How to Clean a Down Comforter

Dear Home Ec 101,
I received a duck down comforter as a gift last Christmas. The tag says to have it taken to the dry cleaners, but not only would it be a pain, it wouldn’t be easy on the wallet. Now, I love my comforter. But I’m so terrified to wash it on my own that it hasn’t been washed in a year and a half. I know. I am ashamed. And I need help. On top of that, the feathers continually pop out, so I’m afraid if I wash it, instead of returning to its fluffy state, it will flatten like a pancake. Is there any hope for my comforter and me?
Comfortless in California

how to clean a down comforter
Heather says:
You could wash your down comforter on the gentle cycle with an extra rinse and then pop it into the dryer with a couple of clean tennis balls on low. However, there is a trade-off, the lifespan of your comforter may be significantly reduced. As the cost of dry cleaning can vary by region (and local competition) the home care option may or may not be more cost effective.

A high quality, dry cleaned comforter can be expected to last five to ten years. Quite the spread, eh? Har, har. There are home dry cleaning kits, but they are best for spot and odor management and probably won’t get a heavy article like a down comforter as clean as you would like.

If you choose to wash your comforter, carefully inspect it for any small tears before putting it into the washer. A clogged drain line is not the frugal option if you end up having to call a repairman.

bedroom and closet cleaning

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My personal experience? I have had a cheap comforter for five years, but it is well past its prime. It creates lovely fuzzy dusty bits that I must enjoy vacuuming or I would have gotten around to replacing it by now.

Finally, a good quality duvet cover will help keep your comforter from needing frequent cleaning.

Good luck!

Submit your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



16 Comments

  1. Riley on June 16, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Dry cleaning sounds like a hassle but for an second option the best bet will be to wash the comforter alone, not with rough materials that can potentially weaken the fabrics fibers. use cool water and a gentle cycle and select cool dryer settings and remove comforter slightly damped.

  2. Sonia on May 10, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    What if the comforter says "spot clean only" rather than "dry clean only"? Does this mean it has an even higher chance of being ruined by washing?

  3. Rosalima on May 6, 2010 at 4:11 am

    My brother in law knows everything and doesn't think that his and my sister's quilt cover ever needs cleaning. They have owned it for 10 years and it has never been dry cleaned or washed and is only aired twice a year before summer and at the end of autumn, at my sister's insistence. What do you think about this?

  4. Rosalima on May 6, 2010 at 12:11 am

    My brother in law knows everything and doesn't think that his and my sister's quilt cover ever needs cleaning. They have owned it for 10 years and it has never been dry cleaned or washed and is only aired twice a year before summer and at the end of autumn, at my sister's insistence. What do you think about this?

  5. MissyE on December 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    ive got a king size duck down duvet. its much too large too put in my washine machine, and i have no where too air it… any suggestions please.

    • HeatherSolos on December 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      This is one of the times a trip to the local laundromat may be in order. Usually they have at least one (in my experience) extra large washer for these kinds of jobs.

    • deneicer1 on September 28, 2011 at 1:52 am

      I have sprinkled baking soda or cornstarch over mine. Let it sit all day. Shake vigorously to remove powder. Fluff on air only in the dyer. I also wash mine in a spinner washing machine.

  6. Elizabeth on February 1, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    My mother has one and she takes it down to the laundromat and uses the larger front loaders for her down comforter. The action on a front loader is much gentler than an upright machine is (an upright washer forces any material next to the agitator down which pushes materal against the wall up, a definate potential for damaging large items like blankets).

    Also, you can periodicly pop it into your dryer to fluff it between cleanings. And a cover is definately the way to go as well, as it will keep the cover from picking up any miscelaneous stains.

  7. Caravaggio on November 18, 2008 at 6:09 am

    oh,i searched some informations that seems use wash machine and dry clean would cause down comforter:
    1.out of shape.
    2.getting hard,reduce warm.

    correct way is :
    1.No twist.squeeze the water out
    2.No alkali washer.
    3.Dip in 30 degrees water 20 minutes and wash it by hand.
    4.after dried ,pat it untill fluffed.

    I don’t know if it’s correct or useful.because i never did it by myself.

  8. Caravaggio on November 18, 2008 at 5:35 am

    I guess it is difficult wash it with wash machine. it will floating.i never washed it at home.Just airing and then laping it or send to dry-clean.

  9. rese on October 22, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    use full article,,
    just read..
    nice to know this site..=)

  10. Mom of three on October 22, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Here it cost almost as much to dry clean one as it costs to replace it. Personally I hate the things, but hubby loves them. So we compromise, I bought him a small one and he can wrap up in it and give me the regular comforter.

    But definitely go with the duvet cover. It can be washed over and over again.

    I have washed ours once or twice, since I figured even if it did have to be replaced more often, I am still saving money over having it dry cleaned.

    Now give me a good ole heated blanket any day. Yummy.

  11. Keter on October 22, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve never washed my old down comforter, but it’s never needed it. I keep it covered all the time with a thick duvet cover, and that in turn is sandwiched between a top sheet (and in the coldest months, a cotton blanket, too) and a bedspread, so it never gets soiled. I just mist it lightly with scented Lysol spray and throw it in the dryer on fluff cycle to air it out every so often.

    BTW, Lysol spray works on dust mites: I have dust mite allergies and have found that misting the mattress and both sides of the pillows with Lysol spray and letting them dry thoroughly before putting on fresh sheets seems to eliminate the problem. I’m not sure if it kills the mites or makes what they eat unpalatable or poisonous, but it works. The Lysol scent dissipates pretty quickly, but you might want to do this at least a couple of hours before you plan to go to bed.

  12. Heather on October 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Meredith – I do think it’s perfectly fine to wash a comforter, as I mentioned that I do wash my own. The difference between feathers on and off of waterfowl is the oil. Ducks and geese have glands that secret oils that help them shed water. Without the oil, their down would be waterlogged.
    I just want to be careful when handing out advice that could reduce the lifespan of an article, even if it is the more cost conscious option.

    PS Congrats on the new baby!

  13. Meredith on October 22, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Another perspective, if you don’t have the option to dry clean:

    I use down comforters on every bed, but I machine wash mine ALL THE TIME! (See also, too cheap for dry cleaners.)

    In Europe, where down comforters originate, you will see women airing theirs by hanging them out windows or over balconies. I figure, if the feathers came from a water fowl, they should do fine in water.

    I do think that using a regular washer could ultimately shorten the lifespan–especially if you are packing a king-size duvet in a standard drum, or letting it get knotted and twisted during the spin cycle. A laundromat or front loader should be gentler.

    I figure that we save so much on heating bills with our down comforters that even by replacing them periodically, we’re still coming out ahead.

  14. Rebecca C on October 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I agree with the duvet cover. Between the cover and the dryer ours is in pretty good shape. I would be afraid to know how much dry cleaning would cost around here.

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