Your down comforter keeps you cozy and comfortable at night, so you'll want to keep it clean and smelling fresh. The good news is you can wash the comforter yourself without a trip to the dry cleaner. In fact, dry-cleaning chemicals are hard on down, so that method isn't recommended. Instead, head to the nearest laundromat with a large-capacity washer and dryer to tackle the job yourself.
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Prepping the Comforter
Before washing, give the bed covering a quick inspection. Look for stitching issues or holes where the down filling can escape, and repair them before doing anything else.
You'll also want to pretreat stains with an enzymatic cleaner or color-safe bleach. Just be sure to keep the fabric away from the down filling as you spot-clean.
Washing the Comforter
Unless you're washing a twin-size comforter, plan to use a washing machine at a laundromat. Down comforters usually need high-capacity washers to clean fully, and most home washers are too small. Look for a front-loading machine instead of a top-loading one, which has agitators that can damage the comforter. Front-loading machines are larger and gentler on the bed covering.
Choose a gentle or delicate wash cycle to protect the blanket. Warm water is ideal. It does a good job of cleaning the comforter without damaging the down. Avoid hot water, as it can shrink the fabric.
You only need a small amount of mild detergent without additives to wash the comforter. Mild soap protects the natural oils in the down that keep it soft. To keep it fluffy, skip the fabric softener. Instead, put a few tennis balls inside a sock or find a pair of clean canvas shoes with the laces removed, and add either to the washer with the comforter. This will keep the filling from clumping inside. Be sure to run it through at least one extra rinse cycle. This step helps get rid of any leftover detergent, so the down can get fluffy again.
Drying the Comforter
Because down comforters are bulky, it's best to use a large-capacity dryer while you're at the laundromat. Choose a dryer with enough space for the comforter to tumble around in and get fluffy. Transfer the shoes or tennis balls you used in the washer to the dryer for extra fluff.
A low heat setting is the safest option. Stop the dryer occasionally to remove and shake the comforter. This helps it dry faster and prevents clumps of down from collecting.
Drying a down comforter can take several cycles and a few hours to complete, but keep going until it's completely dry. This will prevent mold and mildew. You can tell the comforter is done when the fabric feels dry, and the feathers are light and fluffy. If you don't want to machine-dry it completely, you can line-dry it. Just make sure the down does not clump when hanging the comforter on the a line.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.