Washing A Goose Down Comforter At Home Without Dry Cleaning - A DIY Guide
Back when I was a college student everything I brought with me fit into the back seat of my tiny four door sedan. In that pile of stuff was my favorite down comforter that had been with me since my childhood.
Now back then I had no idea how to care for a goose down comforter much less wash my own clothes besides the necessities of separating my whites and colors. Of course it would be when I was in another state and stuck with quarter operated dorm laundry machines that I would clumsily spill chicken noodle soup all over my duvet.
Yes I did have a duvet cover on my down comforter but a thin layer of fabric, even well worn soft fuzzy flannel, is no match for an entire bowl of salty soup and noodles. Thus began my education into the difference between cotton and polyester, thread counts, silk blends, and goose down bedding.
Back then the internet wasn't much more than a wasteland of newsgroups and geek stuff so I had nobody to turn to for domestic advice except our building's resident advisor.
She suggested that I wash my comforter with a tennis shoe thrown in. Apparently this was supposed to help wring out some of the water so my comforter wouldn't end up a big soggy mess.
Well let's just say that all I got out of that experiment was a ridiculously white pair of shoes. After two hours on the heavy spin cycle my fluffy 2 pound blanket resembled a bag of lead bricks. I think I spend my entire month's food allowance on quarters just to dry the comforter.
Major exception to all the tips that follow
If you have a hypoallergenic comforter like the AllerRest comforter or an allergen blocking protector, do not ever wash them in water. There is a special coating on the fabrics of hypoallergenic bedding that blocks out dust mites and dander. Washing this fabric in water will wash out the coating. You will need to take your comforter to a French laundry that specializes in washing and repairing down bedding. Do not take the comforter to a regular dry cleaner. The chemicals are far too harsh for the delicate down inside. Contact me for a list of French laundries if you don't have one nearby.
Now with that out of the way, let's begin.
Washing Down Comforters In Your Washer - Machine Washing Instructions
Let me get this out of the way first: Down comforters should always be kept inside a comforter cover. ALWAYS. Washing your down comforter more than once a year will damage it and impact the down's fluffiness.
Now that I'm much older and wiser, I have discovered the correct way to wash a down comforter depends mainly on the type of washing machine you use.
One of the biggest problems is that feather comforters are like sponges and can soak up a surprising amount of water. It is really difficult to clean goose down quilts correctly and drying them can take hours.
The best way to cut down on problems is with a front loading washing machine like these. These machines tumble your comforter rather than wring them back and forth. Old top loading washing machines can shred the down inside and tug loose the stitching. Tumble washing is much gentler on your bedding.
Also, since much less water is used, your comforter should only be a little bit damp when you take it out of your washer. Drying your comforter should only take one or two high heat cycles.
How To Clean A Down Comforter At Home Without A New Washer...
Tempting... but don't do it!
Wet feathers and germs from strangers do not mix.
Now if you are not as fortunate and have an older style washing machine, your best bet is to wash your comforter by hand. You will want to do this in your bathtub and soak the comforter with lukewarm (not hot!) water. Wash as normal but cut down the amount of laundry detergent you usually use by a half. I like to use a down soap which is specially formulated for down feathers. Regular detergents can leave behind residue that will ruin the down inside your comforter! There should barely be any suds visible. If your water turns murky from the dirt and grime coming out of the comfort, then you've used the right amount of detergent.
Let the comforter soak in the soapy water for half an hour. Then gently squeeze the water through your comforter until you feel there's no more dirt coming out. Drain the bath and fill it again with cool water. Repeatedly squeeze the comforter with this clean water. Drain and repeat until no more dirty soapy water comes out. Drain the tub a final time and squeeze as much water out as possible. Always squeeze and press. Never twist or wring your comforter. Twisting will damage the stitching, fabric, and down.
Since washers can tumble and spin out the excess water, your hand-washed comforter will be soaking wet and extremely heavy in comparison. It will take a while to completely dry out all the water in your goose down comforter.
You'll now notice that your giant sack of wet goose down stinks and smells like wet dog. No worries though because the smell will disappear once the blanket is completely dry and the heat from your dryer will kill all the mold and dust mites.
Can You Wash A Down Comforter With Bleach?
If you use chlorine bleach, then absolutely not! The bleach will destroy the down feathers and leave an awful smell behind. I have used bleaches that are oxygen based like Oxyclean and Chlorox2 without problems.
Can You Wash A Down Comforter In Hot Water?
Use warm to hot water to kill dust mites and reduce the amount of detergent you use. Washing down with hot water can damage the down. A down comforter should be washed at most once every 2 years just before the comforter goes into storage. Any more is unnecessary and will damage the comforter.
How To Dry A Wet Down Comforter
Dry the comforter out as much as possible by putting it through two or three low/medium heat cycles in your dryer.
Pro tip: Throw in a couple of large bath towels to help draw out the excess water.
Do not skip this step! Wet soggy down is a breeding ground for mold and allergens.
On the last dry cycle when the comforter is 90% dry you'll want to throw in some tennis balls or a clean pair of sneakers to help fluff the comforter.
No matter what you do, do not use fabric softener when drying your goose down comforter.
Oh yeah, one more thing. In case I haven't stressed the above point enough...
No matter what you do, do not use fabric softener!
Don't do it.
Fabric softener will leave a waxy coating on fabric and the feathers inside. Not only does this turn your comforter into a lumpy clumpy mess, the sticky residue will also attract a sour moldy smell over time. So just take my word for it if you don't want to shell out another couple hundred for a new comforter.
Repeat after me: I will never use fabric softener after I wash my down comforter.
If you want to be 100% sure that everything is completely dry, hang the comforter out to air dry in the sun for a day after machine drying it.
The Best Way To Clean A Goose Down Comforter
Honestly though it would be much simpler to borrow a friend's front loading washer and dryer just this once to wash your bedding. I would stay away from using machines at the laundromat for hygiene reasons.
Once you get the hang of washing your comforter, you'll know how to wash down pillows too. It's pretty similar and actually easier since the pillows are so much smaller.
Or if you want to cut down on your gas and water bills, maybe it's time to upgrade your washing machine and dryer to something from the 21st century?