The type of filling, degree of warmth and proper cleaning each play a part Although the summer temperatures here are searing, the hit-and-miss nature of a lot of air-conditioning units means that bedrooms can be freezing, so a duvet is essential. All duvets, whether filled with down, feathers or artificial fibre, work on the principle of trapping air within the filling, which is what keeps you warm. Choose a box construction, which means that the duvet is sewn into a number of squares. These help to keep the filling evenly distributed and prevent it from slipping.
Duvets are rated by togs - a tog being a unit of heat. The more togs, the warmer the duvet. In the UAE a tog rating of 4.5, which is classed as being for summer use in the UK, is about right for year-round use. There are three main types of filling: down, feather-and-down and synthetic. Down is the fine undercoat of birds - the growth underneath the feathers. On its own, it makes a very light duvet. If you prefer a heavier weight, choose down mixed with feathers. Synthetic fillings are very light, cheap and are the one to go for if you are allergic to feathers. They are also the best choice for children because they are machine washable.
Barring accidents, a duvet should not need to be washed more than once a year. Synthetic-filled duvets can be washed in the machine. Make sure the duvet is thoroughly dry before putting it back on the bed. Down and down/feather duvets cannot normally be washed at home because most domestic machines are not big enough, so will need to be sent to the laundry. Never dry-clean them. The fumes from the dry-cleaning fluid will become trapped in the filling, which is not only unpleasant but also dangerous.
For reasons of hygiene, a duvet should always be put in a cover. The cover acts as a barrier between your body and the duvet, helping to keep it clean. It's not necessary to use a top sheet as well, but some people prefer to. Change the duvet cover weekly and wash it along with the sheets and pillowcases. Unless absolutely necessary, don't send it out to the laundry. The laundries here use such strong chemicals that the fabric will go into holes in a matter of months. However, you can take advantage of the ironing shops on every corner which, for a few dirhams, will ensure that you always have a crisply made-up bed to welcome you at the end of a long, hot day.
The Housewife's Handbook by Rachel Simhon (Bloomsbury) is available on www.amazon.com