How to Properly Wash a Down Comforter or Duvet

You may not realize it, but you can wash most down comforters and duvets at home.

If the cover is either all cotton or a cotton blend, and the care tag doesn’t specify that it’s especially delicate and must be dry clean only, then you can most likely clean your down comforter or duvet yourself and save a few bucks–just make sure you’ve got a few hours blocked off to complete the task. 

Check Care Tag on Comforter or Duvet Cover for Details

Make sure to check your care tag, first and foremost. Even if it doesn’t specify to dry clean only, there may still be certain temperatures listed as ideal for either your washer or dryer or both, so take a peek prior to throwing your comforter in. 

It should also be noted that some feel cold water is best for washing down comforters as hot water can potentially shrink them. If you do choose cold water for washing, consider the hot dryer for drying rather than hanging to dry—the heat (over 130 degrees Fahrenheit) will help kill any dust mites that might be visiting.

Keep in mind that if your comforter has a higher than 400 thread count, or is considered luxury down bedding, it should most likely be dry cleaned only. 

Trim loose threads and pre-treat stains

At least a day ahead of your washing day, make sure you look over your comforter or duvet for any loose threads or places where it’s coming apart. Trim and/or sew those areas up to prevent further damage or loss of any down, and then do a quick once over for stains prior to washing, too. 

Seek out and apply a mild stain remover according to package directions, leaving it on the stain overnight or as long as possible without damaging the comforter’s fabric. Before washing, give the stained area a spritz of cool water and massage it a bit on both sides to fully prepare it.

Choose a natural or mild detergent to was bedding

Some recommend Woolite, while others simply suggest one with the fewest additives possible. If you don’t have a favorite, a quick browse through the EWG website can give you an idea of the safest, mildest eco-friendly laundry detergents that have passed pretty rigorous testing. And if you’re particularly industrious, you can always make your own laundry detergent following the recipes of trusted sources.

Set your front-loading extra-large capacity washer to delicate cycle

You’ll also need to set it to wash on cool unless otherwise specified on the care tag. If you don’t have a washer of this size at home, feel free to use the laundromat. They usually have at least one or two available, and it can be a fun little afternoon outing to grab a latte and head over to the laundromat. 

On a side note, sometimes laundromats and/or dry cleaners are willing to wash down comforters for you instead of dry cleaning them, so if you’re short on time, you can always ask. Just make sure you let them know if you have special requests regarding laundry detergents, washing on cold or warm water, adding dryer balls, running a second rinse cycle, etc.

Multiple rinses are a must when washing comforters

Make sure the washing machines you’re using can do multiple rinses (two should be enough–and you can always manually set up the second rinse if you know how), and only put in the minimum amount of detergent required to wash them well. (Some say to add less detergent than the package indicates, but that may not wash the comforter thoroughly enough; the matter is of a personal choice.)

You’ll want to rinse the detergent out thoroughly to prevent it from settling on the feathers, minimizing their natural water-repelling qualities, ultimately reducing the comforter’s fluffy softness. 

Place into a front-loading extra-large capacity dryer—or hang out in the sun

Set the dryer to low heat, or simply air fluff if available, and either add some tennis balls (at least two should be sufficient) stuffed into clean white socks tied into knots or toss in a few wool dryer balls. If you have neither of those, you can throw in a pair of clean canvas shoes, or you can simply take the comforter out of the dryer every so often and shake it out vigorously. All of these options do the same thing, which results in keeping the down from getting clumped together during the dry cycle. (Some folks add dryer balls/tennis balls in socks to their washing cycle as well.) Overall, your drying time could take between three and four hours total. 

Check bedding periodically throughout the dry cycle

Be sure to check on your comforter at least every 30 minutes as it dries to make sure the dryer isn’t overheating, which can cause your comforter fabric serious damage. Just take it out and fluff it up, letting it cool off briefly before tossing it back in. If you can’t wait until it’s completely dry or don’t have time to keep checking it, you can always seek out a sunny spot either inside or outside (in good, warm weather) your home and hang it up. 

How often should you wash your down comforter or duvet?

Some say that once a year works just fine, while others tend to wash them with the change of seasons, meaning four times per year. Still, others insist that hanging your comforter outside in the fresh air and sunshine four times per year instead of washing it is enough, as long as you keep it safely inside its duvet the rest of the time.

You can also protect the down in your comforter by using a flat sheet under your comforter (while safely snuggled down in its duvet) at all times. This keeps another layer of protection positioned between your comforter and the body oils, dirt, etc. that gets introduced to your bed. The duvet should then be washed twice annually if this is done and your comforter will remain well-protected and clean.

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