Many people imagine that a dirty comforter must be dry-cleaned, but in most instances, this is not necessary. When it comes time to clean a down-filled comforter or duvet, dry-cleaning is an option to prevent shrinkage, 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. But if your down comforter or duvet insert has an outer cover that is 100 percent cotton or a cotton/synthetic blend, you can usually machine-wash it at a gentle wash cycle in warm (not hot) water and dry it yourself. Take care not to wash or dry the comforter at high heat, as this can cause shrinking or fading
Follow this guide to get the best results when washing a down comforter or duvet yourself.
Before You Begin
For the best results, a queen- or king-size 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 the standard options. If you're washing a twin comforter or duvet and have a full-capacity, front-loading washer and dryer at home, you can likely 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
- Two clean socks, with tennis balls
- Gentle laundry detergent
- Fabric softener sheets (optional)
|How to Wash Down Comforters and Duvets|
|Drying Cycle Type||Low|
|Special Treatments||Wash alone|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
|How Often to Wash||Annually, or when visibly soiled|
How to Wash a Down Comforter or Duvet
Load the Washer
If you are washing a duvet, remove the down-filled insert from the duvet cover. Put your comforter or duvet insert in the washing machine, and make sure it’s not folded or crumpled. Spread the bedding out as much as possible in the machine.
Plain duvet covers can be washed separately from the quilt insert, with other laundry, but if it is a delicate fabric or embellished in any way, it may need to be dry cleaned.
Add Socks With Tennis Balls
Add two socks with tennis balls tied inside them to the load. These help keep the down from bunching and also add a bit of extra agitation to dislodge 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. If soapy residue remains, you can run the washer through another rinse cycle.
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 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, you may end up with mildew and odor. You’ll know the item is dry when the down filling feels light and evenly spread throughout the comforter or duvet insert.
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 the Bed
If you have a duvet, slip the insert back inside its cover once completely dry, and make up your bed with your freshly cleaned bedding.
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.
Down Comforter/Duvet Care and Repairs
Fixing a hole in your comforter or duvet is worth the effort, as down items can be expensive to replace. For small holes, an iron-on patch is a quick and effective solution. If you have a large tear, try hand-stitching the fabric together or adding a patch made of similar material.
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.
How Often to Wash Down Comforters and Duvets
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. Down is meant to be washed over and over again, so don't worry about cleaning your bedding too much.
Tips for Washing Down Comforters and Duvets
- Don’t wash down bedding in a machine with an agitator—you’ll end up with a damaged and clumped comforter or duvet.
- If your own washing machine is too small to comfortably hold your down comforter, take it to a commercial laundromat, where larger machines are available. 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.
- 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.
- Take advantage of laundry day, and 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.
How long will a down comforter last?
The average lifespan of a down comforter is around 10 to 15 years if it is cared for properly.
How can you keep the comforter from bunching up in the dryer?
Throw in some wool dryer balls, and pull the comforter out every half hour to redistribute and keep the down fluffy. Make sure the down is completely dry, or it can get mildewy.
Can you wash a down duvet insert with the duvet cover on it?
It's best to separate the cover from the comforter insert when washing duvets and to wash the pieces separately. If the duvet cover is a delicate fabric or has any embellishments, it may need to be dry-cleaned.