How to Wash a Down Comforter

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, however, don’t assume that dry-cleaning is a must -- that’s not always the case. First, check the care tag: if the fabric is delicate – silk or satin, for instance – or if the comforter is embellished with beads, metallic threads or fancy trim, 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 it and dry it yourself. It’s not a quick process, however, so schedule your bedding laundry day for an open afternoon, and bring a good book to keep yourself occupied for a few hours.

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 machines at any laundromat, but be prepared to spend far more than the usual dollar or two per load -- some laundromats charge as much as $6.00 for the use of these oversize washers. Don’t use a machine with an agitator – you’ll end up with a damaged, clumped duvet. If you are washing a twin duvet, and have a full capacity, front-loading washer, and dryer at home, you’ll be able to forego the trip to the laundromat.

As a rule of thumb, down-filled bedding should be washed once a year.

Obviously, you’ll need to wash it more frequently if your bedding becomes soiled. 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 get rid of dust mites and other allergens.

What You’ll Need

  • Gentle laundry detergent
  • Two clean socks, each with a tennis ball knotted inside
  • Fabric softener sheets (optional)

What to Do

  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 a little less than 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. Check your duvet for any remaining soap. If you see suds or feel any soapy residue, you’ll need to rewash the duvet, this time without any detergent. This is important – soap residue will leave your down clumpy.
  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 be gone once the down is dry.
  1. 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 or two on top of the comforter.
  2. Set the dryer to the lowest heat setting, and turn it on.
  3. Every half-hour, stop the machine and take the duvet out. Give it a gentle fluff to keep the down evenly distributed. Make sure the duvet doesn’t feel too hot – down can scorch.
  4. Expect it to take three or more hours for your down-filled bedding to completely dry. Be patient – 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 the down is dry when it doesn’t clump, but feels light and evenly spread throughout the comforter.
  1. If you simply cannot wait any longer, and the comforter isn’t entirely dry, you can hang it on a clothesline in a warm, dry area inside or outside your home until it dries completely.
  2. If you have a duvet, slip it back inside its cover.
  3. Remake your bed with your freshly cleaned duvet or comforter!