A down comforter is a warm and cozy addition to your bedding. Similar to pillows and blankets, to keep your down comforter fluffy and clean, you’ll want to wash it from time-to-time. With routine cleanings, you can keep your comforter looking brand-new and ensure a long lifetime to your investment.
First, check the care label: If the cover of your duvet or comforter is 100% cotton or a cotton-blend, you can usually wash and dry it yourself (down itself is washable; it’s the comforter casing that can shrink and stretch.) It’s not a quick process, however, so schedule your bedding laundry day for an open afternoon.
If you don’t have a large, front-loading machine at home, consider taking the comforter to a local laundromat. Laundromats tend to have heavy-duty front-loading machines available. We do not recommend to have your comforter dry cleaned because the harsh chemicals are not good for the down. However, you can have your down comforter professionally laundered (not dry cleaned). This means your dry cleaner washes the comforter in a commercial-sized washing machine so you can be assured that your comforter will be clean and unharmed.
Steps and Tips for Cleaning a Down Comforter At Home
- Washer Settings – Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation.
- Special Treatments – Wash alone.
- Soap – Natural, mild detergent like Boulder Clean Laundry Detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb thermal insulator. Use half the recommended amount for an average load.
- Whitening – Use non-chlorine bleach.
- Spin Speed – Use the fastest speed to take as much moisture out as possible.
- Fabric Softener – Not recommended because it will coat the down and reduce its fluff.
- Machine with an Agitator – Don’t use, you’ll end up with a damaged, clumped duvet. If your machine has an agitator, check to see if it’s removable.
Once the cycle is complete, check your duvet for any remaining soap. If you see suds or feel any leftover soap, rewash the duvet, this time without any detergent. Soap residue will cause clumps in your down, so make sure it is thoroughly rinsed.
Be gentle when removing the comforter from the washer. Wet down is heavy and you don’t want to rip your comforter’s cover. You might notice a slight odor from the wet down—this is normal. The smell will disappear once the down is dry.
- Heat – Warm or low.
- Dry time – Be patient, on low heat it will take multiple cycles depending on your machines.
- Clean Tennis Balls or Wool Dryer Balls – Add two or three balls to speed up your dry time. Their beating action will help keep the down from clumping. Though it will sound like they are also beating up your dryer, they won’t actually damage it.
- Clumping or Odor – These are signs that your comforter is not dry yet. You want it to be completely dry to prevent mold.
- Dryer Sheets – Ok to use for freshness.
- Line Drying – Not recommended due to risk of damp spots and clumps.
- No ironing or steaming.
Every half-hour, stop the machine and take the duvet out. Give it a gentle fluff to keep the down evenly distributed. Make sure it doesn’t feel too hot as down can scorch.
Expect it to take three or more hours for your down-filled bedding to completely dry. If you end the process before the down is entirely dry, it’s quite possible you’ll end up with mildew and odor. You’ll know it’s dry when the down feels light and evenly spread throughout the comforter.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Keeping your down comforter in a duvet cover will protect it against dirt, stains and spills. An allergen-barrier duvet cover, with its tighter weave, will provide added protection and keep the dust mites out as well. Using a duvet cover can more than double your time in between washings.
If you have any stains on your bedding, it’s a good idea to spot treat them before machine washing. To address the fabric directly, adjust or shake the down filling away from the spot. Next, wet the area with a spray bottle and apply a stain remover of your choice. Pat the fabric with a clean, white rag and let sit for 20 minutes. If the stain needs more work, try rubbing the fabric together or using a toothbrush to scrub away the soil. Repeat if necessary, then begin the washing process.
Spot cleaning stains is also a great way to extend the time between washings. Push the down away from the area so the down doesn’t get wet while spot cleaning.
With use of a duvet cover, most manufacturers recommend only washing down comforters every 3-5 years; washing more than this can harm the down feather’s oils. Instead, try freshening your comforter naturally by hanging it outside to air-out on a sunny day. You can also sprinkle baking soda over the comforter and let it sit overnight. If you aren’t using a cover, wash it once a year.
In addition, the best thing you can do to keep your comforter looking new is to fluff it every day when you make your bed. By providing a steady flow of air, down will continue to loft. Redistribute the down in your comforter as needed for Baffle Box or Euro Box designs. To redistribute the fill, you want to push the down with both your hand and forearm together so that you don’t create clumps. Each baffle box has a small opening in one corner to push the down through when refilling a box that has emptied over time.
Last but not least, some people enjoy down bedding year-round, while others prefer to store it during warmer months. If you pack your down items away, make sure that they are clean and thoroughly dry before they’re stored. The key to storing your comforter is breathability. Letting the down breathe by keeping your comforter in a cloth bag will prevent any moisture or odor buildup. It should also be stored in a location where it is not compressed and has room to stay fluffy. Give your comforter a good shake when you take it out of the bag next season and it should be ready to go.