Down comforter stained or smelly? Time for a wash. Here’s how to wash a down comforter the right way to avoid damage to your favorite bedtime snuggle buddy.
Do you love your down comforter as much as we do? It’s such a luxurious item to cozy up with, which is why when the time finally comes to give it a wash, you may feel a little anxious. A good-quality down comforter can cost quite a bit, so it’s understandable to put off washing as long as possible to avoid potentially ruining it in the process. But, if your down comforter has gotten stained or has started to smell like that one party house from college, it’s time.
Luckily, cleaning a down comforter can be done safely without damaging the item. Here’s how to wash a down comforter the right way.
Can I Wash a Down Comforter in My Machine?
The first thing you’re probably wondering is whether you can even wash a down comforter in your washing machine like you would anything else. The answer is—yes and no. While it’s not a total no-no to put a down comforter in the washing machine, there’s a lot of gray areas to unpack. A down comforter includes feathers and plumules from ducks and geese, so it requires a little more care to tend to.
The issue with many at-home washing machines is that they’re too small for a large, bulky item. Stuffing a queen or king-sized comforter into a standard home washer likely isn’t going to get it clean and could cause damage to the machine. You want to use a large-capacity, front-loading washing machine when cleaning a down comforter. If that’s not what you have at home, you can head to your local laundromat. There, you can wash your down comforter affordably, though it will take a couple of hours of your time. Thankfully, down comforters don’t need to be washed that often (more on that below).
How to Clean a Down Comforter
Before starting, give your comforter’s care label a read. It’s important to follow the specific instructions for how to clean a down comforter on the tag to avoid damage. If any of the steps below stray from what the label advises, go with the label.
1. Prep the Comforter
Prior to washing, examine your down comforter for any defects that could become worse in the washing process, like tears or loose seams. If you see any, try to repair them by stitching them up so that no down comes out. Also, look for any stains. If there are any, spot treat them ahead of washing by dabbing a bit of a pre-treater or stain remover that includes an enzymatic cleaner on the stain. Pull the fabric away from the inner stuffing as much as possible to avoid the product soaking into the down.
2. Add It to the Washer
Again, make sure you’re using a front-loading machine that’s spacious enough for a heavy load, whether you’re at home or the laundromat. Add your down comforter to the washer, and then set it to gentle or delicate. Use lukewarm water and a minimal amount of mild laundry detergent. There are several detergents available for down items specifically, but as long as you don’t use a product that’s full of harsh chemicals, your home laundry detergent should be okay.
To keep the down from bunching, you want to add an item to the load that will help to separate it. An easy option is a sock filled with a couple of tennis balls, tied at the top. This will create space as the comforter spins and will also help to agitate it to further remove dirt and stains.
Bonus Tip: Don’t use fabric softener. Down doesn’t respond well to a lot of products. Using too many, especially those with harsh ingredients, can cause the feathers to become stiff, crunchy, and all-around not what you want to cuddle up with. Fabric softener in particular will coat the feathers and alter their shape. (You can use fabric softener sheets during the drying process). Stick with a mild detergent. If bleach is necessary, however, go with one that doesn’t contain chlorine.
3. Do an Extra Rinse Cycle
It’s a good idea to do another round of rinsing since comforters are so bulky. An extra rinse cycle will help ensure all the soap has been removed. Side note: Don’t worry if your comforter comes out of the wash with a bit of an odor. It’s likely perfectly clean, down just has a bit of a smell when wet. The odor will fade once the comforter has dried.
How to Dry a Down Comforter
The key to drying a down comforter is patience. Trying to speed up the drying time by using a hot setting will only ruin your comforter. Expect the drying process to take a few hours. Here’s how to dry a down comforter the right way:
- Run the dryer at the lowest possible temperature.
- Periodically check the comforter to break up any clumps or areas where the comforter has wrapped around itself.
- Don’t let the comforter get too hot. Too much heat can scorch the stuffing. If it’s getting too hot, pause the drying for a bit and then go back to it once the comforter has cooled down.
- Dryer balls will help speed up the drying time and also help to break up the comforter so it dries evenly.
Lastly, you want to make sure the comforter is completely dry before storing it or putting it in a duvet cover. Any moisture can cause the stuffing to mildew and smell, so feel around the entire comforter for any remaining dampness before considering the drying process to be finished.
How Often Should You Wash a Down Comforter?
Thankfully, you don’t need to clean a down comforter that often. Most sources recommend once or twice a year. Using a flat sheet between you and the comforter can help prevent the need for more frequent washing. You can also reduce frequent washing by hanging your comforter out on a line or over your porch railing on a nice day a few times a year so it can air out. The sun will also help kill bacteria and remove odors.
Knowing how to clean a down comforter properly can help it last several years. Remember: Always follow the instructions on the care label, stick with mild cleaning products, and don’t rush the drying process. Public Goods can help you skip the harsh ingredients—our laundry care products are made to be gentle, safe, and environmentally conscious. They pack a big cleaning punch without all the chemicals, so they’re perfect to use on delicate items like down comforters.
Want more laundry-care tips? Browse our blog!
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.