How to wash and dry a down comforter without bringing it to the dry cleaner

Olga Nikiforova/Getty ImagesTo prevent soapy residue that can cause clumps, wash comforters with a small amount of mild detergent.
  • Most down comforters can be machine washed and dried on a cool, gentle cycle.
  • It can take hours to properly and thoroughly dry a down comforter, so plan ahead accordingly.
  • To keep it fresh and fluffy between washes, use a cover or top sheet.
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Is there anything better than crawling into a bed with freshly-cleaned pillows, sheets, and blankets? For those who like to snuggle up with a down comforter at night, consider just how long it’s been since you’ve experienced the bliss that comes with a newly-washed feathery duvet. If you’re still trying to find the exact answer, it’s been too long.

Unlike doing a load of bath towels or cotton sheets, though, you can’t simply toss a down comforter in the wash on a normal cycle. The chemicals used to dry clean are also too harsh for down. To make sure you’re taking special care of your beloved bedding, we tapped Jessica Ek of the American Cleaning Institute to get the scoop on everything you need to know about laundering your down comforter.

Make sure your washing machine is big enough

Before you get started, check that your home washing machine can accommodate heftier pieces of bedding like a comforter. It’s important not overfill your washer or use too much detergent, says Ek. If the comforter doesn’t fit or goes over your machine’s weight limit, don’t force it! Take it to a laundromat instead. Additionally, use only the amount of detergent directed on the bottle to avoid residue that can ruin the blanket.

What you need

How to wash a down comforter

  1. Check the label. If you not-so-accidentally cut those bothersome tags off, try searching for the comforter online to find wash instructions. Still no luck? It’s typically safe to proceed to the next step. Down filling is generally machine washable — it’s the casing around it that may shrink.
  2. Pretreat stains. Pulling the fabric away from the down inside, use an enzyme spot remover to pretreat any stained areas without it being absorbed by the filling.
  3. Place in the washing machine. Add mild laundry detergent to the machine and wash the down comforter on a cool, gentle cycle. Key words: cool (heat can damage down) and gentle (there are feathers inside!).
  4. Retreat any remaining stains. Should you still notice spots after removing it from the washing machine the first time, Ek says repeating the steps above should do the trick to finally remove the stubborn stains.
  5. Dry it. Unless the tag says otherwise, your down comforter can be placed in a large dryer on low heat or fluff. Emphasis, again, on low heat, since high temperatures do not get down with down. Adding tennis or dryer balls can help evenly distribute the down as it dries. They might be a little noisy, though.

Quick tip: Drying down can take several hours since you’ll be doing it on low, so Ek suggests setting the machine for an hour at a time so you can break up any lumps of filling in between cycles.

How often should you wash a down comforter?

To avoid the task of washing your down comforter too frequently, consider purchasing a cover that can be cleaned regularly. “Washing a cover is a lot easier than washing a comforter and can help ensure your comforter lasts longer,” Ek says. You can instead wash the cover monthly and the comforter just two to four times a year.

Keeping a down comforter fresh between deep cleans

Aside from using a cover or top sheet to help keep your down comforter fresh, Ek says small stains can be spot treated with a bit of mild detergent and water so you don’t have to do a full deep clean every time there’s a small mishap on your bedding.

Quick tip: When washing a cover, be sure to use cold water and low or no heat to avoid shrinkage.

How to wash a down alternative comforter

Like down, most down alternatives can be washed following the same instructions listed above with cold water and low or no heat, unless otherwise directed on the care label. Ek’s biggest suggestion? Never cut off your tags so as to avoid unnecessary damage to your belongings. Or, at the very least, cut them and keep them somewhere safe to refer back to when it’s time to wash.

When should you replace a down comforter?

Eventually, down comforters won’t feel quite as fluffy and evenly distributed as they once did. That, or they will even start to leak filling from holes that aren’t easily repairable. If either one of these is the case for you, you know it’s time to put it to bed and buy a new one.

Insider’s takeaway

Down comforters are typically machine washable, but require gentle care. They can take hours to thoroughly dry, though, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time before starting a wash.

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