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Best Guide To Washing A Down Comforter

Because down comforters are voluminous, they are the most challenging pieces of bedding to wash. They’re also expensive and filled with delicate material, so mistakes can be costly.

However, you can wash your comforter yourself, and you don’t have to do it very often. A comforter should be washed every three to five years, according to down expert Jack Sukalac of All About Down. In addition, he provided us with some tips on how to maintain a comforter between cleanings.

We tested comforters with down, down alternatives, and wool fills for our comforters guide. Down-alternative comforters can also be cleaned and maintained using the same strategy. Wool comforters, however, should only be spot cleaned and should not be washed.

To protect your fluffy investment, we strongly recommend using a duvet cover as well. You can wash a duvet cover just like you would a sheet (they’re usually made from the same material as sheets). The duvet is just another word for a comforter (mostly used in Europe), so a duvet cover is the removable outer layer. The reason why it’s never called a comforter cover is unknown to us.

Consider using a specialty cleaning service like the one Sukalac offers if you’re not comfortable cleaning your comforter yourself. We agree with him that dry-cleaning chemicals can ruin down comforters, so he strongly advises against it.

You need these things

 - Best Guide To Washing A Down Comforter

Tide Ultra Stain Release is our favorite laundry detergent (I use the dye- and scent-free version for bedding tests). Nevertheless, Sukalac said that comforters must be thoroughly rinsed to remove detergent. Also, he recommended avoiding powder detergents when machine-washing comforters because they don’t dissolve properly. Sukalac recommends NikWax Down Wash Direct for washing a comforter at home if you want a specialty down wash.Using Shout and Zout for stubborn stains, Sukalac soaks the spots overnight in OxiClean for tough stains.

If your washer and dryer do not have the capacity to accommodate your comforter, you may need to use a laundromat or buy a good-size washer and dryer. Throughout the years, I’ve used LG machines at home and was able to fit all of the king-size bedding I’ve tested. In case you’re not sure about your machine’s capacity, it might be best to take your comforter to the laundromat since commercial machines will have ample room for your comforter.

To rub out stains or rinse off stain remover, use rags or old T-shirts if you’re only spot cleaning your comforter and not washing it.

What is the expected cleaning time?

It is definitely a project to wash a comforter, so plan your day around it. If you are going to go to the laundromat, be sure to bring snacks and a good book with you. If you want to make sure the comforter is completely free of soap or detergent, you’ll need to run it through at least two wash cycles. You should then dry it thoroughly on low heat, removing it periodically to fluff it up and expose wet spots to the dryer’s heat, in order for it to dry thoroughly. During the entire process, it may take several hours for the process to be completed.


 - Best Guide To Washing A Down Comforter

Start with a spot treatment if your comforter is stained or visibly dirty. Food and dirt debris should respond to Shout or Zout. For old stains, or tough ones like blood, soak the area overnight in OxiClean.

Make sure you follow the instructions on the bottle of the stain remover you choose. The spot treatment is usually applied by spraying or saturating the stain, pinching the fabric on either side of the stain, and rubbing the fabric sides together.

Now that you’ve checked your comforter to see if it can be washed in the washing machine, you can move on to the next step. You should gently rinse out the stain remover if it can’t be washed in a machine. Use an old T-shirt or rag to rub the stained area to lift out dirt – I do this while dipping it under running water.

We interviewed Mary Begovic Johnson, Procter & Gamble’s fabric care principal scientist, for our guide to cleaning coffee stains. She recommended using warm water rather than cold for rinsing, since a little heat helps loosen grime.

Wash once, twice, and three times

 - Best Guide To Washing A Down Comforter

Put your comforter in the washing machine, along with soap or detergent, and run it on the delicate cycle.

Sukalac recommends washing it a second time without soap, on a quick cycle, to remove any detergent residue from the down. A second rinse is crucial because soap left on the down can mix with the natural oils of feathers, flattening the filling over time, and—in the worst cases—creating a sticky, stinky mess. A spin cycle ensures that as much water as possible is removed from the comforter, reducing drying time.

As down is sealed inside the comforter, it is difficult to tell when the down has been fully rinsed. A second rinse may help if your comforter is cramped in your own washing machine and you aren’t certain it had enough room to move around and expose every crevice to the second rinse cycle. Adjust the comforter between cycles to reveal any hidden or folded spots that may not have been rinsed thoroughly. Put it back in for another cycle without detergent to ensure that all the soap has been removed.

In addition, you can wash the comforter multiple times if any stains still remain after the first wash; stains won’t set into the fabric until the comforter is dried, so you can spot-treat and try again. If these methods don’t work, we recommend sending your comforter to a professional; experts like Sukalac have techniques and solutions to safely remove tough stains.

Make sure you dry it thoroughly

 - Best Guide To Washing A Down Comforter

The next step is to thoroughly dry your comforter to keep the down inside lofty and odor-free. However, you don’t want to permanently damage the down by cooking it with high heat. To help redistribute and fluff the down fill, Sukalac recommends drying your comforter on low or medium heat and removing it throughout the cycle. Adding tennis balls to the dryer (a common laundry trick) isn’t effective, says Sukalac. “You would need 20 or 30 tennis balls.”

Drying your comforter back into its original shape requires removing it frequently and unclumping the down. “I take it out about every 20 minutes and unclump things that collect in corners.” Sukalac said. So I’m rotating it every 20 minutes.” This means your comforter will probably take quite a while to dry, but it’s the best way to maintain its loft and protect the down inside.

When you’re cleaning expensive down bedding, a hot dryer cycle (and sometimes a hot wash) is the best way to kill germs. Sukalac recommends running your dryer only on hot for the first 20 minutes to kill dust mites and disinfect your comforter. To protect the down, lower the heat to medium or low for the rest of the drying process.

Maintenance in between

 - Best Guide To Washing A Down Comforter

A good cleaning every few years will extend the life of your comforter. According to Sukalac, comforters can last up to 30 years if they are regularly washed. Nevertheless, you may want to rejuvenate a deflated comforter between washes, especially if it’s aggravating your allergies.

In order to kill dust mites and dry out any accumulated moisture from air or sweat during sleep, Sukalac suggests running a comforter through the dryer for about an hour every three to four weeks. To address dust mites, Sukalac recommends using high heat for 20 minutes and then lowering the heat for the remainder of the cycle.

If your comforter remains flat and lackluster after several years of washing at home, you have another option (apart from replacing it). It can be taken to an expert for a deep cleaning to remove years of buildup, which can flatten a comforter. After a number of years, if it doesn’t fluff up enough in the dryer, it’s time to wash it, Sukalac said.

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