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Laundry Pros Share How to Wash a Down Comforter So It’s Clean, Fluffy + Lump-Free

Plus, the detergent you'll want to avoid

The warm, cozy look and feel of a down comforter can’t be beat, and it gets you through the colder winter nights. But every so often the comforter needs to be washed —whether it’s before you store it for the warmer seasons, you spilled something on it or it just needs a good cleaning. But can you just toss it in the washer, or does its insulation require special care? Here, the expert tips on how to wash a down comforter that will ensure this pricey linen stays fresh and clean, without damaging the delicate contents.

Why down comforters can be challenging to clean

First and foremost, down comforters tend to be on the large and fluffy side and can sometimes test the capacity of non-commercial washing machines. On top of that, genuine down comforters are made from duck or goose plumage — more specifically, they are filled with the soft, fuzzy material that forms the underlayer of a duck’s feathers, which they use as a form of insulation. “Down does a great job holding in heat while also being breathable, which is why it makes such a great material for both jackets and bedding,” explains Taylor Robertson of Heritage Park Laundry Essentials in Connecticut. “However, because it’s organic, it’s also more easily damaged if you don’t wash it correctly.”

How often should you wash a down comforter?

You’ll want to hit a balance when it comes to the frequency of laundering down materials. “Washing too often can lead to unnecessary wear-and-tear, aging them before their time,” explains fabric expert Barbara Stern, editor-in-chief at Ottoman Textiles. “But down, being a natural material, is also especially prone to dust mites and allergens, so you don’t want to let it go too long without a wash, either. A good rule of thumb is to launder it once per season, or approximately every three to six months.”

Because of this, it’s highly recommended to cover your down comforter in a duvet, adds Robertson. “A duvet is a cover that buttons or zips around a comforter — it can be removed and cleaned weekly along with your sheets and pillowcases to help delay dust and allergen buildup.”

Related: How to Put on a Duvet Cover the Easy Way: Swiss Roll Trick Makes It Fast + Stress-Free

How to wash a genuine down comforter

Keep the temperature cool: The first thing to keep in mind is the temperature. “You’ll want to stick to cool to warm water, nothing too hot,” says Will Cotter, owner of HappyCleans in Oklahoma. “Aim for a temperature range of around 86°F to 109°F — anything 110°F or above is considered too hot and can damage the natural oils in the down. Over time, exposure to too-hot temperatures can cause the comforter to shrink and degrades its insulation properties.”

Avoid this detergent: Next, it’s fine to use whatever liquid laundry detergent you normally wash your sheets and clothes with, but try to avoid the powdered variety since it doesn’t always break down properly when washing larger items like a comforter.

If you want to be extra cautious, they also sell detergents designed specifically for down materials, such as Le Blanc Down Wash, (Buy on Amazon, $38) or Impresa Concentrated Down Wash Detergent (Buy on Amazon, $11.99). These detergents are made to wash out more thoroughly.

Rinse it again: “It’s important that detergent gets fully rinsed out of your comforter, otherwise it will become stiff and less insulated,” adds Cotter. “That’s why I like to do two things: one, I run it through an extra rinse cycle with no detergent after the first wash, and second I add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle — the acids help water cling onto and remove excess detergent. They also help loosen zinc salts and aluminum chloride, so dirt or dust can’t cling to the fabric, and kill dust mites and bacteria, too.”

TIP: If your comforter has developed a funky odor, you can add ¼ cup baking soda along with your detergent—this helps absorb and flush out odor-causing bacteria during the wash cycle.

Related: 7 Genius Baking Soda Hacks Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money

Avoid these add ins: Karina Toner of Spekless Cleaning says to “avoid using any bleach or fabric softeners, as these can both damage down.”

Dry on low: Once it’s time for the dryer, go low, implores Toner. “Just like hot water is a no-no, so is high heat on your dryer setting. It’s best to stick to low- or no-heat, and throw in a few wool or tennis balls, which will bounce around as the dryer spins and prevent the down from clumping up and help it maintain its fluffiness.” If you have time and space, down comforters can also benefit from being dried on a clothesline, as the sun helps kill off any remaining dust mites. “Just be cautious if your comforter is dyed a darker color —sun exposure can cause dyed fabrics to fade.”

And if your comforter comes out of the dryer a bit on the clumpy or flat side, try some of these “re-fluffing” tips:

How to wash a down comforter if it has stains

Commercial stain removers like Shout, OxiClean and Spray ‘n Wash are fine to use on down. “You can also pour undiluted dish soap, hydrogen peroxide or laundry detergent directly on the stain, let sit for about a half hour, then run through the wash,” says Toner. “This will gently pull out most stains.”

Watch a demonstration of how this is done without even needing a wash cycle here:

And if your formerly white comforter has developed a yellowish color, adding that cup of vinegar to the wash cycle can help return it to its former glory.

What to do if your comforter won’t fit in your machine

In this case, you’ll have to bring your comforter to a laundromat. You can Google “laundromats near me” or try downloading the free Hamper App which will search out nearby locations via your ZIP code and even sort the results by 24-hour locations, and ones that will wash and fold your comforter for you.

What never to do? Get your down comforter dry cleaned — the harsh chemicals used in the process can damage the down material.

For more laundry hacks click through the links below!

How to Wash Linen Garments + The Simple Step to Avoiding Wrinkles

Experts Reveal Just How Long Can Clothes Sit Wet in the Washer Before Getting Moldy

The Freezer Trick That Removes Bad Smells From Clothes (and Other Dry-Clean Only Fabrics) — No Washing Needed

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