the Purpose of Duvet Covers?

A duvet cover serves as a convenient protective layer that encases a duvet insert, which is also often called a duvet or comforter. The lower end of the duvet cover will have an opening to slide (or sometimes wrestle) the duvet inside. Some duvet covers have ties inside each corner to keep the duvet aligned once you’ve inserted it. It’ll also have a closure system like buttons, a zipper or snaps to make sure the duvet cover doesn’t ride up, exposing the insert.

Duvets are available in many styles and materials that can also add an aesthetic touch to your bedding, changing the look and feel of your whole bedroom. In the summer, some sleepers might feel the most comfortable with a breathable duvet cover made of cotton, linen or Tencel. In colder months, you can easily swap it out for a heavier duvet cover like flannel. The duvet inserts can similarly be changed out to be more or less warming, as needed.

To minimize allergies, duvet covers should be washed regularly, with the laundry schedule depending on how often the cover comes into contact with your body. If a top sheet separates you, plan to wash the duvet cover monthly or even less. If you sleep directly beneath it, plan to wash the cover weekly or biweekly. The duvet itself can be laundered quarterly.

Where and When Did the Duvet Originate?

The first known references to the duvet date back to the 1600s in Europe, but the bedding style didn’t become widely available until the 1960s. The word “duvet” has a French origin, meaning “down.” Higher-quality down bedding was prohibitively expensive for most, making it a less-popular option until contemporary times. Though down is the traditional filling, today, we also fill duvets with synthetic materials for a down alternative or a combination of both down and synthetic materials. Synthetic or down alternative is often recommended for those with allergies.

Benefits of Duvet Covers

Both Decesare and Mattress Firm Assistant Category Manager Nicole Delmasto agree that one of the major benefits of using a duvet is the customized bedding experience. While many decorative comforters are made with a polyester fill, a duvet insert and cover allow you to choose which materials work best for your sleeping preferences.

Decesare says there are great duvet options depending on whether you prefer down or a down alternative as the fill of your duvet. The Sleepy’s Down Comforter is made with 600 fill power goose down that’s not too warm or too cold. The Sleepy’s PrimaLoft Down Alternative Comforter is great for those who prefer a synthetic alternative to down without sacrificing quality.

A duvet cover also adds a layer of ease to bedding. Unlike many decorative comforters that are dry clean only, most duvet covers are machine washable at home. They also serve as a simple way to change the look of your bedding by swapping out the cover for different colors, patterns or materials.

Types of Duvet Covers

Delmasto says cotton is the most common duvet cover material. Cotton can be great for hot sleepers because it’s naturally a breathable material. It’s also easy to clean, since it’s machine washable. The Sijo CLIMA Temp-Control Duvet Cover is made with 80% Supima cotton, with the last 20% consisting of thermo-regulating CLIMA fabric for a cool night’s rest.

Another great duvet material is linen, as used in the Sijo French Linen Duvet Cover. Sourced from the Normandy region in France, the linen duvet cover can be machine washed and requires minimal water during production, making it a more environmentally friendly duvet cover.

For those trying to keep cool at night, Tencel is another great material to consider. Known as one of the most cooling materials, Tencel is both durable and breathable. The PureCare Cooling Duvet Cover could be a great option for anyone who sleeps hot and is looking for temperature-regulating bedding.

Duvet Sizes

Wondering how to choose the right duvet size? It’s easy: You’ll want to get a duvet and duvet cover in the same size as your mattress. Just like comforters, the sizes are designed to correlate to each mattress size’s dimensions. You might encounter a duvet or cover that’s listed as fitting a twin/twin XL, full/queen or king/California king. These are designed to fit both sizes listed, so don’t sweat if you see a duvet cover that’s suitable for more than one mattress size.

When measuring the dimensions, you’ll find the duvet cover to be slightly larger than the duvet or comforter itself, to accommodate for the loft of the duvet. If your duvet cover is too large for the comforter’s size, it could slip around. However, this is easily avoided by using the same size duvet and duvet cover.

How to Put on Duvet Covers

Putting a duvet cover on a duvet insert might seem as intimidating as folding a fitted sheet, but it’s simple once you get the hang of it. Here are Delmasto and Decesare’s best tips for putting a duvet cover on a duvet:

  • To start off, turn your duvet cover inside out and lay it on the bed with the opening at the foot of the mattress.
  • Lay your duvet or comforter above the duvet cover and attach any anchor points at the head of the duvet and cover, which can be ties; many duvets have little notches for cover ties to anchor to.
  • Move to the bottom and reach into the duvet cover to grab both corners of the cover and the duvet insert or comforter.
  • Flip the duvet cover right-side-out while still pinching both corners to slip the cover over the comforter.
  • Continue toward the foot of the cover and give it a final fluff and shake before closing the bottom.

Duvet Covers vs. Comforters

A duvet cover is designed to go over a duvet. A decorative comforter is an all-in-one bedding option that’s a thicker blanket with its own cover attached, but many comforters could also be used with a duvet cover. Decesare says if you already have a comforter you like that works for your sleeping preferences, you could add a duvet cover over the comforter to make it easier come laundry day. Instead of putting the bulky comforter into the washing machine and dryer, you can wash just the duvet cover. However, keep in mind that comforters often won’t tie or snap in like a duvet insert would, so there’s a bigger chance for the comforter to move around inside the duvet cover.

Decesare also mentions comforters are commonly found in bedding-in-a-bag bundles that contain sheets, pillowcases and a comforter. These bundles are especially useful for students moving into a dorm room. Some even come with a mattress topper like the Tulo Back to Campus Bedding Bundle, which can help with making any mattress more comfortable.

Choosing a duvet cover comes down to personal preference. Your perfect duvet is a combination of both your ideal comforter fill and duvet cover material, simply choose which size matches your mattress, and you’re on your way to a great night’s sleep.

Other Questions About Duvet Covers

What is the purpose of duvet covers?

Duvet covers are a great way to easily change up the look of your bed while protecting your comforter during use.

What is the difference between a comforter and a duvet cover?

A duvet cover is designed to go over a duvet. A decorative comforter is an all-in-one bedding option that’s a thicker blanket with its own cover attached.

What does quilt cover mean?

A quilt cover is a piece that goes over your duvet or quilt. It’s the protection, the style and often the top piece of your bed set. A quilt cover most often comes as part of a set, with matching pillowcases.

What is a duvet vs. a quilt?

A quilt is a one-piece bedding item thickened by two to three layers, while a duvet is a two-component bedding item comprising a duvet cover and an insert.

Why are duvet covers bigger than the duvet?

Duvet covers are sized slightly larger than your duvet dimensions to accommodate the loft of the duvet. Always choose a duvet cover that corresponds with your bed and bedding size.

Why does my duvet slip down inside the cover?

If your duvet cover is too large, the duvet can shift around inside the cover, and if the fabric of the duvet is too tight or slippery (this is common if the material is synthetic), then it is also bound to slip.

Can I get a bigger duvet than my mattress size?

If you find that your bed mate steals the covers overnight, you can certainly size up your duvet—this is especially useful for those in a queen bed opting for king duvet, as the length of the two bed sizes is the same, so you’re gaining 16 inches of additional width to cover you each night. But if you’re worried about coverage for the bed, know that most duvets are wider than the mattress width to give ample coverage, so you should be fine sticking with your mattress size.

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