Cleaning comforter?
September 13, 2011 9:00 AM   Subscribe

I have an amazing old down comforter that reeks of a mixture of death and b.o. There are no washing instructions on it. How do I get this thing clean/smelling good? Caveat: It is massive, and my apt has a pretty old-school washing machine and dryer.

Do I seriously just...throw it in the wash? And then dry it? I'm horrified of ruining it or getting it all moldy and disgusting. Every website seems to say something different - wash it twice, don't wash it twice, you need a huge washer, put tennis balls in the dryer, don't dry too long or you'll scorch it, don't hang dry too long or it will mold. I'm seriously clueless.

I don't even know if it's dry-clean only. Can I take it to the cleaners? Is that expensive? Do they do that? Am I asking too many questions?

Sorry I'm...not a grown up.
posted by windbox to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We took ours to the dry cleaner after one of the cats peed on it. I think they charged us $15, and it's as good as new. Any decent cleaners should be able to take care of it.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:02 AM on September 13, 2011

If it's truly massive, take it to a laundromat with a mega-size washer/dryer (call ahead).

When I've washed mine (which can fit in a standard washer), I just wash 'em and dry 'em. It's not rocket science.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:03 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

take it to the cleaners. they have an entire protocol for this sort of thing. it may be costly, but far cheaper than getting a new amazing down comforter. you will love your comforter even more when it comes back smelling fresh and clean.

use Yelp or similar review sites or word-of-mouth from people you trust to find a reputable cleaner.

make absolutely certain to keep the receipt from drop-off (very important) and point out any stains or specific areas of treatment you'd like them to attend to (if any), making sure they note these on the work order.
posted by batmonkey at 9:04 AM on September 13, 2011

If it's that bad, I'd take it to a cleaners. They do more than just dry clean stuff; they wash things like down comforters, too. You might even be able to get an "end of the season" sale somewhere.

I had one for years. I used to just wash it like a regular comforter. It's a bitch to dry, though. I would run it through one cycle in the dryer, then take it home and dry it for at least another day at home. I set two dining room chairs back to back, and draped the comforter over them, so that it could get air all around. Sometimes I even set up a fan to blow on it, just to be sure it wouldn't mildew.
posted by ErikaB at 9:06 AM on September 13, 2011

Oh and I'm sure you realize this already, but once you get it back, be sure to use a duvet cover! This is like a big zippered pillowcase for your down comforter. It helps intercept the filth from your sleeping body before it gets to the down comforter.

If you use a duvet cover, and you're good about washing it every 2 weeks, you can probably get away with never having to clean your down comforter again.
posted by ErikaB at 9:08 AM on September 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

My big giant comforter goes to a laundromat with a giant 6- or 8-load capacity machine. The super sized dryers will dry it as well. All for about $6. I was prepared the first time I tried this to throw away the comforter if my el-cheapo process ruined it.
posted by birdherder at 9:08 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I once saw a place that did this by removing the feathers and cleaning them separately, and replacing as needed. I can't recall where that was, even what country. :-/
posted by Goofyy at 9:10 AM on September 13, 2011

take it to the cleaners. the peace of mind and joy of getting a beautiful, folded comforter back is so worth it. it'll be in the neighborhood of 20 bucks, i'd think. maybe as much as 40. i think that depends on where you are.
posted by nadawi at 9:16 AM on September 13, 2011

We wash our full/queen duvet in a standard washer. As soon as it gets wet, it really reduces in volume. The first time we washed it, my bf freaked out, thinking it was ruined. It also had a funky smell while wet. But after we put it in the dryer, it fluffed up just fine, and was like new.
posted by kimdog at 9:20 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

What kimdog said. Cram it in there. Wash it twice if you need to, turning it the other way around. Credentials: have dones this to loads of down duvets and featherbeds, have never ever had any one of them suffer in the least for it. It'll be nice and fluffy, and while a one-off $40-$20 at the cleaners seems fine, once you try this, you will spend the rest of your life having your duvets be clean and fluffy for pennies instead of living with blecch until you get around to dragging it to the cleaners, and spending the cost of many new duvets over the years on cleaning.

I have a front-loader and duvets come out not waterlogged as one might fear but very close to dry; if you can find a laundromat with a big front-loader that might be the nicest way to roll.
posted by kmennie at 10:00 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tips for washing down items at home:
  • Use the largest washing machine available.
  • Use less detergent/laundry soap than you would ordinarily — half as much, maybe.
  • After the washing machine finishes its cycle, run the item through again with no detergent — you want to be sure that every bit of detergent has been rinsed away.
  • Use the largest dryer available.
  • Run it through two or maybe three full-length dryer cycles on low to ensure it's thoroughly dry.
  • Adding a balled-up sock or two in the dryer can help refluff the down.

posted by Lexica at 10:31 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd say add a couple of tennis balls to the dryer drum to help refluff the comforter.
posted by Dragonness at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2011

You could try a larger washing machine at a laundromat. Or - I've had success with smoky-stinky bar clothes, in a pinch, dousing with Febreze, then hanging outside or draping over patio furniture and let wind and sun unstink the item for a day.
posted by Occula at 11:55 AM on September 13, 2011

I recommend that you inspect methodically around all the edges and quilt stitching. If you find any holes, stitch them shut or point them out to dry cleaner/laundry. I prefer professional laundering because their machines are so much larger and they have better extraction [spin every last drop of water out]

The last choice is to wash in normal machine with central spindle. You will either destroy the machine or the comforter or both.

Nthing the duvet cover-- also airing out the comforter. Drape it over two chairs, or clothesline, and leave in sun for several hours. In parts of Europe they air out their bed coverings every day.
posted by ohshenandoah at 12:39 PM on September 13, 2011

Seconding kimdog, I wash mine pretty regularly -- at home, with hot water and even bleach, then put it in the dryer. It does smell weird when wet, but that smell goes away when it is dry.
posted by Houstonian at 6:12 PM on September 13, 2011

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