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 (it prevents shrinkage), but it's not always a must, and you'll want to avoid putting harsh chemicals on down. 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 percent 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 Often to Clean a Down Comforter or Duvet
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.
For the best results, a queen- or king-sized comforter or duvet should be washed in an extra-large capacity, front-loading washer and dryer set. 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 per load. If you're washing a twin comforter or duvet and have a full-capacity, front-loading washer and dryer at home, you can skip the trip to the laundromat.
Equipment / Tools
- Front-loading washing machine and dryer, extra-large capacity for bigger comforters or duvets
- Drying rack or clothesline for drying
- Gentle laundry detergent
- 2 clean socks, each with a tennis ball knotted inside
- Fabric softener sheets (optional)
|How to Wash Down Comforters and Duvets|
|Drying Cycle Type||Low|
|Special Treatments||Wash alone|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
Put Bedding in the Washer
Put your comforter or duvet in the washing machine, and make sure it’s not folded or crumpled. Spread the bedding out as much as possible in the machine.
Put Socks in the Washer
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.
Add Laundry Detergent
Pour a small amount of gentle laundry 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.
Set the Cycle
Set the washer to the gentle/delicate cycle with warm water. If possible, set the machine for an extra or extended rinse cycle.
Run the Washer
Turn the washer on, and let it run through the full cycle.
Check for Soap Residue
Once the cycle is complete, check your bedding for any remaining soap. If you see suds or feel any leftover soap, rewash the bedding, this time without any detergent. Soap residue will cause clumps in your down, so make sure it's thoroughly rinsed.
Remove Bedding From the Washer
Be gentle when removing the bedding from the washer. Wet down is heavy, and you don’t want to rip your comforter or duvet cover. You might notice a slight odor from the wet down—this is normal. The smell will disappear once the down is dry.
Place Bedding in the Dryer
Put the bedding into the extra-capacity dryer. Spread the comforter or duvet out as much as possible, and then add the socks with tennis balls to the load. Their beating action will help keep the down from clumping. If you're using fabric softener sheets, toss just one on top of the bedding.
Start the Dryer
Set the dryer to the lowest heat setting, and turn it on.
Check the Dryer and Fluff
Every 30 minutes, stop the machine, and take the bedding out. Give it a gentle fluff to keep the down evenly distributed. Make sure it doesn’t feel too hot because 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 or duvet.
Finish Drying on a Clothesline
To finish the drying process, you can opt to hang the bedding on a clothesline in a warm, dry area inside or outside. A bonus for white comforters and duvets is that the sun's rays can brighten the fabric and lighten stains.
Make Your Bed
If you have a duvet, slip it back inside its cover once completely dry, and make your bed with your freshly cleaned bedding.
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, they must be 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.
Fixing a hole in your comforter or 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, try hand-stitching the fabric together or adding a patch made of 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 using a spray bottle of water, and then apply a stain remover of your choice. Pat the fabric with a clean white rag, and let it 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, and then begin the washing process.
Tips for Washing Down Comforters or Duvets
- Don’t wash down bedding in a machine with an agitator—you’ll end up with a damaged, clumped comforter or duvet.
- Never add liquid fabric softener to the washing machine when washing a down comforter or duvet because it can permeate, coat, and ruin the down’s fluffiness.
- 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 also wash your mattress pad and bed skirt. You’ll go to sleep in a completely fresh bed and eliminate dust mites and other allergens.
- Down is meant to be washed over and over again, so don't worry about cleaning your bedding too much.