Just like with sheets, quality materials can make or break your experience with the product. Below, we’ll go over the pros and cons of specific outer shell and fill materials in comforters.
Outer Shell Material
The shell material of a comforter is the outer part that you come into contact with. Most comforters have an outer shell that’s not meant to be covered, unlike a duvet insert.
Cotton is a very commonly found in outer shells. The most common types of cotton in production are Egyptian, Pima, and upland. Long staple cotton is seen as desirable for its quality and durability.
Silk is a fairly uncommon outer shell covering, but you may find it in premium products. This is likely due its difficulty to wash and how easily sun and water can damage the material.
Wool can be a great outer shell for comforters or duvets for people who want to feel extra warm. This material also resists moisture and wrinkling.
This blend is very commonly found in duvet covers. The pros of both materials — combined with the price point — make it a beneficial blend. You’ll pay less and still get fairly comparable quality and easy care.
Fill material is what’s inside your comforter or duvet. The fill often determines how warm and soft your comforter or duvet feels. While goose and duck down are popular options, many comforters are also filled with down alternative, cotton, or wool.
The term ‘down’ refers to the softer plumage that grow underneath the longer, coarser exterior feathers of geese. Most down is collected from the stomach of these birds. Down tends to be fluffier and more lightweight than outer feathers. Goose down in particular has a higher lift, trapping and distributing more warmth than duck down. It’s also usually the more pricey of the two.
Duck down is similar to goose down, with some key differences. Duck down comes from smaller birds, meaning that it has a less high “fill power” (which you can read more about below). On the upside, you can usually get duck down at a lower cost than goose down.
Down alternative refers to polyester puffballs that mimic the softness and fluffiness of natural down. This is a great option for people who are concerned about animal cruelty or want a more environmentally-friendly option. Down alternative also comes at a lower price point and ideal for people with allergies or asthma.
Cotton is a common filling for comforters. On the positive side, it can make for a lightweight duvet or comforter. It’s also less expensive than down. On the downside, it may not be as warm as you’d like for the winter months.
Wool comforters are made of the fleece of sheep (and other mammals). This material is exceptionally warm and can keep you toasty during cool nights.
Silk, woven from the extremely strong fibers of silk worms, is a luxurious and smooth material. While it can be found on occasion as a fill, it’s not very common.
When comparing different types of down/feather fill, it’s important to consider fill power. This term refers to how light and fluffy the material feels, as well as the overall quality of the fill. The higher the fill power, the better the quality. Fill power generally ranges from 400 to 800.
Fill power is also associated with fill weight. Generally speaking, the lighter the fill, the higher the fill power, and vice versa. You should consider fill power when deciding how warm you want to be at night. A low fill power will generally keep you cooler, though it also depends on the materials in the fill.
Thread Count and Weave
Just as with bed sheets and pillowcases, thread count and weave matter with comforter shells. If you want to learn more about the impact of these two elements, you can check out our section on thread count and our section on weave in this article.
Our Comforter Rating Criteria
Our testers have developed a comprehensive rating criteria that takes several categories into account. The table below goes over items such as shell and fill material quality, durability, breathability, and cleaning to help you pick the best comforter or duvet out there. All this criteria factors into our comforter and duvet insert reviews in the next section.