Down comforters are a warm and cozy addition to any bed linen ensemble – but they can get dirty, and they will eventually need to be cleaned. Many comforters come with a label directing you to have the blanket professionally laundered. However, you can also clean a down comforter at home. With just a few simple steps, your comforter can look as good as new without a hefty dry-cleaning fee.
Prepping and Caring for the Comforter
1Keep an eye on your comforter. The fabric may become worn with heavy or prolonged use. Stains, rips, mold, and other undesirable conditions may arise without you noticing. Look for loose feathers: down comforters are traditionally stuffed with the fluffy undercoating of geese, ducks, and other soft birds, and a flurry of flying feathers is a telltale sign that the fabric has torn. Repair tears with a needle and a thread that matches the comforter. Spot-clean any stains as soon as they appear.
2Professionally clean your comforter only every few years. It is usually unnecessary to clean a down comforter more often than this – and under normal circumstances, you should not take it to a dry-cleaner much more than once a year. The exception: if the fabric becomes extremely soiled, it might be worth your while to have it professionally cleaned for the sake of your peace of mind.
- Be aware: some retailers claim that if you wash too often or too heavily, you can harm the interior down fluff that keeps your comforter warm. Improper washing can strip the down of its natural oils and make it less effective. Furthermore, the comforter may shrink in the wash.
Remove your down comforter from the bed. Whether you are washing the comforter or just rolling for lint, it is best not to clean the comforter while it’s still on top of your sheets and mattress. Bring it to a clean, dry place with water-resistant floors: a laundry room, a bathroom, or a patio.
4Think about using a duvet cover. This over-blanket or “comforter shell” covers up your comforter and keeps it clean. You can buy duvets to fit various comforter sizes. Duvets usually zip shut around the comforter for the sake of protection. When you notice dirt or stains, you can easily remove the duvet cover and clean it without having to worrying about the comforter.
1Use a large, front-loading washing machine. Down comforters tend to be bulky, and a small machine will not likely do the job. If you have a top-loading machine at home, it probably has an “agitator” in the center of the washing chamber, which can rip or otherwise stress the fabric of the comforter. If you don’t have a large, front-loading machine at home, consider taking the comforter to a local laundromat. Laundromats tend to have heavy-duty front-loading machines available.
- Your comforter should not be jam-packed into the chamber. Try to find a washing machine that is large enough to fit your comforter with a bit of extra air space. This will help the water and detergent reach every part of the fabric, not just the sections that wind up on the outside of a bundle.
- If you aren’t sure, check the owner’s manual for your washing machine. It should list the maximum comforter size that you can safely wash. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, run a web search for “[your washing machine make and model] owner’s manual”.
2Wash gently. When you load your comforter into the machine, add a mild laundry detergent. Use warm water and a delicate cycle; hot or cold water can damage the down. Try to submerge the comforter as completely as possible into the water.
- If your comforter is white, feel free to add bleach. It’s usually safe to add bleach even if the label discourages it.
- Consider letting the washing machine run for a minute or two before you load the comforter. This allows the detergent to blend with the water, ensuring a more even wash. This is especially important with such a bulky item – otherwise, the soap might not reach every corner!
Use the rinse cycle twice. Make sure that all of the detergent has washed out before you pull the comforter from the wash. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Before the comforter hits the spin cycle, pull it out and squeeze some of the water out of it by hand. This might make the waterlogged fabric lighter and more likely to spin well.
1Unload the comforter. Once the wash cycle is complete, remove your down comforter from the washing machine. Your comforter should look flatter, smoother, and less bulky than usual.
- If your comforter is white, it may look discolored when you pull it from the wash. Don’t worry: it is temporary. The discoloration stems from the wet down fluff, and the clean white hue should return as the comforter dries.
2Consider air-drying the comforter. This will take longer than an electrical drying machine, but it is less likely to shrink or damage the fabric. Be patient. Down is notoriously slow to dry. Lay the comforter out in a clean, sunny area, and give it time to dry.
- Avoid line-drying a down comforter. The fabric can develop mildew if it’s left hanging in the breeze.
- Consider using air-drying as a prep or precursor to machine-drying. Mitigate the risk of mildew by fluffing and drying the comforter in the dryer afterward.
3Use a dryer on a low heat setting. If you do use a drying machine, avoid setting the cycle to a high heat. White comforters can safely dry at a higher heat than can colorful comforters – but they still run the risk of shrinking. Stick to a low setting unless you are extremely pressed for time.
- Toss dryer balls, a canvas sneaker shoe with no laces, or sock-covered tennis balls into the dryer along with the comforter. Any of these items can help break up the feather clumps as it dries. This should fluff the comforter, and it might speed the process.
4Check and fluff periodically. Whether you choose to air-dry or to machine dry, make sure to keep an eye on your down comforter to make sure that the process is going smoothly. Check that the fabric is drying evenly through, and not just in patches. Fluff and distribute the down by kneading and shaking the comforter.
- Hold up the comforter periodically and feel for clumps of down. Clumps mean that the still damp and will need longer in the dryer.
Wait until dry. Once the comforter is completely dry, fluff it out and place it back on your bed. The whole drying process could take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the method and heat setting that you use. Be patient. Make sure that you have plenty of time to let the comforter settle. Once the comforter is dry, it’s ready to use.
Is there any other way to freshen-up a down comforter, especially if it has an odor?
You could use fabric fresheners or you can toss it into the dryer on low heat and toss in a dryer sheet with a desired scent. Sunshine is excellent too — if you can hang it on the line each day for a few days, the sunshine will help a great deal.
The comforter I have is from Austria and it says on the label not to wash and not to dry clean. What other options are there? It currently smells like a teenage boy.
Try steam cleaning and airing it out in the sun.
How do I fix a down comforter that was washed at home and is now extremely flat?
Try using a stick or something light and long to gently hit the down comforter. Either lay it flat or hang it from a clothes line. Or as the article suggests, “toss dryer balls, a canvas sneaker shoe with no laces, or sock-covered tennis balls into the dryer along with the comforter” on a low or air dry setting.
How can I remove the musty smell from a down comforter?
Borax is good at removing musty smells from clothing. Just add a small scoopful in at the wash cycle with the detergent.
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- Before storing your down comforter away, make sure that it is completely dry. If it is damp, it may mildew. Store it in a cool, well-ventilated closet or cupboard.
- Take care not to clean a down comforter too often. Overworking can break down the feathers. Alternatives to washing your down comforter so often include purchasing a dry-clean kit for your dryer and using a duvet cover to protect the bedding.
- If you are cleaning a down comforter at home, be sure your washer and dryer can handle the capacity. If your comforter is too big for either, you could ruin your washer and dryer or the comforter.
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