How to Wash a Comforter (Because It Definitely Needs It)

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They aren’t called comforters for nothing—there are few delights in life that can rival the pleasure that comes from tucking yourself into luxuriously soft and fluffy bedding at the end of a long day, and our bodies demand we devote somewhere between 42 and 70 hours a week doing precisely that. Given the amount of time we spend snuggled up under our duvets, it should come as no surprise that they can get kind of scuzzy after a while. Still, the task of washing a bulky comforter can be a bit daunting. Good news: This beloved part of your bed set can be machine-washed without much hassle, so spare yourself the dry cleaning bill and read on for everything you need to know about how to wash a comforter from the comfort of home.

But First, How Often Should Comforters Be Cleaned?

Fortunately, if you use both a flat sheet and a duvet cover, it isn’t necessary to clean a comforter very often since a comforter isn’t in direct contact with your body (and therefore will stay cleaner for longer). That said, the American Cleaning Institute advises that “with a covered comforter, the cover should be washed monthly while the comforter itself can get away with being washed a couple of times a year.” Phew. One good wash every six months is way less onerous than expected. Even more good news? The process isn’t even as painstaking or fraught as you might have feared.

How To Wash a Comforter

Per the expert recommendation, comforters should be cleaned at least twice a year. (Note: If you have kids then you know that all kinds of gross stuff can go down in their presence, in which case you should feel free to repeat this process for every accident that soaks through a duvet.) Here’s your step-by-step guide to washing comforters without spending a fortune.

1. Read the tag

Your comforter should have a tag attached with washing instructions, and experts at ACI suggest that your best bet is to follow those guidelines. Still, some companies err on the side of caution (i.e., not wanting to take the blame when you mess up the washing process) and limit their advice to costly methods, like dry cleaning. In most cases, dry cleaning is not necessary for a comforter, nor is it even desirable when it comes to delicate fillings like goose down, which can be damaged by the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning.

2. Choose a gentle detergent

Only a small amount of detergent is required to get a comforter clean—overdo it and the soap might not be thoroughly rinsed which can damage the fluffy filling and soft feel of your bedding. Furthermore, harsh detergents with additives should be avoided, especially with down, as these cleaning solutions can affect the integrity of the feather filling. Instead, opt for a gentle detergent that is intended for delicate items (like something you’d use for your fanciest undergarments.) Woolite will do the trick, whether your comforter is down or down-alternative, as will the more upmarket delicates detergent from The Laundress. Bottom line: Whatever soap you choose, be sure it’s a mild one and use it sparingly.

3. Pick the right machine

Your king-size comforter might not feel so delicate when you’re dripping sweat trying to stuff the sucker into the washing machine...but trust us, it is. All it takes is a single tear in a comforter for a blissful night’s sleep to fall flat. Avoid that outcome by using a washing machine that can accommodate your comforter. Many home washing machines can do the job, but if you feel like it’s a tight squeeze then you’re better off playing it safe and taking your comforter to a local laundromat with a high-capacity appliance. One more thing: Avoid top-loading machines, as they feature a mechanism that tends to snag and tear big loads.

4. Start washing

Once your comforter is comfortably hanging out in an adequately-sized washing machine, ACI recommends you adjust the settings on your appliance so it runs on a gentle/delicate cycle. As for water temperature, avoid extremes: cool (not cold) or warm water will suit your comforter just fine.

5. Rinse and rinse again

For the same reason we advised using detergent sparingly, thorough rinsing is required when washing a comforter. That’s because leftover soap that sticks around in the filling of your bedfellow can affect its texture and loft. To thoroughly remove detergent from a comforter, it is important to perform multiple gentle rinse cycles.

6. Dry

Both down and down-alternative comforters are susceptible to mildew if not thoroughly dried (the risk is greater with the real stuff). No matter the filling of your comforter, thorough drying is a must, but you can’t turn up the heat to get the job done. Dry your comforter on the lowest setting for multiple cycles, if necessary. Per the ACI, “putting a towel in with the comforter can help it dry more evenly.” To preserve the loft of your comforter, it is a good idea to stop the dryer to fluff it a few times, the cleaning pros tell us. Alternatively, you can just put some tennis balls into the dryer—they might make some noise, but they’ll do all the fluffing for you. And that’s it—sweet dreams.

How to Wash a Down Comforter

A nice down comforter can cost a pretty penny so if you feel nervous about washing your bedding investment, we don’t blame. That said, a down comforter should still be cleaned every six months or so—but don’t worry, you really don’t have to sweat it because the process is simple. In fact, it’s the exact same one we outlined above. Still, it’s worth emphasizing that down comforters don’t take kindly to harsh detergents: You can—but don’t need to—get a special detergent for down (like Nikwax), but you will want to pick a solution formulated for delicates no matter what. Other than that the only thing you really need to know is that the previously mentioned tennis ball trick is particularly helpful when it comes to down comforters—’cause those feathers really need to be fluffed, and your arms could use a break. There you have you’re ready to get down to it! (Sorry, we couldn’t help it.)

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...