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 $60 (depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally.
You need 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.
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:
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.
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 superb thermal insulator.
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. It is very important that the last bit of detergent be rinsed out.
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.
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. You need something hefty in the dryer that will bounce around as the comforter dries to keep the filling moving.
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.
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.
Keep it covered
If you don’t use one already, you a 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.
The comforter itself (also known as a “duvet insert”) 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 cover 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 occasionally, if ever.
Making sure 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 regularly.
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First published: 6-27-17; Revised & Updated 5-9-19
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