How to Wash a Down Comforter the Right Way

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Washing a down comforter at home is a lot easier than you think! Follow these simple steps for the cleanest, coziest, fluffiest bedding ever.

There’s no question about it: Down comforters are one of life’s simple luxuries. They are cozy, fluffy, and warm, and they come in varying weights to satisfy your heat preference while you’re snoozing. But when it comes to how to wash a down comforter, there’s quite a bit of confusion. Many people opt to take their down comforter to the dry cleaner to have it professionally laundered, intimidated by the concept of throwing it in the washing machine and dryer, but most down comforters are actually made to be washed and dried at home. Still, there are a few things you need to take into consideration before tossing yours in the wash, since the process is a little more complicated than washing your bed sheets.

Before you do anything, you’ll want to check the laundry symbols on the tag, as well as your comforter’s care guidelines, says Shawn Ashby, Whirlpool’s Laundry Brand Manager. After all, comforters come in a range of styles and materials, and you’ll want to ensure that you’re washing the one you have correctly in one of the best detergents. And while goose and duck down and other types of feathers often can be washed at home, if your comforter says “dry clean only,” don’t attempt to wash it on your own.

Another challenge? “A comforter’s filling can bunch up during a wash-and-dry cycle, leaving you with a less-than-lovely look,” says Ashby. We’re here to tell you how to avoid that—and help you keep your comforter in tip-top shape for as long as possible. Once you’re up to speed, learn how to tackle other tricky laundry projects, like how to wash pillows and towels correctly and how to wash microfiber towels so they don’t lose their cleaning power.

How often should you wash a down comforter?

Comforters don’t need to be washed as often as sheets, but they should be kept clean. “There are a lot of recommendations around how often you should wash your comforter, and it really comes down to each individual,” says Ashby. “A good rule would be to wash it four times per year, with the change of the seasons.” He notes that Whirlpool recommends checking the tag or your comforter’s care guidelines for more information. Plus, he adds, people who suffer from allergies may want to wash their comforter more frequently since this can cut down on various allergens that make their way into your bed.

If you want or need to wash your comforter frequently—because of allergies, personal hygiene factors like night sweating, or pets who spend time in your bed—Ashby suggests using a duvet cover, which protects the comforter and allows you to go longer without washing it. “This can protect your comforter,” he explains, “and it can be easier to clean than the comforter itself.”

Wondering why less can be more with comforter care? While some comforters are high quality and are constructed to withstand frequent laundering for many years, Ashby says, that’s not the case for all of them. Each will wear differently due to a variety of factors including how often they are laundered, how frequently they are slept on, the quality of the material, and the type of sleeper. “Always follow cleaning the directions on the tag to help get the most life out of your comforter,” he adds.

Washing your comforter at home vs. taking it to a laundromat or dry cleaner

First and foremost, to wash a down comforter at home, you will need to use a large-capacity washer and dryer. “Your comforter needs room to agitate and tumble or it won’t get clean,” explains Ashby. “If your washing machine isn’t large enough to accommodate your comforter, use commercial machines at your local laundromat.” What is considered large capacity? While there’s no official definition of large capacity or extra-large capacity in a washer and dryer, Ashby says you can consider anything over seven cubic feet (7.0 cu. ft.) to be larger than standard.

You’ll also need a gentle laundry detergent, as well as a fabric softener if you are planning on putting the comforter in the dryer. A dryer rack is also essential, as the final step should always involve air-drying once it comes out of the dryer. (More on that in a bit.) And again, make sure to check the tag to see whether or not you should even attempt to wash a down comforter at home. “Despite how far we’ve come with home washer and dryer technology, some garments are still best left to the professionals,” says Ashby. “A simple circle will tell you whether the item should be dry cleaned or not.”

If you’re wondering whether it’s better to have your comforter dry cleaned, well, it’s complicated. Some dry cleaners will simply wash and dry your comforter in a large-capacity machine. But you might want to avoid actual dry cleaning unless it’s specified on the label. Ashby says the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process can damage down. However, it will prevent any potential shrinkage. Dry cleaning is also much more expensive: an average of $30 to $50 per comforter.

High Angle View Of Crumpled Blanket On Bed At HomeTheptawat Tantipwan/Getty Images

How to wash a down comforter at home

Before you deal with your comforter, you’ll need to know how to wash your duvet, if you have one. The first step is removing it. “Duvets should be removed and washed separately from the comforter,” explains Ashby. “Similarly, you would wash using a bulky cycle, though a delicate cycle [may also be] sufficient. If possible, use an extra rinse option to wash away additional dirt, pollen, detergent, or dust.” With that task complete, you are ready to start laundering your down comforter.

Spot treatment/prewash steps

Before placing your down comforter in the washing machine, do a quick quality check. “Check your comforter for holes, tears, or loose threads before washing,” advises Ashby. “Make sure all of the stitching is secure before you place your comforter in the washing machine.” You’ll also want to spot-treat stains at this stage in the process.

Next, place the comforter into your washer carefully. If your top load washer has an agitator, place the comforter loosely around the wash tub and try to keep the load balanced. Items loaded too tightly around the agitator may have a harder time rolling over during the wash.

Water temperature

What water temperature should you use to wash your down comforter? Warm water is the safest option, per Ashby, as cold might not clean it well enough and hot water may damage the down.

Speed/cycle

Sheets and comforters should generally be washed using a bulky cycle. “However, if you wish to be gentler, a delicate cycle is sufficient,” Ashby adds. He also suggests using an extra rinse option. “An extra rinse helps wash away additional dirt, pollen, detergent, or dust mites. This is especially helpful to those with allergies or sensitive skin.”

Detergent

Add your gentle detergent into the machine’s soap dispenser. “Whirlpool brand recommends using a high-efficiency laundry detergent, as it is specifically formulated for high-efficiency washing machines that use less water,” says Ashby. “Low sudsing and quick dispersing, HE detergent delivers an optimal clean in low water levels.”

The recommended dosage is also dependent on the detergent concentration level, he adds. Consult your owner’s manual or detergent manufacturer’s recommendation to better understand the proper detergent amount for your washer model. For example, Swash Laundry Detergent from Whirlpool is 8x concentrated, so you need less of it than regular detergent.

How to dry a down comforter

After your wash cycle is complete, remove the comforter from the washing machine and follow these steps. Take particular note of the best dryer settings to use.

Heat

Select a low-heat or no-heat setting for your down comforter. While some people opt for higher heat, unless you are constantly checking on it, you can risk burning the fabric. “Depending on the fabric type, it may be recommended to not use a heated dry,” explains Ashby. “Air-drying is always an option, but if you don’t have room to spread out a comforter to dry, a no-heat setting in the dryer will tumble the comforter in room-temperature air.”

Settings/cycle

The best cycles for a comforter are bedding, bulky, heavy duty, or heavy dry. “These cycles were designed to help keep large items from tangling or balling up,” Ashby says.

Periodically check on the comforter to ensure even drying, gently fluffing it each time. While some experts recommend tricks like using tennis balls or dryer balls to keep the comforter fluffy while drying, Ashby maintains that periodically checking it and fluffing it yourself is just as effective.

How many times to rerun the dry cycle

The size of the comforter and the capacity of the dryer will both play into how often you will need to check if your comforter is completely dry, Ashby points out. “If you have a thick comforter and a smaller-capacity dryer, you may notice that it will take longer to ensure that the comforter is completely dry.” The main thing is just to make sure it’s as dry and fluffy as possible when it comes out of the dryer.

Since comforters may not completely dry in your dryer, Ashby suggests finishing the drying process on a comforter rack. Leave it there for one to two days to finish drying before storing it or placing it back on your bed. Now that you know how to clean a down comforter properly, check out our larger guide on how to do laundry to keep all of your items in amazing shape for as long as possible.

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Leah Groth
Leah is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, mother and product junkie. Her obsessions include old houses, home design, fashion, beauty, books and anything that makes her life — which includes working full-time and taking care of two "spirited" children and a Vizsla puppy — a little bit easier. Her work has appeared on a variety of publications and websites, including Glamour, Prevention, Business Insider, Livestrong, Mindbodygreen, Fatherly, Scary Mommy, Wonderwall and Cosmopolitan.