Naturally, you want a comforter that’s going to cover your entire bed. In general, this is as easy as making sure to buy a comforter that is labeled as the same size as the bed you have. However, sometimes there are variations in the exact sizes of comforters, so it makes sense to check the dimensions just to be sure. As you would expect, the larger the comforter, generally the more expensive it is.
The exterior of a comforter may be referred to as the shell or the cover. It can be made of a number of materials.
- Cotton: this popular textile is known for softness, and especially soft types of cotton are common in comforters. The downsides to cotton are that it can retain heat and moisture and can lack breathability.
- Silk: shells made with silk have a sleek, soft feel and tend to be breathable and cool to the touch. Silk can be more difficult to wash and maintain and is often more expensive.
- Wool: wool is known for its ability to wick-moisture, resist smells and bacteria, and for its ability to provide both softness and warmth. However, it can be expensive.
- Cotton-polyester blends: these shells combine cotton and polyester generally to provide a stretchier and more breathable material than cotton while still offering plenty of softness.
The interior of a comforter is known as the fill. The type of the fill is what will most directly influence how warm a comforter is, and each type of fill has certain benefits and downsides.
- Goose down: goose down comes from the feathers on the underside of the plumage of geese. Because geese are bigger birds, their down can be bigger and fluffier, although this is only the case when taken from mature geese. This material is known for a luxurious feel and serious warmth. Some people have allergies to goose down.
- Duck down: these feathers come from ducks, and they are generally a bit smaller and less fluffy. However, duck down still offers considerable warmth and loft while remaining lightweight, and it is often more affordable. Some people have allergies to duck down.
- Down cluster: this is what is underneath the actual feathers on a duck or goose, and it is made of puffy fibers that connect in the middle of a round “cluster. ” It is the source of increased warmth. In general, a comforter with a higher ratio of down clusters to feathers has more warmth.
- Down alternative: these materials have a feel and performance similar to down but are not derived from actual feathers. Down alternative has the benefit of not posing allergy issues and of being much less expensive. However, there is a range of quality for these synthetic materials. The higher-quality options, such as Primaloft and gel-fiber, cost more but also deliver more warmth and softness with less weight.
- Cotton: a very low-cost option that only gives moderate warmth and struggles with moisture and smell retention and breathability.
- Wool: a wool fill can provide plenty of warmth during the winter, but in hotter seasons it is breathable and moisture-wicking. It does not have the same amount of loft as down and thus must be much heavier to provide comparable warmth.
- Silk: silk is extremely light and soft, but it does not have the loft or provide the warmth that comes from down or most down alternatives. For this reason, silk is usually better for summer comforters.
Technically speaking, fill power is how much volume 1 ounce of down has. More fill power means more volume and more warmth. Fill power can vary based on several factors including whether it’s from a goose or duck, the maturity of the animal, and whether the down is a feather or cluster. Warmth levels vary significantly based on the fill power.
- Up to 400: at this level of fill power, you can expect only limited warmth. The blanket will add a layer, but there is not enough loft to really warm you up.
- 400-599: as you get closer to 600, the comforter will contribute more to holding in heat. However, there is still limited loft and as a result limits to how much it can defend against cold.
- 600-799: this range is generally good for all-season comforters and at the higher end, winter comforters. This amount of loft lets the down work its magic to trap heat and keep you cozy.
- 800+: a down comforter of this fill power is made with the largest down clusters and feathers and will have the best performance in terms of warmth and durability.
Thread count is a term that is based on the density of yarns within a square inch of fabric. A higher thread count is normally associated with durability and softness. A denser weave can also help prevent down from escaping out of a comforter.
- 300-400: for most shells, this level of thread count is sufficient. This thread count should be smooth and plenty capable of containing down or other materials.
- 400-500: with a slightly tighter weave, thread counts of this amount can add extra durability.
- 500-800: generally, a thread count in this range does not offer a perceptible difference from those that are lower. In some cases the higher count comes not from more actual threads but a double counting of two-ply yarns that are used in the weaving.
- 800+: as with the 500-800 level, this thread count level normally comes from double counting two-ply yarns, which in most cases does not substantially improve durability or feel.
Some of the most common terminology used to describe stitching in comforters includes:
- Gusseted: when the stitching of a comforter is described as gusseted, it means that the top and bottom of the comforter are connected (sewn together) around the edge. This can give a more cohesive feel to the comforter as a whole.
- Sewn-through: in this type of sewing, chambers to secure the fill in place are made by sewing the top and bottom of the comforter together. Because there is very little space for the fill to move, this stitching requires less fluffing but also does not maintain loft as well.
- Diamond-quilted: this stitching takes a diamond shape and holds the top and bottom of the comforter together and in the process creates compartments that prevent the fill from bunching or moving.
- Baffle box: baffle box design means that the compartments to hold the fill in place are made by using a separate piece of fabric that connects the top and bottom of the comforter. This provides more space for the fill to move within the compartments, requiring somewhat more frequent fluffing, but in return helping to retain loft.
The type of comforter that you can get is strongly related to your budget for this purchase.
- Budget ($35-$70): at this price range, your fill materials will be highly limited, mostly to cotton and to synthetics (including down alternatives). The loft and warmth will be reduced, but there are still solid values to be had.
- Average ($70-$150): in this price range, you can get a 100% down comforter although often with a lower fill power or without any extra features. That said, this price range is a sweet sport for people who want an entry-level down comforter or something handy to use for all seasons.
- High-End ($250-$400): at this price point, you can expect to get extremely high quality down that is likely to offer substantial loft and years, if not decades, of use.
What’s the difference between a comforter and a duvet?
In the USA, there is no practical difference between a comforter and a duvet. However, in the most strict of definitions, a comforter is stitched in such a way that it is not meant to require a cover while a duvet is designed to be put into a duvet cover. But again, in the U.S., we use these terms interchangeably.
Can I put my comforter in the washing machine?
Unless the manufacturer specifically says so, don’t machine wash a comforter. If it is machine-washable, wash it on a delicate setting with cold water and a mild detergent. Use a front-loading washing machine to prevent excessive bunching during the washing process.
How do I store a down comforter in the summer?
If you have a down comforter that’s too warm to use during the summer, store it carefully away without over compressing it. This means it shouldn’t be stuffed in a box or put in a vacuum-sealed bag. Instead, fold it neatly and place it on a shelf in a dry closet or keep it in a cotton storage bag.