How to Choose the Perfect Bedding
You may have your bed linen colour scheme nailed, but the secret to sweet dreams is the type of pillow and duvet you choose
This is not just a matter of investing in a good-quality bed or a supportive mattress: your choice of duvet and pillows will also have an impact on your sleep patterns and general health.
Professional advice from:
Katie Watson of Fishpools
Charlie Hunt of Soak & Sleep
David Monro of The Feather Company
Corinne Loric of Gingerlily
Trish Welfare of That Cosy Feeling
This refers to the thickness of a duvet and how effective it is as a thermal insulator. ‘Lightweight duvets will have a lower tog rating, usually starting from around 1.5 – 4.5, which is recommended for warmer evenings when staying cool is vital for a good night’s sleep,’ explains Katie Watson of Fishpools. ‘The higher the number, the better the duvet filling’s ability to trap air and keep you warm and snug. For extra warmth and softness, a tog rating like 13.5 is the perfect choice. There’s also the option of all-season duvets, which combine two separate detachable duvets such as a 4.5 and 9 tog to suit your needs all-year round.’
Remember that duvets filled with natural materials – see below – have better thermal regulating properties, so often require less filling to achieve the same warmth as a synthetic-filled duvet.
Read 10 tips for choosing the perfect bed linen
Choosing your duvet and pillow filling really comes down to preference and budget. Although natural fillers are commonly thought of as a luxurious, preferred choice, technology has come a long way in creating good synthetic alternatives.
‘Synthetic fillers fall into two main camps: microfibre and hollowfibre,’ explains Charlie Hunt of Soak & Sleep. ‘Microfibre is a fine strand of fibre and so soft to the touch that you would be forgiven for mistaking it for silk – perfect for mimicking the feel of a fluffy down duvet. Hollowfibre is a thicker, more wiry fibre with a hollow middle, making it a stronger, loftier – or ‘puffed-up’ – choice.’
‘A synthetic duvet filled with hollowfibre or microfibre is a great choice if you suffer from allergies as they are non-allergenic,’ explains Watson. ‘Ideal for everyday use for a comfy night’s sleep, they’re also easy to care for as they can be machine washed (recommended at 30°C) regularly, unlike duvets with natural fillings, which will need to be professionally laundered and handled with care.’
On the downside, synthetic duvets are prone to losing their tog value more quickly and therefore generally do not last as long as natural duvets. ‘Unfortunately, due to the nature of the synthetic fibre filler, over time the fibres will be crushed and squashed out of shape,’ explains Hunt. ‘For pillows, we recommend using a pillow protector to extend their life, and replacing them every two to three years. Your duvet doesn’t have any regular body weight on top of it and, as such, will last a little longer. However, they should be replaced every four to five years.’
Watson recommends washing your synthetic duvet three to four times a year, while pillows should be washed more regularly. ‘For a quick and simple way to freshen up bedding, hang it outside to air for a couple of hours on a sunny and breezy day,’ she suggests. ‘When you change your bedding, be sure to give it a shake to keep it looking plump.’
‘Natural fillers are put on a pedestal for a reason,’ says Hunt. ‘Nature provides us with a range of strong, durable and incredibly versatile materials: from the fluffiest, cosiest feather and down, to nature’s own temperature control, in wool, and even its own answer to hypoallergenic problems – silk. Whichever material you opt for, the advantage of using a natural material is the quality, meaning it will last for years to come.’
The disadvantage, however, is that a natural duvet will cost more than a synthetic version, but Hunt argues that the additional investment will be outweighed by the positives.
While feather or down (or a mixture of the two) are popular fillings for duvets and pillows – generally considered light, luxurious and breathable – it is essential to invest in good quality, stresses David Monro of The Feather Company. ‘Down generally provides better insulation than feather and requires less filling to do so,’ he says. ‘However, qualities of down and feather can vary considerably, so a good quality of feather and down mixture can last longer than a duvet with a poor quality of down only.’ He continues, ‘Hungarian Goose Down is frequently assumed to be the best quality available, but although some is very good, a lot of it is very poor quality.’ To know whether you have a good-quality down or feather filling, find out your duvet’s or pillow’s ‘fill power’…
Duvets containing feather or down are given a fill power. ‘In simple terms, the fill power refers to the quality of the down,’ explains Hunt. ‘The higher the fill power, the larger each individual piece of down will be. Higher fill power therefore means you will have a loftier, fluffier duvet, which in turn provides higher insulation.’
Additionally, down fill power also helps to gauge the recovery of the down, which is an indicator of quality. ‘The better the fill power, the better the ongoing recovery of the down (the recovery refers to the down’s ability to revert to a fluffy state),’ continues Hunt. ‘A duvet with a high fill power will last longer due to the higher quality of its ingredients.’
A natural duvet functions better if the filling is compartmentalised in some way to stop it moving too much during the night. ‘If the compartments are formed by just stitching the top and bottom layers through, this will create areas where there is no loft for insulation and heat from the body can escape,’ explains Monro. ‘A walled and channelled construction provides compartments separated by walls or baffles, thus allowing continuous insulation across the duvet. The long-channelled construction means that the filling can easily be kept in place.’
Look after your down and/or feather duvet by shaking it out daily and airing it as regularly as possible. ‘Only have it cleaned if absolutely necessary and at a specialist cleaners,’ adds Monro. ‘Light sponging should clear any minor marks.’
Pillows should be plumped-up daily and aired regularly. Tumble dry on a warm (not hot) setting to help revive the natural filling.
Naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites (the most common cause of skin irritations and allergies), silk is ideal for eczema and asthma suffers. A silk duvet also stops you from overheating or getting too cold at night so promotes cleaner, fresher sleep.
‘We only use long strand ‘AA’ grade mulberry silk, which is the highest-quality silk available,’ says Corinne Loric of Gingerlily. ‘Silk regulates body temperature by wicking – or pulling – moisture away from the skin to prevent it from perspiring. Unlike other materials, silk traps air next to the body before releasing it to adjust to the ambient temperature of the room.’
Silk is extremely hardwearing and resilient, but you should always protect duvets and pillows with removable washable covers. If properly covered, silk-filled duvets should almost never require cleaning. You can simply hang them outside to air once a year. Should they require more thorough cleaning, they can be professionally laundered on a low temperature (30°C) followed by cool tumble dry.
‘One of the many advantages of a silk-filled duvet or pillow is that the filling lasts longer, so it doesn’t need to be replaced as often,’ continues Loric. ‘However, we would recommend that pillows are changed every three years and duvets every five years, although most customers would use them for a lot longer depending on the usage.’
Merino wool is widely used for duvets and pillows because it is naturally breathable, resistant to dust mites and assists with temperature regulation, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. ‘The wool evaporates moisture so wicks after perspiration, preventing moisture absorption into your bed and onto your skin,’ explains Trish Welfare of That Cosy Feeling. ‘Plus, the wonder of a product that naturally self cleans is that it is fresh and healthy to sleep in.’
She continues: ‘An added benefit of wool is that it’s naturally fire resistant and so safer for you and your family. Also, the cushioning of the wool helps alleviate the symptoms caused by muscular and bone degeneration, for example: arthritis and MS.’
‘Merino wool will be with you for a life time,’ promises Welfare. ‘The duvets can last easily 20 to 30 years and the pillows have a life far beyond synthetic, foam and feather.
‘Wool just needs air to allow it to breath and evaporate moisture, therefore remember the old saying: “Don’t make a hot bed”, which means, turn back the duvet to allow the bedding to breathe.
‘The main part of self cleaning comes from the sun, so pop the bedding outside on the line to air. The sun evaporates any moisture from the night before and releases any dirt, refreshing and reviving the wool.’ Further down the line in a wool duvet’s life, Welfare says that it can be washed on a cycle using the appropriate cleaning product, or dry cleaned.
Younger children have very sensitive skin so Hunt would always recommend high-quality, natural products. ‘A 100 per cent pure wool duvet is the best possible option in this case, and has even been proven to offer up to 25 per cent more REM sleep (the deepest form of sleep),’ he explains. ‘Top this off with a brushed-cotton bed set for the softest of sleeps. The most important aspect to consider is the tog rating. Little ones are naturally warmer, which is why our junior duvets are set at a 4.0 tog.’
As children get older, it again comes down to preference. Some say that there is nothing better than thick, lofty feather and down, while others will always prefer the anti-allergy properties of synthetic. ‘We have a range that combines the two – the light, fluffy, cosy warmth of feather and down, with a microfibre filling,’ says Hunt. ‘Whatever your choice, I would highly recommend topping all mattresses, duvets and pillows with protectors – easily washable, they ensure a fresher bed for longer.’
Do you have a favourite type of duvet or pillow? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.