Raise your hand if washing pillows and comforters—especially down-filled items—gets overlooked. In fact, a lot of people even wonder "can you wash a down comforter?" Rest easy—if you have learned how to wash pillows or comforters, your know-how applies to down items.
Manufacturers usually offer cleaning suggestions for their down items. Most will recommend cleaning down items infrequently—typically every three to five years. Follow these steps to get the best results when washing and drying down comforters and pillows.
Always read and follow any specific instructions on the tag of the item you'll be washing. Before you wash down items, check for worn stitching or holes, and repair with small fine stitches to avoid losing any down stuffing during the laundering process.
Comforters for full-, queen-, and king-size beds are probably too big for your home washer. Instead, use the large-capacity front-loading washing machines at a local laundromat. Down pillows may be small enough to launder in your washing machine at home. This is the more convenient choice, especially if you have a front-loading machine. If you have a top loader, however, you may want to use the laundromat's front-loading machines. An agitator can be rough on delicate down items.
Before washing a down comforter or pillow, check for tough stains such as blood or urine. These stains are best treated with an enzymatic cleaner. Color-safe bleach can be used on stains caused by water or food. Pull the cover of the comforter or pillow away from the down while spot-treating stains to keep the cleaning product from damaging the down. Then launder.
Put a pair of clean canvas shoes (laces removed) or a sock stuffed with two tennis balls (secured with a knot) in the machine with the comforter or pillows. This addition will help keep the down from bunching and will gently agitate soil from the items being washed.
Use a gentle- or delicate-cycle setting and a minimal amount of mild laundry detergent with your load. Choose lukewarm water; hot or cold water can be hard on the down. Use an extra rinse cycle to ensure all soap is rinsed from the down. There are also specialty laundry detergents made specifically for washing sleeping bags, down comforters, and other down-filled items. You'll find these detergents available online and at outdoor retailers.
Editor's Tip: So you finished washing a down jacket or pillow… and it stinks. Don't worry, you didn't miss a step in learning how to wash a down comforter or how to wash a down jacket. Down bears a distinctive odor when wet. The odor will dissipate when the down dries.
After the wash is complete, load your comforter or pillows into a dryer large enough to give the items plenty of room to fluff. Add a pair of clean canvas shoes without laces or two tennis balls in a sock to help fluff the down and keep it evenly distributed.
Run the dryer on air fluff or the lowest temperature possible. Stop the dryer periodically and break up any lumps that are forming in the comforter or pillow. Also ensure that the down is not getting too warm as extreme heat can scorch the down. Expect the drying process to take three to four hours.
Make sure the down item is dry before taking it out of the dryer to avoid the formation of mildew. If the item is still slightly damp, lay it out on a clothesline or picnic table on a breezy warm day to get the down as dry as possible. Once you bring the comforter or pillow inside, leave the item out for a few weeks to ensure all moisture has evaporated. If you're storing the comforter, wrap it in a cotton sheet.
Some down comforters and pillows come with explicit directions to dry-clean them rather than wash them. Slipping a duvet cover over a comforter will help keep the oils from your skin from penetrating into the comforter and attracting dirt.
You can further protect the down by always using a flat sheet underneath the duvet-covered comforter. The sheet provides another layer of protection against body oils and dirt. Wash the duvet cover once a week if no flat sheet is used, or wash it once or twice a year if a flat sheet is used.
Pillow protectors and covers will provide extra defense against stains and dust mites. Most covers have a zipper to further protect the pillow, allowing you to encase the pillow and to easily remove it for washing. Some protectors and covers are made from cotton or from cotton-polyester blends. Just as a flat sheet provides extra protection for the duvet cover, these covers protect down pillows from stains and soil. Launder the pillowcase weekly.
A few times a year, freshen a down comforter or down pillows by taking them outside on a warm, breezy day. Lay the items on a flat surface in the sun for two to three hours before returning them to your home.
No matter what you are cleaning, learning how to wash a sleeping bag or how to wash a duvet starts with reading the manufacturer's care tag. This knowledge, along with a few tricks, will have you ready to tackle all your down-filled item cleaning tasks, including washing a down jacket and caring for feather pillows.