Buying Guide – How to Shop for a Comforter
In this buying guide, we’ll discuss some of the most important factors for choosing and buying a comforter. These include size, construction, fill-power, thread count, and stitching styles. Read on to learn more.
Comforter Sizes and Materials
A comforter should cover the entire bed, so checking the size is an important first step. However, there are some size variations in terms of exact dimensions for comforters. Not surprisingly, larger comforters tend to be more expensive than smaller ones.
The exterior of a comforter may be referred to as the shell or the cover. The most common shell materials include the following:
- Cotton: This natural textile is known for softness, and exceptionally soft types of cotton are commonly used for comforter covers. Cotton is also fairly breathable and cool, making it suitable for warmer weather.
- Silk: Shells made with silk have a sleek, soft feel and tend to be breathable and cool to the touch. However, silk can be difficult to wash and is often more expensive.
- Wool: Wool is known for its ability to wick away moisture, resist smells and bacteria, and for its ability to provide both softness and warmth. However, comforters with wool covers 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 material found in 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. Common fill materials include:
- Goose down: Goose down comes from plumage found on the underside of geese, which tends to be softer and lighter than feathers. 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. However, some people have allergies to goose down.
- Duck down: Like goose down, duck down comes from underside plumage. Duck down tends to be smaller and less fluffy than goose down. However, duck down still offers considerable warmth and loft while remaining lightweight, and it is often more affordable. Duck down may also trigger allergies.
- Down alternative: Down alternative is derived from polyester microfibers, but it offers the same softness and loft as authentic down. 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 tend to be more durable.
- Cotton: Cotton fill is a relatively low-cost option that provides moderate warmth.
- Wool: 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. As a result, wool comforters are usually heavier in order to provide adequate 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.
Understanding Fill Power, Thread Count, and Stitching Styles
Next we’ll discuss three key comforter specifications: fill power, thread count, and stitching.
Fill power exclusively pertains to down and down alternative comforters. Technically speaking, fill power is how much volume one 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 due to the lack of loft.
- 400-599: The comforter hold in heat better and provide more warmth. However, there is still limited loft and the comforter may not provide enough warmth in exceptionally cold temperatures
- 600-799: This range is generally suitable for all-season comforters and higher-end winter comforters. This amount of loft allows the fill to trap a substantial amount of heat and create a cozy sleep environment.
- 800+: A down comforter of this fill power features the denses down clusters and feathers and offers the highest levels of warmth, loft, and durability. Expect high prices with this fill power.
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 capable of containing the fill.
- 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 two-ply yarns that are used in the weaving, rather than more threads.
- 800+: As with the 500-800 level, this thread count level normally comes from double counting two-ply yarns; in most cases, this does not substantially improve durability or feel.
Lastly, stitching is important because it can affect the comforter’s quality, insulating abilities, and maintenance. Some of the most common stitching styles in comforters include:
- Gusseted: When the stitching of a comforter is described as gusseted, it means that the top and bottom of the comforter are connected around the edge with an additional strip of fabric. This gives the fill room to expand upward, which provides even fill distribution and higher, more consistent loft.
- Sewn-Through: The top and bottom of the comforter are sewn together to create chambers that secure the fill in place. 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. In the process, this design creates compartments that prevent the fill from bunching or moving.
- Baffle Stitching: Baffle stitching means that the compartments holding the fill in place are made 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 it also retains more loft.
How Much Does a Comforter Cost?
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 some high-quality comforters can be found in this range.
- Average ($70-$150): In this price range, you can get a 100% down comforter, although it will often have a lower fill power and lack extra features. That said, this price range is a suitable for people who want an entry-level down comforter or an all-season comforter made from different materials.
- High-End ($250-$400): At this price point, you can expect to get extremely high quality down that offers substantial loft and years, if not decades, of use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lastly, we’ll answer three common questions from comforter shoppers.
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, technically speaking, 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.
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.
For more information about comforters and duvet inserts, please visit the pages below.