How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter instead of taking it to the dry cleaner, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash a down comforter without spending upwards of $80, depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is, to have it dry cleaned professionally.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work as 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: Big machine

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.

If you have a full-sized washing machine, it may be possible to wash your comforter at home. But this is tricky. The comforter needs ample room to move about inside the washer, making a front-loading machine most ideal.

If your machine has a center agitator, you need to make sure that the comforter doesn’t get tangled and twisted around the agitator. That could cause the cloth cover to tear. Should the feathers and down were to escape the cotton cover, you’ll have one big fat mess on your hands. Your best bet is to head for the laundromat.

Washing machine

Step 2: Detergent

Add a small amount of mild detergent. Do not use any product with additives like softeners or enzymes. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb thermal insulator.

Step 3: Warm and gentle

You want to wash a down comforter using these settings on the washer: Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation and two rinse cycles. The last bit of detergent must be rinsed out.

Step 4: Low dry setting

Dry the comforter on the Low setting in an 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: Dryer balls

Add at least six wool 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. It would be best if you had something hefty in the dryer that will bounce around as the comforter dries to keep the filling moving.

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Step 6: Adjust, rearrange

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: Hang outdoors

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.

NOTE: 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.

Step 8: Keep it covered

If you don’t use one already, you need a “duvet cover” for your down comforter. A duvet cover is like a big pillowcase for the comforter. It keeps it clean and can be slipped off and laundered.

english bulldog protecting his owner as she sleeps on down comforter white background

The comforter itself (also known as a “duvet insert”) is a blanket with a cotton cover filled with down, feathers, polyester, etc. If you are careful always to keep your comforter in a duvet cover while it is being used on a bed, you should not have to clean (wash, dry clean, whatever you opt to do) more often than 3 to 5 years.

Ensuring you always keep your down comforter 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 monthly.

All-natural down is a durable and easy-to-clean material for bedding. With a wash now and then, your down comforter will stay beautiful and warm for a long time. Lucky for you, care is easy.

FAQs

How often should you wash a down comforter?

As the old saying goes, prevention is much better than cure. Keeping your comforter in a washable duvet cover, which you should launder monthly, will protect your down comforter against dust, spills, and stains. With a duvet cover: You should wash the down comforter every 3 to 5 years. Without a duvet cover: Wash a down comforter every 1 to 2 years.

How to dry a down comforter in a clothes dryer?

Make sure the dryer is large enough to allow the comforter to tumble. Set heat to hot, warm, or low—your choice. Dry time will vary according to the size of the comforter and the particular machine. However, this could take several cycles. You want it to be completely dry to prevent mold.

Are wool dryer balls necessary?

No, however, your results will be better if you include at least 6 wool dryer balls in the dryer with the down comforter. Optionally, if you don't have wool dryer balls, you can use clean tennis balls, which will give similar results. The way these balls work is that as the comforter tumbles, the balls bounce around, keeping the folds of the comforter open, allowing the warm air to circulate more freely. That allows the feathers and down to open up within the comforter, releasing water and allowing the whole thing to become dry and super fluffy. If you do not use wool dryer balls or tennis balls, it will take a bit longer to dry. The comforter, while still perfectly useful and clean, may take a while to re-fluff.

Can I line dry my down comforter instead of using a clothes dryer?

Line drying a down comforter is not advisable. To do so, you will run the risk of damp spots remaining within the feathers and down, clumps of feathers and down that remain stuck together and not well distributed, which may also encourage mold and mildew.

How to store a down comforter off-season?

You want to make sure it can breathe, so do not encase it in plastic. Instead, store it folded or handing in a closet, covered with a cloth bag. It should be in an area where it is not compressed and has room to stay fluff. When it's time to bring it back into service for the colder months, take it out of its protective bag and give it a good shake to redistribute the filling, and you'll be good to go!

Updated 12-3-20 with new image and FAQs

 

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4 replies
  1. Valerie Imsen says:

    My down comforter has little tiny holes from the sharp down twill. Even if I s stitched the tiny holes there would be news holes made from them. . I didn’t realize a duvet was that important. I have feathers everywhere under my bed from my down comforter “leaking” feathers!!! I’ll definitely need to get a duvet…any other suggestions on the feathers?

    Reply
  2. Ann says:

    My down comforter has lost some of the stitching that keeps the down in compartments. Not surprising as it is quite old. Can this be repaired or is it too late?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      It is possible. You would need to resew the stitching that has come loose, by hand with needle and thread, making very very tiny stitches. Then you will need to refill the sections with replacement down. Check this article for details and resources. You may discover that it’s more trouble than your old comforter is worth! But it is certainly worth looking into it.

      Reply
  3. Lori McArthur says:

    I found clean tennis shoes also work very effectively in place of dryer balls. You can wash just prior to washing your comforter.

    Reply

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