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A down comforter is a lightweight, breathable way to keep yourself warm and cozy at night. Plus, down comforters are ultra-versatile: simply swap out your duvet cover when you feel like it to tweak your bedroom's aesthetic. While down comforters offer some unique benefits, they're also a little more complicated to care for than, say, basic quilts. In addition to the duvet cover, you'll also need to wash the down comforter itself.
Luckily, all you need to safely and effectively launder your comforter is a little time and a bit of strategy. Here's everything you need to know about how to wash a down comforter, according to three laundry and cleaning experts. Learn about how to keep your down comforter feeling fresh and cozy for the long haul.
Meet the Expert
- Lindsey Boyd is co-founder of The Laundress, an eco-friendly collection of laundry, detergent, and home cleaning products.
- Alex Varela is the general manager of Dallas Maids, a Texas-based cleaning service.
- Lauren Bowen is the director of franchise operations at the cleaning company Two Maids and a Mop.
How Often Should You Wash a Down Comforter?
Here's the good news: you can wash your down comforter in the washing machine. But how often do you actually need to take yours to the laundry room? If you protect duvet inners with a cover, Boyd says you only need to wash it about once a season. Your duvet will need more attention.
"Duvet covers should be on a washing rotation of 1-2 months, depending on the fabric and your lifestyle–less for silk, more for pet owners," she adds. Of course, Boyd's suggestion is only a general rule of thumb: if your down comforter or your duvet get soiled, you'll need to wash them sooner.
You may need to plan ahead a bit, too. Because down comforters can be bulky, Varela says depending on the size of your home washing machine, laundering it may require a trip to the laundromat.
Things You'll Need
You'll need a couple of key ingredients for washing a down comforter, but fortunately, you probably already have many of them on hand:
- Washer and dryer and/or clothesline
- Your preferred stain treatment
- Laundry detergent or laundry soap
- Wool dryer balls or tennis balls
- Stain brush
- Needle and thread (optional)
Step 1: Pre-Treat the Comforter
After removing the duvet cover from your comforter, Bowen recommends checking it thoroughly for stains or tears. Repair the tears, if necessary, with a needle and thread before washing it—you don't want to lose any feathers. Then, treat any stains you find with your preferred (ideally, gentle) stain treatment of your choice.
For food spills or yellowing due to sweat, you'll want an enzyme-based stain remover. Apply the stain treatment directly to the comforter, working it into the fabric with your fingers or a dedicated stain brush.
If you'd rather not use chemicals on the comforter, Varela says you can also use a DIY paste made up of baking soda and water on the affected areas before washing. Simply add enough water to a small bowl of baking soda to create a paste, then apply it to the stain and rub with your fingers or a brush.
Step 2: Wash the Comforter
After pre-treating your down comforter, it's time to wash it. Effectively washing your comforter requires a bit more attention than a normal load of laundry, so be sure to follow each step.
Bowen suggests spreading the comforter out as much as possible in the machine so nothing is bunched, then dropping old dryer balls to keep your comforter from developing clumps in the wash cycle.
Set the washer on the gentle or delicate cycle, then add a gentle and bleach-free detergent to avoid post-wash suds. Boyd says it's best to wash down comforters alone to avoid tangling, and she recommends always using the coldest water possible.
Be sure to give the comforter a once-over before throwing it in the dryer. "Down comforters can fold and trap soap in the wash, so once the wash cycle is complete, be sure to check for soap residue," Bowen says. "If you spot any, rinse and spin on gentle again."
Step 3: Dry the Comforter
Yes, down bedding can be put in the dryer. For the most successful finish, Boyd suggests setting the dryer to the low heat/low tumble cycle. To help redistribute and fluff up feathers and filling, add wool dryer balls or clean tennis balls to the cycle. Avoid fabric softener or dryer sheets, which Varela says can coat the down comforter's feathers and make it less fluffy.
Restart the cycle as needed until there's no sign of moisture—residual moisture, Boyd says, can result in mildew buildup. Halfway through the dryer cycle, remove the duvet and give it a good shake to redistribute feathers, and break up any remaining clumps with your hands before placing it back in the dryer. This can also help prevent pesky burn marks on the outside of your down comforter, according to Bowen.
Dying down can take upwards of three hours, she adds, so you'll want to settle in for the long haul. If you'd like, you can pull the comforter out when it's about 85% dry, then finish on a clothesline.
If the down filling clumps together when you take the comforter out of the dryer, Boyd says excess water is likely present, and you should start another dry cycle.
How to Keep a Down Comforter Cleaner Longer
While you should aim to wash your down comforter about once a season, there are a few ways to keep it fresh between washes. Washing your duvet more frequently (and being careful to avoid spills and messes in bed) can help keep the inner down comforter fresh.
Boyd also suggests steaming the down comforter between launderings to help remove allergens and odor-causing bacteria. Never use an iron or starch on a down comforter. If you don't have a steamer or you want a quicker solution, you can also spritz it with a fabric freshener between washings.