Do you wash it yourself or pay a professional? Is one way better than another? Nobody is able to agree – some say it’s laundering, others contend it’s dry cleaning.
Most likely, both methods are acceptable, but only if done right. Some manufacturers of down comforters provide strict instructions that insist down comforters should be dry cleaned and not washed in a washing machine, so it’s important to check care labels and tags before placing a down comforter in a washing machine. Others contend that it’s too easy to dry clean the comforter improperly, removing essential oils from the goose down.
Probably the safest route is to use a professional cleaner who is experienced in cleaning down. They are listed in phone directories and on the Internet. If there is no local cleaner who can handle a comforter, you can even mail it out to be cleaned.
Washing It Yourself
Your down comforter can be dry cleaned, but laundering with water and gentle cleaning solutions specially formulated for down is preferred. This kind of mild cleaning solution can be found wherever camping equipment and supplies are sold.
One retailer of comforters recommends washing them every five years, but only if necessary. Frequent or improper washing can damage the down clusters, they point out, stripping them of their natural oils and causing them to break. Washing can also cause your down comforter to shrink about 3% to 5%.
Others say this is hooey, that the comforter will absorb sweat and oils off of your body. Body oils are what make the down flat and eventually ruin it. That’s why your down comforter gets so flat and dirty up near the top — it’s from the natural body oils on your face and hands and should be washed often enough to remove the oils before they produce unpleasant odors. They advocate laundering with a mild cleaning solution.
On the other hand, if you purchase or make a cover for the comforter by sewing together a couple of sheets, this will keep dirt and oils from penetrating beyond the cover, which can be washed easily and frequently.
At Home or at a Laundromat?
Some people have no problems, or so they say, in using their own washing machines to wash a comforter while others say washing your comforter at home can damage both the comforter and your washer or dryer. These machines are not designed to handle bulky items that get heavy when soaked. It is safest to use a front loading commercial washer.
The Cleaning Process
- Check for rips, tears, and openings in seams. Weak or ripped areas must be repaired before washing, otherwise, the weakened or ripped area can become worse, and you will lose down filling. Repair rips with a fine needle and color matching thread. Close open seams using a simple slip stitch.
- Spot-treat any stains before you wash.
- Set the washing machine on delicate and on a warm water setting.
- Allow the washing machine to agitate for a minute or two. After the water and mild detergent are thoroughly mixed, place the down comforter loosely into the washing machine. It is best to use a detergent made especially for down, such as Nikwax Down Wash.
- Place a pair of clean white canvas tennis shoes, with laces removed, into the washing machine to help keep the down evenly distributed; they will also aid in the washing process.
- If your washing machine has an extra rinse setting, turn that setting to the on position; if not, simply rinse one more time before the final spin.
- If you don’t want to risk damage to your machine, start pulling the comforter out and gentling squeezing the water out of it. Once you have extracted much of the water, you may try spin drying.
- After washing, while the down is wet, you may notice a pungent odor. This is natural with all down products, and will disappear when the down items are completely dry.
- Put the comforter in the dryer on the lowest setting, along with a pair of clean, white, canvas athletic shoes without laces – or put a tennis ball or two in a clean white sock and place it in the dryer with your comforter to help separate and fluff the down clusters as they dry. Make sure the comforter has plenty of room to toss and fluff as it dries.
- Periodically remove the comforter from the dryer and work out any lumps of down. The entire drying process may take a few hours, but drying the down comforter slowly will keep the cover from becoming too hot. Commercial dryers can get very hot and burn your down comforter, so take it out and fluff regularly when drying and check for overheating.
- It will take more than 3 hours to dry a down comforter using a large commercial dryer on medium heat. You may finish the process before the comforter is completely dry by hanging it outside to dry in the sun.
- Be certain to dry the article very thoroughly so it won’t mildew. Mildew can ruin a down comforter, so make sure it’s completely dry before storing. Don’t store it in plastic. Instead, wrap it in cotton so it can breathe. Store the comforter in a dry and well-ventilated closet or room when you are not using it, in order to avoid mildew. Be sure to never put it away for at least a month after cleaning, it could still be damp inside and mildew.
Dry Cleaning a Down Comforter
If your down comforter isn’t excessively dirty, you may want to consider a home dry cleaning kit, such as Dryel, for dry cleaning your down comforter. These home dry cleaning products work in the dryer, and they are said to provide satisfactory results comparable to that of a professional dry cleaner. The kits are available on the laundry aisle of most supermarkets. They usually work by putting a special dryer sheet that has the dry cleaning fluid on it in the dryer with the item; the heat of the dryer releases the chemicals.
To assure that your down comforter stays nice and fluffy for years and years, it is a good idea to refrain from lying or sitting on top of the comforter. Down clusters are strong, but if they are repeatedly crushed they will eventually break, causing your comforter to lose its ability to hold warmth.