Snuggling under warm comforter at night is one of the true pleasures of winter. The right bed topper also makes a focal point for your bedroom. The two most popular types are the duvet and a quilt. Which works best?
Each has its pros and cons. You decide which works best for your needs:
How It Is Made
Quilts are made using three layers of fabric material. The topmost layer is woven cloth, followed by a middle layer of batting and finished with a third woven layer. All three layers are stitched securely together.
Duvets are flat bags made of fabric and filled with synthetic material, feathers or down. The bag is then slipped inside an outer casing called the duvet cover. This makes it simple to wash the cover, much like a pillowcase. The cover acts as a sheet, so you can use them alone on the bed. The best type are constructed so that the filling inside can’t shift.
Quilts are made with a variety of fabric. For modern quilts, the most popular is quilter’s weight cotton. It is 100% high quality cotton so it usually shrinks less than other types. It also bleeds less than other cottons, so it looks good even after washing.
A slightly heavier choice is home décor cotton which usually has a sateen finish. Though most often used in quilted throw pillows or bags, it is also used for making bedding.
Voile cotton is very lightweight and soft, making it an attractive choice for bedding. It is often combined with quilter’s weight cotton. When the quilt has voile used as the backing, it has a silky finish, a good choice for snuggling.
Quilts are also made with a combination of cotton and linen. For example, Essex linen is 55% linen and 45% cotton, which gives it a soft texture. Another choice, called quilter’s linen, is all cotton, but looks and feels like a mix of linen and cotton.
Duvet covers are usually made from cotton or cotton-polyester, but also come in linen or a mix of linen and cotton. The fabric needs to be washable since the cover takes the place of sheets.
A quilt is as warm as the batting inside. As a rule, the warmer it is, the heavier it is. For some people, a heavy covering at night makes it hard to sleep.
A duvet is warmer and lighter than a quilt. The filling, made from down, feathers or synthetic material, weighs less but keeps the sleeper warm.
Quilts need special care. You might be able to put a modern day quilt into the washer and hang it up to dry, but it is safer to hand wash it. Heirloom quality quilts must be hand washed to prevent unraveling and deterioration. Quilts do best if they are washed no more than once a year. This means it is a bad idea to let your pet lounge on one.
Duvet covers are easy to clean. Simply throw them in the wash, just like a sheet. The duvet itself, whether filled with down or feathers, should be cleaned once a year to keep them fresh. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. As a rule, you can put them in the washer on gentle setting. Dry them in the dryer, which keeps them fluffed up. Some are so large that is it easier to use the big washers and dryers in a Laundromat.
Styles and Colors
There are an infinite number of quilt patterns available online and in books. Old-fashioned designs can be updated for modern bedrooms. Heirloom quilts can give your room a rustic charm. Modern quilts can be artistic, surreal, geometric and cartoonish. They come in any color you want, from pastels to neon.
Duvet covers come in any style and color you want. Just like sheets, they come in an astounding range of patterns and colors. You can easily coordinate the look of your bed to that of your room colors and style.
A quilt makes an attractive bed covering. Because they come in such a wide range of styles, they go with any décor. Heirloom quilts are usually rustic and often one-of-a-kind. However, you can’t change the look of the quilt because the covering stays the same.
Buying a new duvet covering is a low-cost way to change the look of your bedding for a low price. Simply pull the duvet out of the old covering and insert it into the new one.
Comfort has a lot to do with getting a good night’s sleep. That’s why many consumers are happy to pay the higher cost of real Egyptian cotton sheets and duvet covers. They have a softer feel on your body than other cottons and fabrics used in sheets and duvet covers.
True Egyptian cotton is considered the gold standard for bedding. Not only are the sheets softer, they are also stronger, more durable and don’t pill as easily.
If you are looking for a $40 to $50 set of sheets, then buy standard cotton or polyester brands. Real Egyptian cotton sheets cost several times that amount, often several hundred dollars for a set.
Only 4% of the world’s supply of cotton is true Egyptian cotton with the Extra-Long Staple, or ELS. It is rare, which has led to false labeling by makers in an effort to deceive shoppers. Due to the fact that so little of the world’s cotton crop is high-quality Egyptian and because it has so many superior qualities, you will pay a high price for them.
The kind of comfort Egyptian cotton provides makes it easier to sleep on. You pay more—and you get more. Here is a look at why you might want to consider spending more for the quality of superior Egyptian cotton sheets and duvet covers.
The Length of the Fiber
Superior Egyptian cotton uses fibers that are about one-and-three-eighths of an inch long. Officially known as Extra-Long Staples, or ELS, they can be formed into extra-fine strands, which are woven into sheets with very high thread counts. This makes your sheets long-lasting and extremely soft.
Pride of Egyptian Growers
Certified Egyptian cotton, grown from the species gossypium barbadense, is actually grown in other countries, including the U.S. This type of cotton was brought to Egypt in the 1800s by its ruler in an effort to improve the output of this crop.
But most of the best sheets use cotton that is actually grown in Egypt. You can spot them by the logo, which has a black triangle with a white cotton blossom and the words “Egyptian cotton.” Cotton farmers in Egypt work hard to protect the name and quality of true high-end Egyptian cotton. Only growers that use superior plants and process them using advanced methods are allowed to use the logo.
The long strands and high quality of the materials lets them absorb liquid color easily. They take in more of the dye so the color is stronger. This explains the vibrant colors on true Egyptian cotton sheets.
Lint is actually the tiny hairs that naturally grow on the seeds of cotton plants. Egyptian plants produce very little lint, so the sheets and covers you buy pill much less than standard sheets. That lets the bedding keep its luster for many years.
When you pay the high price for 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, you are investing in bedding that will last for decades. Standard cotton sheets often wear out in just a year. That means choosing Egyptian cotton is the more cost-effective choice.
It can be tempting to choose less expensive sets of sheets. Often you can purchase three or four for the cost of a single set of 100% Egyptian cotton. But consider the fact that each set will last years longer than the cheaper sheets.
Softness that Lasts
Egyptian cotton sheets are actually a bit stiff before their first washing. But with each successive laundering, they get softer and softer. These sheets will last for decades, so over time they become the softest sheets you can buy.
Will you be more comfortable if you pay more for a higher thread count in your sheets and duvet covers? The quick answer is, it may help, but your comfort depends on several factors.
Advertisements from manufacturers have tried to convince shoppers that if they will pay more for a higher thread count, they will have superior sheets and a more restful sleep. That way they can charge more. But it is much more complex than that.
Here is a look at what actually determines the comfort level of your sheets and duvet covers.
An Honest Look at Thread Count
Up into the 1960s, a superior sheet had a thread count of 180. Standard sheets had a count around 120, with 60 running horizontally and 60 vertically. But today, high quality sheets claim a thread count of 1000 or more.
Weavers say that actually isn’t possible. Technically, the thread count refers to the number that take up each square inch of your sheet. And 1000 or more threads simply can’t be crammed onto a loom into that little space.
Manufacturers come up with this number by misleading shoppers. It can be due to extra threads, called picks, added into the sheet horizontally. Makers also routinely double the count if they use two-ply thread or quadruple it if they use four-ply thread. Multi-ply is actually a sign that the cotton is a lower grade.
What is the best thread count for comfort? Experts say to aim for about 400 threads per square inch. But even fewer will produce a quality sheet. Tests done by Consumer Reports showed that a sheet with a thread count of just 280 was both comfortable and durable.
Buy Egyptian Cotton
The quality of the cotton used in your sheets is a big factor in how comfortable it is. True Egyptian cotton is the highest grade. This type of cotton produces a long strand for threads. It is strong, soft and durable.
Because the fibers are longer, they require fewer splices. This means the threads make a very fine yarn, which is naturally softer, better looking and more durable.
The Right Weave
The weave that is used in your sheets has a great deal with how they feel. Do you like soft sheets? Or do you prefer a crisper feel?
Percale sheets use a weave that is often compared to white, button-down shirts. They have a crisp finish that becomes softer with each wash. This is the one to choose if “crisp” is how you define comfort.
Sateen sheets use a weaving pattern called “four over, one under” that produces a naturally softer product. It is often compared to the drape and feel of satin. Choose this type if you like a silky feel to your sheets.
Check the Label
Read the label carefully on the sheets you are considering. Here are two things to look out for:
Ply. The word ply on the sheet means it is probably made from multi-ply fabric strands that are blended together to produce threads that are long enough for weaving. Real 100% Egyptian sheets are made from single-ply strands. Don’t choose a sheet that talks about two- or four-ply threads on the label.
Very high thread counts. If the label mentions extremely high thread counts like 800, 1000 or more, it is most likely made with multi-ply threads or the addition of picks. Avoid these sheets. Instead look for thread counts of 200 to 400 that say made with pure, 100% Egyptian cotton.
One of the major joys of using duvet covers is how simple it is to keep your bedding smelling clean and looking fresh. The length of time between washings depends on how you use your duvet cover.
Here is a look at what you need to consider when deciding if it’s time to clean your cover and a look at how to make them last.
Do you sleep directly under your duvet cover? Most people do. In that case, wash it as often as you would a sheet. For most people that means once a week or every two weeks.
Does your pet lounge on your bed often? He is dropping hair, dander and dirt, whether you can see it or not. Cleaning your cover at least once a week will keep it smelling good, free of allergens and healthy.
Do you use a sheet between you and the duvet cover? In that case, monthly washing is fine.
Do you use a sheet plus a blanket between you and the duvet cover? You can wash your duvet cover once a season in that case. If you spill something on it or it gets dirty, wash as soon as possible.
Making Duvet Covers Last:
Your duvet covers can last for years if you treat them right. Here are five important factors to consider.
Clean each fabric the right way. Cotton and cotton blend fabrics are easy to clean and last for years with the right treatment. Just throw them into the washing machine and then the dryer, just like your sheets. Take silk and linen covers to the dry cleaners.
Check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Each cover has a tag with washing instructions. Check it to make sure you know the specific type of care you cover needs.
Rotate covers. Buy several duvet covers for your bed and cycle through them during the year. This stops each individual cover from wearing out quickly. It also lets you change your décor, with new patterns, colors and styles.
Air the cover out. Hang your duvet cover on your clothes line, fence or balcony railing during the summer months. A few hours in the sun and fresh air will get rid of odors, dander and dust.
Store them correctly. To keep your covers in the best possible shape, clean them before you store them. Make sure they are completely dry. They store well in a closet or chest. Include potpourri of lavender or eucalyptus to keep them fresh smelling.
Egyptian cotton sheets have a reputation for quality but are much more expensive than regular sheets. You are probably wondering what makes them superior and why they cost so much.
The short answer is they last longer, are softer, don’t pill as much and look better than regular sheets. Here is a close-up view of the many benefits of real Egyptian cotton sheets.
It’s All in the Plant
Egyptian cotton is made from the species gossypium barbadense, introduced into Egypt by its ruler in the 1800s in an effort to improve the cotton crop. Egypt is a natural for growing cotton because conditions along the Nile River are ideal.
One of the benefits of this species and these growing conditions is a cotton that naturally has longer fibers, called staples. This is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Egyptian cotton, compared to other species.
These long fibers mean the staple is uninterrupted when it is formed into threads and yarns. Since it doesn’t have to be spliced to other fibers to make it long enough for manufacturing, it is inherently stronger.
Longer fibers can also be made into an extremely fine thread and yarn. The finer it is, the softer it is. It also has a greater sheen and luster than regular cotton.
In contrast, standard cotton sheets use multi-ply threads that are twisted and combined to produce the right length. This twisting results in a strand with a weaker weave. The surface of each fiber is rougher to the touch. And the end product doesn’t last as long.
Another difference with 100% Egyptian cotton is that it is very porous. It naturally absorbs the moisture. This makes them easier and more comfortable to sleep on. Sleepers report that they get a better night’s sleep on Egyptian cotton sheets than with standard cotton or polyester sheets.
Another benefit of its porous nature is the fact that it can absorb dyes more thoroughly than regular cotton. This accounts for the richer, more vibrant tones on Egyptian sheets. The color is deeper and lasts for decades.
Sheets made with Egyptian cotton have a thicker feel. This makes them more comfortable and easier to sleep on. They are softer to the touch and feel better to your skin. They are less rough and produce less lint, which makes them less scratchy when you lay on them.
The long staples and the single-ply threads give Egyptian cotton great durability. These sheets last for decades, and get softer every year. They keep their rich colors for years without looking washed out.