down with that.
January 31, 2011 6:36 PM   Subscribe

can you clean a down comforter in your own washer and dryer rather than getting it dry cleaned? if so, do you have any pro tips?
posted by violetk to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I use a product called NikWash (purchased at camping stores for washing down products like sleeping bags), then toss the comforter in the dryer on a low heat setting with a couple of tennis balls to get the feathers lofted again.
posted by tidecat at 6:42 PM on January 31, 2011

You can, but it's a pain to dry in a smaller (home-sized) dryer. If you go to the laundromat, it's better in the biggest dryer they have, with a clean shoe or tennis ball thrown in to even out the feathers.
posted by xingcat at 6:42 PM on January 31, 2011

I have never done this with a down comforter, but I always wash my dry-clean-only clothes myself.


-Delicate cycle
-Cold wash
-Gentle soap (like Woolite)
-Hang/drape dry

(And for something like the comforter, shake every so often during drying to redistribute the stuffing.)
posted by phunniemee at 6:42 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I do it all the time, even with my heirloom eiderdown duvet! I use quarter to half the soap of a regular load, and an extra rinse to make sure to get all the soap out. For something that isn't quilted, throw a couple clean shoes (or otherwise clunkity, dryer-friendly items- tennis balls?) will help it not to bunch up and stay wet in the dryer.

Do make sure it's thoroughly dry though, you do not want mildew building up in one of these things. It usually takes my unquilted 'bag of down' two cycles in the dryer, but my newer, quilted feather/down duvet dries easily in one and doesn't really need the shoes thrown in with it,
posted by sunshinesky at 6:45 PM on January 31, 2011

I do it all the time. After all, geese get wet and they're fine after they dry, right?

A few tips.

First, I assume you have a top-loading washer that you can lift the lid of, temporarily stopping the wash cycle. Once the washer is filled with water, open the lid and poke around to make sure that the comforter is actually wet everywhere. Since they're so big and fluffy, water may not get into all the folds without your help.

Second, as with a big blanket, make sure the comforter is distributed evenly in the washer. Otherwise, when it spins, the machine may go off balance and water may leak on the floor.

Third, I assume your comforter is subdivided into little sections of down, whether sewn in squares or circles or some other pattern. When you hang your comforter to dry, make sure to fluff up these areas so air actually gets between and among the feathers and whatever other filling may be in there.
posted by paindemie at 6:45 PM on January 31, 2011

Yep, done it many times. Wash it with woolite, then put several (new, clean) tennis balls in the dryer with it, and take it out of the dryer every 15 minutes or so to fluff and make sure there aren't wet parts getting stuck in the middle.
posted by brainmouse at 6:45 PM on January 31, 2011

I do it all the time (well, a couple times a year, times the several we've got). It's part of the reason I bought a high-capacity washer and dryer. I would not recommend trying to do anything larger than a full size unless you have high-capacity machine access, there won't be enough room for things to move around and get properly clean (when I have not had access to a larger machine, I've had okay luck with my kids' full size duvets in a standard size washer).

I agree with putting a tennis ball in the dryer--it bounces around in there and keeps things from bunching up.
posted by padraigin at 6:46 PM on January 31, 2011

Info for my new down sleeping bag says wash rarely in a front loading washer, and tumble dry thoroughly. In my experience, down takes more than 1 dryer cycle to dry completely.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:47 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I do it too, I use the shoe method. I actually kept some old raggedy canvas shoes that I don't wear any more specifically for comforter-beating in the dryer.

After I tumble it dry (which does take a long damn time), I usually hang it over my upstairs banister (the one that keeps you from falling into the stairwell and is parallel to the ground? Not the slopey one you hang on to while coming downstairs) for a couple days to air out and make sure the interior is completely dry. Then I take it in over the bed and floof it repeatedly by shaking.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:50 PM on January 31, 2011

Apologies for interrupting, but tennis balls and shoes during the dry cycle? I think it goes along with the OP; can someone explain?
posted by jmd82 at 6:59 PM on January 31, 2011

jmd82: Tennis balls and shoes bump the down around a bunch so that it doesn't clump the way it might otherwise.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:17 PM on January 31, 2011

In the dryer I fluff down items and down alternatives with six yarn balls I purchased on Etsy, instead of tennis balls or shoes.
posted by Agatha at 7:21 PM on January 31, 2011

jmd: it's useful for some puffy coats and plain old poly-fill comforters too. Whatever the fill is wants to clump up when wet and dry lumpy instead of spreading back out throughout the filled area. (And then it doesn't want to dry because it's a big lump and the outside of the lump will dry but the center stay wet.)

The shoe or tennis ball helps keep it spread out and busts up the clumps.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:33 PM on January 31, 2011

Due to medical reasons, I had to wash my down comforter multiple times in a week's time, on hot.

Use less soap and more fabric softener than you think. I did two extra rinses the first time because it had a noticeable wet funk when I pulled it out of the washer. It took two full cycles (again, on hot) to dry it out, around two hours. I didn't use a tennis ball and just beat on it a few times and it was clump free.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:34 PM on January 31, 2011

Yes. Line dry.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:25 PM on January 31, 2011

Whatever you do, don't line dry. Dry it thoroughly, much longer than you think you need to, in a big dryer (a commercial one is best, if you have a laundromat near you.) Like others mentioned, put some tennis balls in the dryer too. The main idea is to try and give the feathers back their loft and fluffiness--because that is the exact thing that keeps you warm with a down comforter. Flat, water-bedraggled feathers will not be as effective in retaining air, and therefore warmth. Good luck.
posted by asimplemouse at 4:35 AM on February 1, 2011

For a double bed sized down comforter

Top load washer:
--> Warm cycle, normal wash medium

Regular dryer
--> Fluff dry, low heat, 80 minutes
--> Add 1 tennis ball
--> If not completely dry once cooled, set for another 30 minute cycle

Obviously, the times vary depending on the make and model of your W/D

You don't want to line dry because you need to thoroughly dry the entire comforter inside and out pretty quickly. Otherwise, you risk the growth of mold and mildew.
posted by vincele at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2011

I've recently started weighing the comforter (or puffy jacket) before washing, then again after drying. A clean, dry comforter should weigh the same, or even perhaps a little less than before. If it weighs more, it probably needs more time in the dryer.
posted by Mundungus at 10:14 AM on February 1, 2011

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