A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

Forget the Dry Cleaner: 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 $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.

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 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.

Step 2

Detergent

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.

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. It is very important that the last bit of detergent 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. You need something hefty in the dryer that will bounce around as the comforter dries to keep the filling moving.

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.

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.

Updated 5-9-19


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First published: 6-27-17; Revised & Updated 5-9-19


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14 replies
  1. P-Con
    P-Con says:

    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.

    Reply
    • spritrig
      spritrig says:

      I bought my down comforter for $60 from Costco. If it fits in my washer at home, I will wash it at home and hang it out in the tropical sun.

      Reply
    • tayriley
      tayriley says:

      dry cleaner chemicals cause cancer. and for you those chemicals to cover your bedding which you spend hours in daily is really unhealthy. personally, i dont dry clean anything. pretty much everything can be either spot cleaned on cleaned in the washer. the only exception is silk. that you should just spot clean or rinse by hand. seriously, look into what i am talking about. i personally know someone who died in his 20s from cancer caused by breathing in the chemicals he worked around from childhood (his parents owned a dry cleaning shop)

      Reply
      • tayriley
        tayriley says:

        what do u think they use to clean your stuff without using water? other, less strong chemicals, but still cancer-causing chemicals you breathe in when you sleep. ‘green dry cleaner’ is a misnomer. but dont take my word for it, look it up yourself.

  2. Ardyth
    Ardyth says:

    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?)

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      The word “duvet” can be confusing. In the U.S., a “duvet insert” is most offen referred to as the comforter or blanket that has a filling of down, feathers or polyester. A “duvet cover” is like a big pillowcase for the “duvet insert” or also referred to as a “comforter.” The duvet cover keeps the comforter, that is inserted into it as if it were a pillow, clean and can be slipped off and laundered. If you are careful to always keep your comforter insert inside 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 ocasionally, if ever.

      Reply
  3. Gehugh
    Gehugh says:

    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.

    Reply
    • billie
      billie says:

      Wow, our old comforter is so heavy that some of the stitching that separates the compartments have torn small holes or rips and feathers are always popping through. I’ve stitched it up a couple of times. Surprisingly,this comforter is from a reliable, high quality company, but I’m reluctant to wash it anymore. I’d love to know who manufactured your purchased one.

      Reply
  4. Mboxer511
    Mboxer511 says:

    I have $100 75% down 25% feather comforter I got at IKEA. I only had to wash it twice. Once when I first got it (to remove the chemicals) and a second time when my cat threw up on my duvet cover and it went through to the comforter beneath. I put it on the delicate cycle of my top loader washing machine on medium spin with luke warm water. I used a little less liquid detergent in the soap bin. Then I put it on air dry in my front loading dryer where I threw in a pair of CLEAN shoes I had but never wore. It worked perfectly, removed the stains and smell. Besides that I wash the duvet cover once ever 2-3 weeks and will probably wash the comforter again every 6-12 months.

    Reply
  5. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    This DOES work people! And it comes out just as nice as the dry cleaner. But make zzz SURE you get the drier balls! Life/comforter savers right there you have them. Good luck everyone!!!

    Reply
  6. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Let me add to my statement that I DID NOT go to a laundromat!!!! I did mine at home where it belongs! In my front loaders!

    Reply
  7. David C
    David C says:

    Step one should be: Before loading your comforter into the washer at the laundromat use a disinfecting wipe or two to wipe the inside of the washer to remove away any left over dirt, lint, hair or detergent left behind from the previous user.

    Reply

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