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A Duvet Cover Hack We're Stealing from Hotel Bedding

September 13, 2016

I recently divulged to 1 million readers of the popular lifestyle blog Cup of Jo a juicy bedroom secret: I sleep without a top sheet. The responses ranged from confusion—“what’s a top sheet?,” asked a European reader—to mild hygiene horror: “how often do you wash your duvet cover?”

I wash my duvet cover every week. Is it a pain? Kinda. The duvet requires its own dryer cycle or else, 55 minutes of high-efficiency heat blasting later, everything is still wet. If you detest duvet cover maintenance (the extended dryer cycle; corner ties designed for nimbler fingers than mine; the upside-down buttons) the hotel industry has its own bedroom secret to share: triple sheeting.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Triple sheeting is the practice of sandwiching a duvet or blanket between two layers of top sheet. (Plus a fitted sheet makes three, hence “triple.”) Top sheets are more cost effective and less labor intensive for hotels than duvet covers, and triple sheeting also offers guests hygienic assurance, as their skin avoids contact with insulating items that are not necessarily washed between each guests’ stay.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“??? Or use a top sheet folded back over your duvet to keep it clean! This is basically using two loose flat sheets instead of being sewn together into a duvet cover- for ease of washing? I don't get it. I don't need to wash duvet and its cover every wk. if top sheet is folded back over it....down duvets don't do well being washed every wk. and sleeping w/o a sheet between your skin and duvet is just gross. Confusing!”
— Hand M.
Comment

While hygiene may be less of a concern at home, the cost-effective angle is appealing—especially now that linen bedding is trending. I like linen’s breathability, its connotations of rusticity, its rumpled quality, and how a textured weave irregularly traps light to create a subtle ombré effect. I am less enthusiastic about linen’s price point.

I can, with some self-cajoling, wrap my head around the price of a sheet. A duvet is twice the material, three to four times the labor—the businessperson inside my head understands the delta. But emotionally, I can’t will my (aforementioned inadequately agile) fingers to drag a linen duvet into my shopping cart.

If the price of a linen duvet chafes you too, here’s how to apply the triple sheeting method to ensconce a duvet in linen top sheets.

What you’ll need:

  • One fitted sheet
  • Two linen top sheets

You can play with the color combinations. To imitate a conventional duvet cover, use two top sheets of the same color (above, I used the Hawkins Stonewashed Linen Sheets in Peacock). Or, create a reversible look by mixing and matching colors.

How to do it:

1. Put the fitted sheet on the bed.

No secret here. The elastic pockets stretch over the corners of the mattress… You know the drill.

2. Drape one of the flat sheets over the bed.

Ready the sheet that will become your bottom layer by draping it over the mattress. Align the top of the sheet with the head of the mattress. If your sheet has a “right-side-up” and a “wrong-side-up” (i.e. if there is exposed stitching on the underside), drape it wrong-side-up for now. This will be folded later to reveal the finished side.

3. Drape the duvet over the bed.

Ready the duvet by draping it over the bottom top sheet, aligning the top of the duvet with the head of the mattress.

4. Drape the top layer over the bed.

Ready the sheet that will become your top layer by draping it over the mattress, concentrating about a 10 to 12 inches of excess fabric towards the head, depending on how much you like your duvet turned down. You want to concentrate a little more than twice the length of the turn-down fold.

Drape it right-side-up, as we’ll be folding this layer twice.

Here's what comes next:

Photo by Mark Weinberg

5. Fold the top layer around the duvet.

First, fold the excess 10 to 12 inches of the top sheet once, towards the foot of the mattress. Next, fold the duvet once in the same direction, approximately 5 to 6 inches over the top layer. Finally, fold the remaining 5 to 6 inches of top layer back over the duvet, in the direction of the head of the bed. Tuck an inch or two under the duvet to secure it.

6. Now, fold the bottom sheet over the duvet.

Fold the bottom sheet over the duvet (and over top layer fold) once, approximately 5 to 6 inches, in the direction of the foot of the bed. In this step, you fold the top sheet just like you would in a standard turn-downed bed scenario.

7. Tuck… or don’t!

In the hospitality context, the tuck—straightjacket tight—is critical. It locks in the insulating layer thus insuring hygiene. At home, you have options. If you, like Seinfeld’s comfort connoisseur George Costanza, like to have lots of room to “swish and swirl,” don’t tuck. We left the top sheets untucked even pooling it on the floor to achieve a relaxed, draped look (in the photo at the top of this post).

Untucked! Photo by Mark Weinberg

You too can leave the linen bedding loose and free flowing, though in doing so, you accept an elevated risk of the duvet slipping out in the night. This risk positively correlates with the vigor of your swishing and swirling. If you want to secure your duvet sandwich, tuck both sheeting layers under the mattress as if they were one, beginning at the turn-down fold and ending with hospital corners.

If bedclothes origami intimidates you, here are two plug-and-play methods of incorporating linen bedding on a budget:

  • Prop a linen bolster against a stack of percale pillow shams;
  • Conceal your percale-clad pillows with two linen euro shams;
  • Pair a linen top sheet with a percale duvet; or,
  • Mix two linen pillow shams with two percale shams.

51 Comments

Karen October 14, 2018
I am looking for the perfect ironing board. Any suggestions ?
 
Mayra April 13, 2018
I love this blog and I’m always so impressed with the high quality of your posts (that you put out EVERY DAY. How do you do that and stay sane???). It’s always a treat to read your blog in the morning before I tackle my day as a stay at home mom of four young kiddos. Thanks for helping me stay sane! ☺️<br />aanyalinen.com
 
Mayra April 13, 2018
I love this blog and I’m always so impressed with the high quality of your posts (that you put out EVERY DAY. How do you do that and stay sane???). It’s always a treat to read your blog in the morning before I tackle my day as a stay at home mom of four young kiddos. Thanks for helping me stay sane! ☺️
 
Julia February 17, 2018
Hi - would it be possible to slow down somewhat the animated demo of sandwiching the duvet between the sheets? No matter how many times I watch it I can't "see" fast enough to follow what the woman in the picture is doing with the folding I'd love to do this, but it's too fast to follow. Thanks!
 
Carmyn R. October 15, 2018
I'm with you! I don't get it.<br />
 
Robin A. January 2, 2018
I have been doing this for years, but usually with a blanket, not a comforter, in between the 2 sheet layer. <br /><br />I think of the duvet as the envelope that protects the comforter. When I have stayed at nicer hotels, the beds are always done in this manner. I love the feeling of the tucked in top Sheets, and would feel uncomfortable without the swaddled feeling! Comforters can always be used on top, with or without a duvet.
 
chriswilson9917 December 22, 2017
Excellent article. Your ideas and pointers have all the right ingredients and would benefit a lot of people.I've been using the hotel bed linen from flchospitality.com and I am happy.It makes for a great read too! Thanks for sharing.
 
Louisa October 19, 2017
Staying at a hotel that uses a duvet in a cover with a sheet underneath. Can't sleep a wink! Sheet is freshly washed but fairly sure the duvet cover hasn't been cleaned for a while. Trying to keep the duvet away from my face while disentangling my toes from the sheet, boiling hot...never again. I will suggest to the hotel that they use a white duvet cover which is washed between guests. Problem solved.
 
Sarah C. September 6, 2017
this is ridiculous. just use a duvet cover. i was hoping this article would provide info on those magnetic duvet holders. if you want a nice compromise - use smart bedding (top sheet magnetically connects to your duvet). they were on kickstarter and apparently did really well
 
Juanita S. April 7, 2017
What size top sheets are used in the above demo and what size is the bed?
 
Author Comment
Alex K. April 7, 2017
Hi Juanita. Great question! The bed is a full size. I can't recall whether the sheet was a queen or a king, but it definitely gave us some extra fabric to work with it. The excess fabric is really helpful for triple sheeting, especially if you want to keep the sheet untucked for a loose look.
 
paulinchen January 15, 2017
Could someone explain to the europeans here what in the world a duvet is?<br />Usually you have a bedsheet, a pillow and a blanket, each covered in a fabric envelope. What is the function of all the layers described in this article?
 
Author Comment
Alex K. January 15, 2017
:) The duvet is the insulation layer stuffed with feathers or a hypallergenic alternative. Traditionally, the American bed comprised a fitted sheet (a bedsheet with elastic in the corners to secure it to the mattress), a pillow with pillow case, a "top sheet" (a flat bedsheet between you and the insulation) and a duvet in a duvet cover. Since the duvet cover really plays the role of the bedsheet, many Americans have been ditching the top sheet in the European style of a simpler bed.
 
Andrew B. October 17, 2017
Duvet; ironically it is a French word... but Americans do not understand the word ironic (re. Alanice Morriset).
 
Andrew B. October 17, 2017
Duvet; ironically it is a French word... but Americans do not understand the word ironic (re. Alanice Morriset).
 
Andrew B. October 17, 2017
Duvet; ironically it is a French word... but Americans do not understand the word ironic (re. Alanice Morriset).
 
Andrew B. October 17, 2017
What I have learned from American bedding terminology is that the "top sheet" is not on the top... that is a revelation... that is illogical.
 
Nancy K. September 19, 2018
Oh Andrew, your 3rd comment on the same subject had me at "Ground Hog Day" with Bill Murray. Lol
 
Sophie L. January 2, 2017
I love the idea of using two flat sheet but....at step four I'm lost in that origami thing !<br />Any video or picture tutorial anywhere ? Please !<br />( can't pause that GIF )
 
Julia December 1, 2016
2 flat sheets are much more expensive than 1 duvet cover ($400 for 2 food52 linen flat sheets vs. $328 for a duvet cover)...and in my opinion it is MUCH easier to put a duvet cover than deal with 2 flat sheets that end up rolled up in a ball at my feet anyway. You have to take everything off the bed to do this method...way too much work for me.
 
Lynn T. November 19, 2016
In the summer I never use a top sheet but rather a thin cotton quilt or flannel sheet which I launder every week. In the colder months I use the three sheet method. Since a dog keeps my feet warm at night this is the most practical form for me. As an aside before fiited bottom sheets my Norwegian mother would just move the sheets down. The wrong side of the top sheet became the right side of the bottom. She only used white cotton. We ironed the hem. No dogs on the bed.
 
annette November 19, 2016
You need the "California Roll" trick for easily putting on a proper duvet cover, instead. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c1IzS2oBBN0<br />The three sheets method sounds surprisingly impractical; I trust Food52 to vet and promote ingenious solutions, not silly convoluted ideas.
 
Jane Y. November 19, 2016
What??? I think a duvet cover is far easier! I don't understand a word of what your talking about!!
 
Tamara M. September 29, 2016
From reading the previous comments- it appears that many folks didn't see the point and several just said to use a duvet cover. Um...I think the point was that the author hates wresting her duvet back into its cover (as do I) and so explains the hotel method (which I already do as it's much faster and easier than wrestling my duvet back into a cover.
 
Barbara S. September 26, 2016
So is the duvet cover filled or is it just the flat thin cover? It looks like just an empty duvet. Or is there no duvet at all? I am confused as well. It seems as though if you have a decorative duvet cover this would defeat the purpose of that decorative item. What ever each wants though..
 
Author Comment
Alex K. September 26, 2016
Hi Barbara! There is no duvet cover in this scenario. Instead, you sandwich a duvet between two top sheets, then fold and tuck so that the duvet insert stays put inside. <br /><br />I'm sorry for the confused explanation above -- it sounds like the text wasn't clear and the GIF didn't help. <br /><br />It's a technique that's useful if you dislike the rigmarole of laundering and putting on a duvet cover; one that many hotels use to keep their bedmaking simple. But if you don't mind wrestling a duvet back into its cover, then stick with that!
 
Deedledum September 16, 2016
I think I'll just stick with a top and bottom sheet, and then my duvet. Who needs more laundry?
 
Cuocopazzo January 16, 2017
I'm with you. Most of us don't need the extra work.
 
Patricia R. September 14, 2016
Wait... are you saying some hotels don't wash their duvet covers? :/
 
Author Comment
Alex K. September 26, 2016
Hi Patricia. Oh, no! Hotels don't always wash their duvet inserts between guests. Anything linen should (and to my knowledge, does) get washed between every guest. Apologies for the confusion and thanks for clarifying!
 
Maggie K. September 13, 2016
This is stupid. Just sleep under your duvet cover and wash it with the rest of your linens.