Choosing an organic duvet goes beyond sustainable fibers. Here are some practical considerations for finding the right comforter or duvet.
Table of Contents
- Why avoiding synthetic materials is a wise choice
- Why your duvet inner’s thread count matters
- Size matters (for duvets)
- Special duvet features
- Duvet fill power, loft, tog, and weight (and warmth)
- Duvet quilting, quality, and performance
- Hypoallergenic options
- Duvet care and maintenance
- Final thoughts on factors to consider when choosing a new duvet
- Are duvets safe for children?
- When should I replace my duvet?
- How can you tell if a duvet is good quality?
- How can you get a high-end duvet for less?
Few things in life are better than curling up under a cozy duvet and getting a good night’s sleep. But what if your duvet is poor quality, off-gases toxic chemicals, or isn’t cozy enough for your needs?
My first consideration when choosing a duvet is what the duvet is made from. Is the material safe, sustainable, and comfortable? If not, I don’t want it on my bed. My top choices are kapok, organic cotton, organic wool, and hemp. Duvet materials aren’t the only consideration, though. When choosing a duvet, you’ll want to think about:
- The size of the duvet
- Special duvet features
- Duvet thread count
- The duvet fill power, loft, weight, and warmth level
- Quilting, quality, and performance
- The use or presence of toxic chemicals in the duvet
- Hypoallergenic options
- Duvet care and maintenance
- End-of-life disposal and recycling.
We look at all these considerations and more in detail below.
Why avoiding synthetic materials is a wise choice
Sadly, most duvets are the stuff of environmental nightmares. They’re typically made with a conventional cotton cover (grown with pesticides) and filled with petroleum-based polyester that gets lumpy and uneven within a matter of weeks.
For years, as a child, teen, and into my twenties, I slept under those lumpy duvets made with polyester. I remember the frustration of trying to shake out a synthetic duvet to break up lumps of fiber fill. The uneven insulation led to irritating hotspots and cold spots and made for an untidy looking bed even when it was well made.
I would always sleep under wool blankets or a cotton comforter at my grandparents’ house and this felt so much better. As a young adult, though, duvets were just easier, cheaper, and more readily available. It’s also much easier to launder a duvet cover than an entire blanket or comforter, so I turned back to polyester duvets, not knowing any better.
Whenever I slept under a properly quilted down duvet, this felt like a real luxury upgrade. That is, until the duvet lost its loft and I wised up to the toxic chemicals in down duvets and the cruelty involved in their production. Most down and feathers are forcibly plucked, sterilized with formaldehyde, and bleached with chlorine.
What are the alternatives to a down duvet inner or conventional cotton or wool blankets if you’re vegan or just looking for a safer, sustainable choice?
Why your duvet inner’s thread count matters
Most duvet inners have a built-in cover comprising conventional cotton. I strongly recommend choosing a duvet with an organic cotton or hemp cover instead, given the environmental impact and health hazards of generic cotton.
As with bed sheets, thread count also matters for a duvet cover. This isn’t because a higher thread count often means the material feels softer.
Instead, thread count matters for a duvet insert because a tighter weave is better able to hold in the fill. For down and feather duvets, this is very important indeed. I’ve slept under a duvet cover where the weave was insufficient and can attest to how uncomfortable it is to be poked and prodded by feathers all night.
Given that you also have to fluff and shake out a feather or down duvet daily, you’ll want to choose one with a shell with a thread count of around 300 or so. Anything less and there will likely be clouds of feathers and down floating about your bedroom with every shake of the duvet.
A higher thread count can protect against dust mites
A tighter weave and higher thread count also means the duvet is better protected from dust mites. So, while you’re most likely to see a thread count on a down or feather duvet, you may want to check it for down alternative duvets (such as polyester or kapok) too, given that these are actually more likely to harbor dust mites than down itself.
A higher thread count also indicates durability in a duvet inner. This assumes, however, that the weave and overall quality of the duvet is good. Low quality fabric will still be less durable even with a higher thread count.
Super high thread counts also aren’t necessary. In fact, anything above 600 is overkill and would make me suspicious that the manufacturer is artificially inflating the thread count (read more about that here).
Size matters (for duvets)
Duvets typically come in standard sizes to offer some overhang on corresponding sizes of mattresses and bed frames. This means that a Queen size duvet will usually be a little larger than a Queen size mattress, for example.
However, duvets are almost always fluffier than comforters and don’t drape in the same way. This means that your duvet won’t overhang the sides of your mattress as much as a comforter, especially if the duvet is very lofty (fluffier).
If you’re looking for more drape, either size up or choose a comforter instead. It can also be harder to style a duvet with blankets and throws over top, with some poorly made, old, and uneven duvets making blankets look lumpy and untidy.
Consider the depth of your mattress too, and whether you’re adding inches with a mattress topper. For deeper mattresses, consider choosing a larger size duvet.
Finally, it’s also a smart move to size up if you’re very tall or have a partner who tends to roll over and take the duvet with them. Having experienced both these things, I am definitely in favor of larger duvets with more overhang.
Ideally, your duvet will hang equally at the sides and foot of the bed. For anyone using a bed skirt, the duvet should at least reach the top of the skirt.
Want to know the standard dimensions for duvets? Here you go!
Special duvet features
Some duvets have special features, such as corner ties, loops, and snaps. These let you secure your duvet insert inside your duvet cover, so it’s less likely to shift around and bunch while you sleep.
Corner snaps can also allow you to snap together two duvet inserts for extra warmth. This is a great way to save resources as you can have a winter duvet made from two summer duvets snapped together.
Some duvets have buttonholes at the corners that let you connect one duvet on top of another using cufflink-style fasteners.
Some duvets even snap together side by side. If you buy two Twin XL duvet inserts in different weights, you can snap these together to make a bespoke King size duvet insert. This is a great option if you and your partner sleep hot and cold.
Duvet fill power, loft, tog, and weight (and warmth)
When shopping for a new duvet insert, you’ll probably come across a variety of industry terms. These are meant to help you make an informed choice, but they can be confusing if you’ve never shopped for a duvet before.
Here are some quick definitions of the most common terms to do with duvets:
- Fill power – the volume taken up by down, feather or other filling (a measure of how insulating the fill is)
- Loft – essentially the same as fill power, or how fluffy the filling
- Tog – a rating indicating how well the duvet traps heat and insulates your body
- Weight – the weight of the duvet filling, usually in grams per square meter (gsm), which also determines how soft or firm the duvet feels.
We dig into the details of all of these terms here.
In general, though:
- Don’t be fooled by fill weight – a heavier duvet does not necessarily mean a warmer duvet
- Higher fill power means the duvet is more insulating (warmer).
As with the thread count and weave of sheets, it’s best to look at fill power and weight together. The combination will tell you if the duvet will feel cozy and warm enough for winter or better suited for hot summer nights.
Here’s a quick reference table showing the level of duvet fill power best suited for each season:
|Fill power||Best for|
|400 or lower||Summer, very hot sleepers|
|400 to 600||General use all year round (add blankets on colder nights)|
|600 to 800||Colder nights in early spring, late fall, and into winter|
|800 and above||Colder winter nights, very cold sleepers|
The tog scale is not a measure of duvet weight or fill power; it refers to the ability of the duvet to trap warm air and insulate you at night. The tog scale ranges from 1 to 15, with higher numbers meaning a warmer, more insulating duvet. Unless you live somewhere very cold or hot, or with extreme temperature differences between seasons, a 10 tog duvet can work all year round (for adults).
Find out more about tog ratings here, with our recommendations for summer, winter, spring and fall duvet tog levels.
Duvet quilting, quality, and performance
Baffled by duvet descriptions? Wait until you hear about gussets and channels.
In all seriousness, knowing a bit about how duvet inners are put together can help you spot the ones that are likely to last and to perform well.
Beware of duvets with no extra stitching or very little stitching across the body of the duvet. If the duvet is basically an open sack filled with polyester, down, or other material, there’s nothing to stop the fill sliding around and forming lumps.
Find out more about different kinds of duvet quilting and how it affects quality and performance here.
Some synthetic duvets are marketed as hypoallergenic. While it’s true that you’re very unlikely to be allergic to polyester, these duvets are also more likely to harbor dust mites because they’re often made with a more open weave than down or feather duvets. Ironically, it is the dust mite feces most people are allergic to in bedding, not the fiber fill itself.
That said, some people are allergic to down and feathers, or to wool. In general, it’s a good idea to simply avoid these bedding materials if they trigger allergy symptoms.
However, if you’ve experienced symptoms of an allergy to wool, down, or feathers in the past, there’s a chance this wasn’t actually caused by the fill material itself. Instead, you may have had a reaction to the chemicals, such as formaldehyde, often used to sterilize these natural materials.
If you’re not sure whether you’re allergic to down, feathers, or wool, but you’re interested in these as duvet materials, all is not lost. Many bedding companies offer a trial period and free returns, so you could try out a duvet and see how you fare.
Look for a duvet with the NOMITE mark. This is an anti-allergen standard that signifies that the duvet shell has a tight enough weave to block dust mites (and down and feathers) from moving in or out of the duvet.
Note, too, that dust mites love warm and damp conditions. Just the kind of conditions created in a synthetic or semi-synthetic duvet with poor breathability. Here’s how to protect your duvet from dust mites, bed bugs, and other critters.
Duvet care and maintenance
The easiest duvets to look after are those made with good quality materials and by expert craftspeople. If your duvet has smart stitching, well distributed and good quality natural fill, and well-sewn seams, it should stand up to many years, if not decades, of use.
When you get a new duvet insert, check it immediately for:
- Loose threads
- Poorly stitched hems and tags
- Other manufacturing issues
- Certification labels (these should be on the product, not just the packaging).
To clean your duvet, follow the duvet care instructions provided with the product. These are not designed to infuriate you. I promise. Most of the time, the manufacturers provide these instructions to help you get the best use out of your duvet.
In general, duvets need cleaning around once or twice a year. This is the beauty of a duvet with a removable cover versus a comforter. If a spill or other accident occurs and your duvet gets splashed or soaked, you can isolate the area and spot clean as necessary.
From experience, I know how awkward it is to try to wash a large duvet. Thanks to my senior dog (I’ll say no more), I’ve had to clean duvets more often than I’d like. A wool blanket can help protect your duvet but isn’t exactly vegan (and I am).
My pro-tip, especially if you have a smaller washing machine, is to use an all-season duvet that comprises two or more lighter inners clipped together. That way, you can launder each piece separately if needed. It’s also much easier to spot treat a lighter duvet (or two!) than one giant, heavy winter duvet.
If money is no object, you can easily spend upward of $20,000 on an eiderdown duvet stuffed with down that has fallen naturally from Icelandic sea ducks. I’m not kidding.
For the rest of us, the cost of a duvet hovers between $50 and about $1000. The price depends largely on the duvet’s:
- Fill power
- Special features
- Outer shell
- Green certifications.
Check out my tips for getting a duvet bargain below in our FAQs.
Before we wrap up this rather lengthy treatise on duvets, a quick word on wrapping for duvets.
Most new duvets will arrive in single-use plastic packaging that may be hard for you to recycle even if you want to try to keep it out of landfill.
Wherever possible, we recommend choosing a duvet made by a company that has made the switch from plastic to more sustainable packaging. This usually means your new duvet will arrive inside a cardboard box and inside a reusable organic cotton bag or a biodegradable polybag that you can either compost at home or put in municipal compositing.
In an ideal world, your duvet will also be free of any plastic hang tags, labels, or other single-use plastics. These are all entirely unnecessary and, frankly, annoying to remove.
Final thoughts on factors to consider when choosing a new duvet
A new duvet can seriously upgrade your sleep. If your duvet was made in a way that harms people, planet, or animals, though, you might find truly restful sleep elusive.
One final factor to consider when choosing a duvet, then, is the ethics of manufacturing. Assuming a new duvet is necessary, and you can’t make do or mend, the best ways to make a safe and sustainable purchase are to:
- Choose organic or natural materials that don’t displace wildlife, decrease biodiversity, or use excessive land or water
- Check that the duvet was made without toxic chemicals, including chemicals tested on animals
- Favor companies that have a longstanding record of fair labor practices and environmental stewardship.
One way to make short work of finding a new duvet is to look for the most meaningful green certifications for duvets. Or just head on over to our recommendations for the best safe and sustainable duvets.
Are duvets safe for children?
Safe sleep guidelines say not to use duvets or blankets for babies under 12 months. This kind of bedding can lead to overheating and suffocation. Instead, sleep sacks and layered, close-fitting sleepwear are best.
For toddlers over the age of one, duvets are okay, but these should be lightweight. Toddlers still have a hard time regulating their body temperature and duvets trap more air around a toddler than they do an adult (relative to body size). This means that even a low tog rating will keep a toddler warm.
A typical first duvet for a toddler will have a tog rating or 3-4.5. You can gradually increase the tog rating as your child gets older. For kids under the age of 10, though, stick to a tog rating below 10.5. If you’re concerned that your child will be too cold, have an extra blanket at the end of their bed and teach them to use it if they’re chilly at night.
When should I replace my duvet?
There’s no hard and fast rule about when you should replace your duvet. Some industry bodies suggest getting a new duvet every five years, while some bedding companies note that their duvets can last for decades with proper care.
The short answer, then, is that it depends. On materials, how you use the duvet and care for it, and the quality of the craftsmanship. If you wash the duvet every 6-12 months and regularly air it outdoors (out of direct sun), and you use a duvet protector and wash your duvet cover regularly, your duvet could easily outlive your mattress, sheets, and other bedding.
How can you tell if a duvet is good quality?
Without seeing a duvet first-hand, it’s hard to tell if it’s good quality. However, some good indicators of quality are:
- Thread count (300 or more)
- Certified organic materials
- Other relevant green certifications
- Baffle box stitching (especially for duvets with higher fill power)
- Good online customer reviews over several years.
It’s also wise to choose bedding from a company you already know and love or that has a solid reputation for quality and customer service. There are many fly by night bedding brands out there and while they may offer deep discounts and extensive warranties, these don’t mean much if your new duvet looks and feels terrible in just a few months and the company is no longer around to honor that warranty.
How can you get a high-end duvet for less?
If you’re keen on a higher-end duvet but the cost is prohibitive, here’s my advice: bookmark your favorite duvets and save up until January. This is the best time to buy a duvet because it’s when retailers have plenty in stock and are keen to shift inventory after the Christmas period.
Never buy a duvet in summer. This is when retailers have very few in stock and aren’t motivated to sell what they do have.
Other great times to buy a duvet are Memorial Day (especially for discontinued items) and Labor Day (when companies try out new styles). You can also pick up bargain bedding on Black Friday and Cyber Tuesday. The trick is to know what you want before the sales start, so you can swoop in fast when the price drops.