A comforter is a type of blanket made from a variety of materials in a wide range of styles and colors. Those with a higher thread count, usually more than 200, are considered to be of better quality than comforters with a thread count less than 200. When selecting a comforter, the type you choose will depend on factors such as durability, potential allergens and warmth.
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Down is the layer of soft, fine feathers beneath the outer feathers of water birds. It's used to fill comforters of many materials. Down comforters are lightweight yet offer high levels of warmth and comfort. Pure white goose down comforters are typically the most expensive, but you can buy less-expensive down comforters that use a mixture of feathers while still providing superior warmth and comfort. Down comforters are rated by weight, meaning how many ounces of down are used inside the comforter: the higher the number, the warmer the comforter. Around 600 is a good number, but you can purchase down comforters with a rating of 700 or higher. In some down comforters the down is sewn through, to be more economic, and so there's no rating listed on the label. These may be warm initially, but they're usually not as well-made.
Polyester is a synthetic filling material found in many more-affordable comforters. It's often an ideal type to consider when allergies play a role in your comforter selection, because the fibers are nonallergenic, but they're not recyclable, and polyester isn't as breathable as natural-fiber fills. Polyester is warm and lightweight and in most cases machine-washable.
Comforters filled with wool are cool in the summer yet very warm during winter months. Wool fibers can be spun from the fleece of several breeds of sheep, and also from the hair of angora rabbits, cashmere goats, camels, alpacas and llamas. Wool comforters are soft and comfortable, but not always machine-washable, so they may not be the best choice for children's bedding.
Cotton comforters are soft and breathable, using the natural fibers of the cotton plant seed. There are two types of cotton used in comforters: sanforized cotton, which is preshrunk to the size it would shrink to after washing, and mercerized cotton, which is made strong, absorbent and colorfast by immersing it in a strong lye solution. Cotton comforters are typically affordable and durable, and usually machine-washable.
Made of silk taken from the cocoon of the silkworm caterpillar, silk fiber comforters are spun using a continuous silk strand. Silk is a breathable, natural material that's as soft as down. The downside to silk comforters is that they must be dry-cleaned and may stain easily. This type of comforter is typically available only in white or eggshell, so it's usually protected with a duvet cover. Silk is also an ideal comforter material for allergy sufferers.