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What is the Difference Between a Dust Ruffle and Bed Skirt?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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While many people tend to consider a dust ruffle and a bed skirt to be the same type of bedding accessory, that is not the case. While both serve the purpose of covering the space between the edge of the comforter or bedspread and the floor, they are actually constructed differently and are positioned on the bed using different means.

The dust ruffle is a pleated or gathered piece of fabric that is normally just long enough to fill in the space between the top of the box spring and the floor. The ruffle is actually a circular construction that is configured to fit around and snugly hug the box spring. Many are equipped with a stretchable band around the top so it can be slipped around the sides of the box springs and kept in place by the band. Slits at each corner make it possible to position the ruffle around bedposts without bunching.

In recent years, the dust ruffle has also been manufactured to use hook and loop closures (also known as Velcro®) for installation, rather than rely on the stretchable band. One half of the closures are placed at strategic points along the top of the ruffle, with their companion sections are positioned along the sides of the box spring. When joined, the sections attach the ruffle securely, but also make it easy to remove for cleaning.

By contrast, a bed skirt does not involve the use of a stretchable band or closures to stay in place. It is constructed as a solid fabric body and a sewn ruffled or pleated outer section on three sides. In order to use a bed skirt, it is necessary to insert the body between the mattress and the box spring. The outer section is positioned to hang down the two long sides and the foot of the bed. It does not provide coverage to the floor at the head of the bed.

In most bedroom settings, a dust ruffle and bed skirt provide the same look when the bed is fully made. The color or pattern of the skirt or ruffle should compliment the color scheme of the bedding and should be constructed of a linen material that is similar to the sheeting or the comforter. Doing so will help to provide a unified look to the bedding and allow the material to enhance the overall appearance of the bed.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By golf07 — On Aug 29, 2012

I have always used bed skirts for this purpose and also never realized there was a difference.

It sounds like a dust ruffle might stay on a little better.

Many times with the bed skirt, I have to keep adjusting it because it keeps sliding around. Our mattress is light enough that this isn't that hard to do, but it gets kind of old. The next time I am in the market for some new bedding, I think I might try a dust ruffle and see if that works any better.

By julies — On Aug 28, 2012

When water beds were popular, I remember trying to put a bed skirt around the mattress. The mattress was filled with water and it was much too heavy to slide a bed skirt underneath it. I ended up just leaving it along, but it never looked right.

If you are dealing with a heavy mattress or box spring, I would recommend you put the dust ruffle or bed skirt on before you do anything else.

By Mykol — On Aug 27, 2012

I have always referred to a dust ruffle and bed skirt as the same thing. Since they both serve the same purpose, I wouldn't get too hung up on what the correct term for it is.

I just think any bed that doesn't have some kind of fabric covering up the space from the mattress to the floor looks bare, no matter how far the comforter or bedspread may hang down.

Whenever I buy a new bedspread, I always buy a set that includes a matching bed skirt. This really pulls everything together and helps the room look complete.

By sunshined — On Aug 27, 2012

@naturesgurl3-- I don't think a pink or purple dust ruffle is inappropriate for a college dorm. My advice would be if it is something that you like, to go for it.

You can always change your mind if it doesn't work out. As long as you like it and it fits in with the rest of your bedding, I wouldn't hesitate taking it to college.

I don't know how many college dorm rooms have queen size beds though. It sounds wonderful, but the only ones I have ever seen have been twin size. If this dust ruffle only comes in a queen size, it definitely would be too big for most college dorm beds.

By anon169023 — On Apr 19, 2011

where can I find a queen yellow contour sheet?

By anon124628 — On Nov 06, 2010

Seems to me that a bed skirt is merely an evolved design of the dust ruffle.

By naturesgurl3 — On Sep 08, 2010

What do you think -- is a pink or purple dust ruffle too young for a college woman's room? I saw a queen dust ruffle that I really loved, but I'm afraid (1) that it won't fit my dorm bed, and (2) that it will look weird.

Does anybody have any advice?

By pharmchick78 — On Sep 08, 2010

When I was little I had the cutest white eyelet daybed dust ruffle -- I used to play on the floor beside it all the time, so I can still remember all the detailing.

My brother, on the other hand, was too manly for such a girly dust ruffle -- he insisted on having a pleated green plaid dust ruffle rather than the white one like mine.

By pleats — On Sep 08, 2010

Lord, I didn't even know there was a difference between the two. The things you learn.

One question though -- by this definition, how would a crib dust ruffle be an actually dust ruffle, or should I call it a crib bed skirt?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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