How to Clean and Care for a Down Comforter or Duvet

A down cover wrapped around sheets and a pillow

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Warm, snuggly and comfortable—down is the perfect filling for bedding. When it comes time to wash your down-filled comforter or duvet, dry-cleaning is an option, but it's not always a must. First, check the care tag: If the fabric is delicate or if the comforter has embellishments, you’ll probably need to leave the cleaning to a professional. Fortunately, if the cover of your duvet or comforter is 100% cotton or a cotton-blend, you can usually wash and dry it yourself. It’s not a quick process, however, so schedule your bedding laundry day for an open afternoon.

How to Wash Down Comforters and Duvets
Detergent Mild
Water Temperature Warm
Cycle Type Delicate
Drying Cycle Type Low
Special Treatments Wash alone
Iron Settings Do not iron

Project Metrics

As a rule of thumb, down-filled bedding should be washed once a year. Of course, if your bedding becomes soiled, more frequent washings will be necessary.

Working time: 1 hour

Total time: 4 hours

Skill level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

For the best results, a queen or king-sized duvet should be washed in an extra-large capacity front-loading washer and dryer. You can find these oversized machines at most laundromats, but be prepared to spend more than standard options—some laundromats charge as much as $6.00 per load. If you're washing a twin duvet, and have a full capacity, front-loading washer and dryer at home, you can forego the trip to the laundromat.

Supplies

Tools

Instructions

  1. Put your comforter in the washing machine, making sure it’s not folded or crumpled. Spread the comforter out as much as possible in the machine.

  2. Add the socks with tennis balls to the load. These help keep the down from bunching and also add a bit of extra agitation to remove dirt, sweat, and body oils from the bedding.

  3. Pour a small amount of a gentle, natural detergent into the machine’s soap dispenser. Use half the recommended amount for an average load—you don’t want to end up with soap-stiffened down. Do not add bleach.

  4. Set the washer to the gentle/delicate cycle with warm water. If possible, set the machine for an extra or extended rinse cycle.

  5. Turn the washer on and let it run through the full cycle.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Put the duvet or comforter into the extra-capacity dryer. Spread the comforter out as much as possible, then add the socks with tennis balls to the load. Their beating action will help keep the down from clumping. If you are using fabric softener sheets, toss one on top of the comforter.

  9. Set the dryer to the lowest heat setting, and turn it on.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. To finish the drying process, you can opt to hang it on a clothesline in a warm, dry area inside or outside your home. An added bonus for white comforters and duvets is that the sun's rays can brighten the fabric and lighten stains.

  13. If you have a duvet, slip it back inside its cover once completely dry and make your bed with your freshly cleaned duvet or comforter.

Storing Down Comforters and Duvets

Some people enjoy down bedding year-round, while others prefer to store it away during warmer months. If you do decide to pack your down items away, it's crucial that they are clean and thoroughly dry before they're stored. For protection, wrap the down bedding in cotton—a laundry bag works wonderfully—and place it in a well-ventilated closet.

Repairs

Fixing a hole in your comforter and duvet is worth the effort as they can be expensive to replace. For smaller holes, an iron-on patch is a quick and effective solution. If you have a larger tear, you can try hand-stitching the fabric together or adding an additional patch made of a similar material.

Treating Stains on Down Comforters and Duvets

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.

Tips for Washing Down Comforters or Duvets

Tips

  • Don’t wash down bedding in a machine with an agitator—you’ll end up with a damaged, clumped duvet.
  • Washing a down comforter or duvet can take longer than you think—bring a book or another activity to the laundromat to keep yourself occupied for a few hours.
  • Take advantage of laundry day to wash your mattress pad and bed skirt as well—you’ll go to sleep in a completely fresh bed, and eliminate dust mites and other allergens.