What is the Difference Between a Comforter and Bedspread?

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

When shopping for bed linens, it is easy to become confused with so many names attached to what appear to be essentially the same item. Bedspreads, comforters, and duvet covers are all in the same family of bed cover, but each is unique in some way. Comforters and bedspreads are both bed linens that comprise the top layer of a bed, covering the sheets and any other blankets, but each has distinctive features that classify it as one or the other.

The bedspread sits on top of the comforter and is ornamental.
The bedspread sits on top of the comforter and is ornamental.

Size is one of the most noticeable differences between these items. A comforter is designed to sit on top of the bed, covering just the top mattress. A bedspread is designed to cover the entire bed and hangs low enough to cover the box spring. This means a comforter is usually smaller and requires a bed skirt to cover the box spring area. Both come in specific sizes for twin, full, queen, or king size beds, but sizes between each of these categories differs.

A bed with a duvet on it.
A bed with a duvet on it.

Another difference is that comforters are designed to stay on the bed during the night. They are extra thick because they have the functional purpose of providing warmth. Bedspreads are strictly ornamental. They can certainly be used as an extra cover on a cold night, but they are not made to be as durable and hence, may have more complicated cleaning instructions or be made with more delicate fabrics that will not withstand soiling and use as well as a comforter.

Standard comforters may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to feathers..
Standard comforters may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to feathers..

Sometimes, duvet covers are erroneously tagged as a "duvet," but they are not a stand-alone bed linen. A duvet cover is used in conjunction with a comforter, but not a bedspread. These are made with one side open to insert a comforter, and this end is then closed with buttons or another closure, which allows washing of the duvet cover more frequently than the entire comforter. This, in turn, lengthens the life of the bed linen. Duvet covers also allow for frequent decorative changes, as a comforter can be used without one, with one, or with several that are swapped out when the mood changes.

Comforters are quilted and reversible, while bedspreads are not. Some people use both, but generally not at the same time. A comforter can be kept in a chest, folded on the end of the bed, or tucked away in a nearby closet during the day to be used at night when the bedspread is removed.

Quilts can be a uniquely American piece of decor to place on a bed.
Quilts can be a uniquely American piece of decor to place on a bed.
Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Joining the wiseGEEK team has helped to satisfy Hillary’s insatiable curiosity for knowledge. She also manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. Hillary has a passion for satirical writing and enjoys traveling, especially to places of historical importance.

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Discussion Comments


We live in a very warm climate year round. So I don't need the heavy comforter. Our bed is a very high off the ground king size. I never seem to be able to find a comforter that is thinner and big enough to cover the sides of the bed. Would a California King be better in this instance? Not sure how they are different from regular King size.


I only wash my comforter and bedspread once every two months, unless they get dirty before then. I want them to last as long as possible.

I wash both of them on the delicate cycle in cold water. Then, I dry them on the delicate cycle, and I don't get them completely dry. I get most of the moisture out, and then I spread them across the bed and turn on the fan to air dry them.


Bedspreads are great for covering the entire bed, but they are often too rough and scratchy to sleep with. Every bedspread that my mother put on my bed when I was young was way too rough to hold against my cheek at night.

I didn't have a comforter when I was young, so I would just remove the bedspread and use a blanket on top for warmth. On some nights, I needed to use two blankets.

When I grew up and moved out, I bought a comforter. It is so much more plush and cozy than a couple of blankets. I really do find it comforting when I lie down and cover up with it.


I'm wondering if duvets and duvet covers are two different things. I've heard in the past that duvets were quilts filled with feathers that served to provide warmth, instead of bags that you stuff a comforter into for protection.

I'm guessing that you can either get a duvet by itself or buy a duvet cover to use around your comforter. It sounds to me like a duvet would be something that you could use in place of a comforter, since it is filled with feathers.


@anon247866 – It could, if you didn't mind having a thin comforter. Bedspreads are significantly thinner than comforters, so you wouldn't stay very warm if you planned on sleeping under it.

However, it would be just the right size to act as a queen comforter, I think. It all depends on what you are looking to use it for.


Can a full size bedspread be used as a queen comforter?


Subway11- When I buy a duvet, I usually try to buy a duvet with a thread count of 300 or higher.

The higher the thread counts the softer the material. This also makes the duvet more expensive, but I think it's worth it.


Latte31- I like to use a duvet as my luxury bedspread. I put a king size plain goose down comforter inside of it, and not only do they keep me warm, but it feels and looks great.

Whenever I go to a hotel, I always take off the bedspreads sets off of the bed. I usually prefer to sleep with a blanket or comforter that the hotel has in the closet.


Anon- I agree that the information was presented in a very detailed fashion. The biggest difference for me between bedspreads and comforters is that a bedspread usually is a thin layer of decorative bedding covering the top of the bed.

It is usually removed when you lay in bed are go to sleep. You use the comforter when you sleep. Usually bedspread set have the bedspread along with decorative pillows and pillow shams.


What a well-written article. i had always been confused about these types of bedding until very recently when i finally got a grasp of things. The way I would put it is in layers.

Just on top of your fitted bed sheet, you place

layer one- the comforter/duvet (soft, cotton filled warm thing), which is covered up in

layer two - the duvet cover (mostly made of long-wearing, washable cotton fabric with buttons down one end to enable changing). And right on top, covering everything including your pillows is layer three, the bedspread: a fancier, more delicate layer mostly decorative that can cover up any wrinkled duvets underneath and wrap up your bedroom nicely.

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