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.
Bedroom Eyes says
Whatever you do, don’t use an uncovered down comforter – if you use a cover, then you never need to clean the down – just the cover.
Now you tell me, lol. My king comforter is so dirty that it’s no longer white. It has been three years. Now it’s just the debate to dry clean or washing machine. Hmmm… Does the washing machine do a better job getting whites white again? This will be the first cleaning of this comforter. Yes, it’s goose down. My friends say toss it in the wash. But isn’t the reason to dry clean all your valued clothing and articals. I understand it can be costly, but once every 3-5 years is not that bad. I understand dry cleaning if not done properly will destroy your down. I understand that making sure if I do go the dry cleaning route, I need to find a business that handles and are very familiar with the process without damaging the down.
Yes, dry clean will be your best bet.
Each weekend when I clean house, while I’m vacuuming and doing laundry, I hang the comforter up outside to air out. This keeps it from getting smelly.
We have all received the gift of unwanted aromas on fabrics – be it out at a jamming club or on our skin after we have prepared an incredible meal for someone special (and onions were included in the mix). Suddenly, after dicing and splicing, you realize your hands aren’t smelling as dishy as the gourmet treat you’ve just created.
Fear not my friends, I have the solution! It works on anything you can wash… Get yourself a bottle of shampoo – that of the cleansing nature that is intended to “strip away,” the extra build up on your hair so that it isn’t dull. I have a favorite: Pantene. However Neutrogena (the pink one) works very well for a few more dollars in the mix; for a few less, Suave works just as well also.
The shampoo is built to gently strip away the ugliness/odor while still conditioning and not adding oils. On your hands, in the machine, and on your jeans; whatever your heart desires!
I don’t want to steer anyone wrong but, I always wash my white queen size down (baffle box) comforter in my top loading whirlpool washing machine with laundry detergent (Tide) and Biz. I sometimes let it soak, then finish the cycle. I then put the comforter in my front loading whirlpool dryer until it is completely dry.
My comforter is your basic high quality (350 thread count) baffle box all down comforter… I have never had a problem with washing it! It is true that the tag says “dry clean only,” but I have been washing my comforters (including lesser quality with down and feathers) for years. I guess it is a leap of faith.
If you are not comfortable with it… don’t do it!
I worked at a dry-cleaners for years – they don’t dry-clean your comforter – even if you ask them to. It’s always laundered.
Down is an organic substance; you should NEVER subject it to harsh chemical cleaners. It should ONLY be laundered without fabric softener.
Wash it in your machine and dry on low or no heat until it is completely dry.
You’re full of it. I owned a professional dry cleaners since 1957. Who would take that advise…What do the care labels say!
I recently got a new LG front load washer (4.0 cu ft. capacity). I washed my down comforter in it. After drying it, it basically looks and feels like new. I’m very excited; I don’t have to pay to have it dry cleaned. I am also putting it in a cover so I don’t have to wash it as often.
Thanks for the info about the dry cleaners. I would have paid a lot of money to get my king 70% down comforter clean. It says dry clean only; but if the dry cleaners just wash it, why can’t I? I will take everyone’s advice on how to clean it and make sure I dry it really well. I really liked the comment about taking the comforter outside a giving it some fresh air and sunshine! Ahhhh, nothing like bringing the wonderful smells of nature inside! How refreshing! Thanks everyone for all the great tips! 😉
My puppy was being snuggled just for a brief moment on top of my down comforter, and lo and behold, sprung a leak. Although I had a duvet cover on the comforter, I was unable to stop the comforter from being soaked. Thank Goodness I can wash it, and feel comfortable doing so; thanks to your information. Thanks to all who contributed information to this topic.
Stairway 73 says
I spilled cola on my favorite down blanket. I don’t trust dry cleaners when it comes to stains, so I Googled ‘down cleaning.’ Thanks so very much to the person who wrote this article! I feel comfortable now in laundering my blanket. I plan to use front leaders, mild detergent, tennis balls, and give it plenty of drying time.
Hey, “Acartertn,” I need to wash my comforter and I saw that we have a very similar (if not the same) kind of washing machine. Can you tell me what settings you used for the washer and dryer? I’m washing the comforter itself, not a cover (though I should get one). The comforter itself isn’t that thick though.
Thanks in advance all!
Washed mine because of this web page, and it came out like new! I had sent it before to a dry cleaner and they kept it a week. It came back damp and the feathers all lumped up in the squares. It seemed really nasty, and I had to pay $50.00 and wait a whole week. When I did it myself following these directions, I had a clean comforter and it even redistributed a lot of the down. Thank you!
I considered dry cleaning my down comforter, but am so glad I checked online. I washed my down comforter, which has cotton lining, in my top loading machine with Tide detergent on the regular cycle. I used dryer balls in my dryer and it came out clean and beautiful. So glad I didn’t have to pay a dry cleaning bill. I also read that I need to make sure my comforter is completely dry before storing it because it may mildew. So I am leaving it out for a month before I store it. I also read to use a cover, which I have always used, so you only wash the comforter when needed-every few years. The more it gets washed the more likely the feathers are to get damaged. Thanks for the information!
I’ve heard a lot about using tennis balls on here, but no one has mentioned to make sure they are new ones, or at the very least extremely, extremely CLEAN! Wet/damp fabric will easily rub into and pull out whatever filth is hidden in the ball skin and rub it all over your (usually white) comforter.
This is nice information. Thanks for sharing.
I have a down comforter and it’s yellowed. Is there any advice that anyone can give me on how to get it out? Thanks in advance. 🙂
Just washed my king size+ comforter in a front load Kenmore and it did fine (perhaps should have done an extra spin though to remove more water-though I did spin on high). Took literally about five hours to dry on low and medium…had to take it out every 20-25 minutes and fluff out and rearrange – have a front loader Kenmore dryer, but my comforter is slightly larger than a normal king…would have probably been easier/quicker/had more air flow room if I had taken it to a laundromat dryer, but all in all it did fine. 🙂
I live in an apartment and I’m trying to wash my down feather comforter. It’s a queen size. Any suggestions?
If you find that your comforter is too big for your apartment’s washing machine (or you are concerned about damaging the machine), you can either take it to a laundromat or wash it by hand in the bathtub. If you choose to wash it in the bathtub, you can follow the hand washing instructions in this article: How to Clean a Duvet.
I just got a European goose down comforter (The Company Store brand) at a yard sale for $10. It was in perfect shape! Since I didn’t have clean tennis balls to wash it with, I got a couple of egg-sized rocks and put them into my husband’s socks – rolled them up to keep the rocks inside. Put those in with the comforter in the wash. Worked great! I dried it for a couple of cycles on low and then hung it over a couple of lines on my clothes line for the afternoon. Fluffed up great; smells wonderful.
Since it is only a full size comforter, I’m adding on fabric to either side to make it work on my queen bed. (It came with a duvet cover, too.) I’m putting some blanket material inside of the fabric to make it warm… a full size will cover the bed but the side fabric will keep it on right…
New, this comforter and duvet cover would be over $650 – and I paid $10. It’s beautiful and warm and, even with the bit of modifications, is a fabulous find. I’m so excited!
Thanks for relating all of your experiences! You gave me the courage to wash & dry my queen size comforter! I am considering going to a laundromat though, as my W/D are not all that big. They might do the trick, but… Why stress?
I’ll let you know how it goes.
So, I’ve read a lot of places that you should spot clean any stains on your down comforter. This may be a dumb question with an obvious answer, but what is the most effective (safest) way to “spot” clean your down comforter BEFORE you wash and dry it? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. 🙂
I have a suede down-filled comforter; there’s no way to remove the down as it is all one piece. There are feathers all over the cover; tried using tape to remove them, but used up all my tape and only got one section done. Tried vacuuming it; that didn’t work as well as I thought it would. Wondering if washing it will ruin the suede? Or even remove the feathers from the cover? I do not want to take it to a dry cleaner, cannot afford that, and do not want to throw it away, but do not want to ruin it either.
Suede comforters are usually made of microsuede (a synthetic material) so that they can be washed. You can test a small, hidden spot to be sure though. Wash a small spot by hand, and if it dries normally, then it should be safe to wash.
Paula, you have probably cleaned your comforter by now, but for anyone else listening, try using a large dryer first. Fix the places where the feathers escaped, add a wet towel to the dryer, and clean the lint trap often. That may get rid of the stuck feathers. Also, one of those lint brushes with a flat surface of tiny 2-way bristles might do it. Faux suede is light weight; real suede is heavy. It’s leather, after all; too heavy for making a comforter. And hugely expensive for that much leather!
I loved this article and will be taking my queen-size comforter to the laundry mat instead of the dry cleaners. But is it necessary to use balls or whatever else if I use the big laundry mat driers?
It is much better to use laundry balls whenever drying something, particularly down items. The balls not only will remove static and cut down on drying time (in all laundry), they will also help to fluff the down. You can use rubber dryer balls, wool dryer balls, or even tennis balls.
Source: wiseGEEK – What are Dryer Balls?
Have a “new” washer & dryer…HP top loader washer with center agitator. This washer “walks” with any large load in spite of anything I do (including calling manufacturer). Washed my down comforter in my old top loader with no problems, but am worried about doing it in this one…any advice would be appreciated.
If the walking isn’t causing any problems like scratching the floor, then it should be fine as long as you can scoot it back in place after a load. Usually washers only walk when they are unbalanced though, so if you can stop the washer just before the spin cycle to make sure the comforter is easily distributed around the drum, that might help.
Here are some other ideas:
1) You could attach rubber feet/grippers on the washer feet to make it more difficult for it to walk, but don’t do this on vinyl or linoleum as the contact with the rubber can leave stains. On any other surface, the only downside is the possibility of rubber scuff marks, but those can usually be removed fairly easily.
2) Another option is to attach slider feet on the washer (or cut open tennis balls) so that it can walk more easily. This will prevent any scratches on the floor.
3) Cleaning comforters is usually easiest at a laundromat where they have large capacity washers that can handle big loads.
4) If you put the comforter in a duvet cover, you will need to clean it much less often.
I am planning on cleaning my king-sized down comforter in a commercial laundromat. Should I wash it with the duvet cover on it?
No, you should not leave the duvet cover on the comforter for washing. Doing so would make it more difficult to get either item clean. When washing, you want the water (soapy water and then rinse water) to travel through the fabrics. By leaving the duvet cover on, it would be more difficult for the water to travel in and out of the down comforter, making it harder for dirt to get out and also harder to rinse out any soap that gets in.
I would think tall, dense grass would be a good environment to leave it in strong sun to dry. Has anyone tried that? Make sure its dense without any bald areas so the comforter doesn’t touch the dirt though.