Forget the Dry Cleaner: How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter without taking it to the dry cleaners, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash your down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally. All you need is a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls), a few hours to spend at a laundromat and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.

A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1. Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

Step 2. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a wonderful thermal insulator.

Step 3. Select the gentle or delicate setting on the washer and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent to be rinsed out.

Step 4. Dry the comforter on the Low setting, in a extra-capacity clothes dryer. This will take some time—even up to a few hours. Here’s where your patience comes into play. The goal here is to make sure the down is completely dry to prevent the growth of mold.

Step 5. Add a few dryer balls (or tennis balls) to the dryer to keep the down from clumping as it dries. While wool dryer balls are most ideal, clean tennis balls will also work to keep the down loose and well distributed in the comforter, although you may notice a faint odor as the tennis balls get warm. You need something hefty in the dryer that will bounce around as the comforter dries to keep the filling moving.

Step 6. Stop the dryer and take the comforter out a few times (even 5 or 6 times) to fluff it up during the drying process. This will help redistribute the down so that it dries evenly.

Step 7. Even if the comforter appears to be completely dry with the down fluffed and well distributed, when you get home hang it outdoors in a sunny area or an area inside the house that will allow air to circulate all around it.

Not all down and feathers are pure white in color. Some are brown, some white with black edges. When the comforter is wet you may see a very dark color showing through. Don’t panic. It’s not mold. That’s the natural color of your down or feather filling. As it dries, it will return to its normal appearance.

Making sure you always keep your down comforter (sometimes called a “duvet insert”) inside a washable duvet cover will cut down on the number of times it needs to be laundered in its lifetime. Just make sure you wash the duvet cover regularly.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ardyth

    I store my duvets in a number of cloth bags in the summer. Are you suggesting I keep them in a duvet cover as well while stored? You suggest keeping the comforter inside a duvet, how is one different from the other? (I think of a comforter lined with synthetic and a duvet lined with down/feather…what am I missing here?)

    • Mary Hunt

      A duvet cover is like a big pillowcase for the comforter. It keeps it clean and can be slipped off and laundered. The comforter is a blanket with a cotton cover that is filled with down, feathers, polyester, etc. If you are careful to always keep your comforter in a duvet while it is being used on a bed, you should not have to clean (wash, dry clean whatever you opt to do) more than very ocasionally, if ever.

  • P-Con

    Maybe I value my time a little more than others but it seems worth it to me to spend the $60.00 and have someone else clean the comforter. If you only make $10.00/hr, then sitting there for 5-6 hours babysitting the blanket costs you what you could pay someone to clean it for you. Not to mention the larger washers in my area cost $6.00-$8.00 per load and it’s .$0.50 per 15 minutes to dry.

    Just a thought.

  • Gehugh

    Down (eider or other) comforters were not designed for launderingl; ‘dry’ or otherwise. I hate to think of the chemicals that your comforter is saturated in at the dry cleaner. Your laundering suggestion should be undertaken once or twice in the lifetime of the comforter. Daily fluffing, airing outside as much as possible, an occasional tumble in the dryer and definitely using duvet covers (covering your down comforter) should keep your investment (our double/queen size) cost $150 as a wedding present 30 years ago) safe. We’ve had ours for over 30 years, it is in great condition and we use it everyday, through every season. We have 3 covers: 2 are homemade (from sheets) and one was purchased a few years ago. I’m almost positive they all will outlast me. I rotate them around through the year.

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