how to clean a comforter

Why bother?

Clean and cosy bedding is crucial to providing a good night’s rest, as well as ensuring healthy living. However, many people cannot wash their comforters as frequently as sheets and blankets, especially those for queen and king size beds, because they don’t fit in standard home washers. Also, the fabric can get torn by the agitator causing the fill material to escape, damaging your washer.

Additionally, comforters are made of fabrics that you don’t know how to manage, and squeezing them inside an insufficiently sized vessel may disturb the fluff.

Professional cleaning

While comforters may seem the same – big, fluffy, oversized quilts, – they are not. Depending on the materials they are stuffed and covered with, different cleaning techniques are recommended. Professional cleaners know the best ways to clean these fabrics to ensure that they are stay fresh and in good condition. Alternatively, if you know the exact materials used in your comforter, you can use the following guidelines for at-home care.

Comforter cleaning tips

Use a comforter cover

If your comforter is properly covered with a protective cover, it will need infrequent cleaning. Using a duvet cover not only allows the fabric or shell to remain clean, but the down itself also remains cleaner. It is also easier to remove and wash a cover compared to the comforter itself. Usually, when using a comforter cover, you only need to wash your duvet once a year, and no more than twice a year.

Fluff the comforter everyday

Fluffing your comforter allows you to force air in between the plumes of the down, giving it “room to breathe”. Fluffing enables the fibers to stretch out instead of compressing together. You can also gently vacuum your comforter on a regular basis to get rid of dust and allergens. But take care not to let the vacuum touch the material directly; hold it about .25 inches above the surface.

Air it out

If you can, consider hanging your comforter outside on a clothesline, or draping it over your deck rail. This allows air to flow through the plumes of down and helps maintain the natural lost by freshening up the fill material. If you cannot air your down comforter outdoors, fluff it up by putting it in the dryer – together with some tennis balls – on the air fluff cycle.

That said, only down comforters can put in a dryer. Other types of stuffing may shrivel or become bumpy.

Cleaning Label

How a comforter should be cleaned depends on its stuffing, so always check the labels to read the manufacturer’s recommendation. If the label says DRY CLEAN ONLY or MACHINE WASH SAFE, or the equivalent, you won’t have to research further. Simply do as instructed. Otherwise, you will have to determine the fillers and fabrics it comprises.

Cleaning and Laundering

First, check the comforter for any tears in the fabric that may cause loss of stuffing during the cleaning process. If the duvet is in good condition, you may proceed with laundering it as follows:

Down

  • Down-filled comforters in good condition can be cleaned in a washing machine.
  • Use cold water in a gentle wash cycle.
  • Pre-treat stains before washing the comforter
  • You can safely dry the comforters outdoors or in a dryer. No-heat tumble-dry, or use the lowest or medium heat setting. Throw in several clean tennis balls prevent clumping and help fluff it. The entire drying process should take about 3 hours. Alternatively, take the comforter out of the dryer periodically and shake it to redistribute and fluff the down.
  • Mildew can grow in wet damp down and damage it, so ensure that your duvet is completely dry before storing.
  • Clean your comforter only when necessary. Over-cleaning can cause natural oils within the material to get exposed over time.
  • Take old duvets to a dry cleaner.

Cotton Batting

  • Don’t put cotton-stuffed comforters in the washing-machine as they tend to get clumpy
  • Hand-wash the comforter in a big laundry tub, or bathtub, using half-cup (120ml) vinegar to dissolve the soap suds. Dry outdoors in the sun (never use a dryer).
  • If you cannot dry it outside, consider using a dry cleaner instead.

Wool 

  • If the garment label does not indicate WASHABLE, never machine wash, since this may cause distortion or shrinkage. Use dry cleaner services instead.
  • If the label is marked WASHABLE, simply wash it using the instructions.

Polyester or poly-cotton blend 

  • Can be safely machine-washed at home – if instructed on the fabric label – unless it is in delicate condition due to age.
  • If the label is damaged, soak the comforter for a few hours before starting the wash cycle
  • Add half-cup vinegar to water in the rinse cycle to dissolve soap residue
  • Set the dryer to the lowest heat setting when drying.

Other materials 

  • If your duvet has any amount of wool, silk, or velvet, it can be risky to machine wash at home, since the fabrics may get damaged by the water. Instead, use dry cleaning service providers.
  • If the comforter has multiple materials, wash it using the safest method for the most delicate material in the blend. If you are uncertain, or the duvet is old, use dry cleaning services. 

Caring for old comforters

If your comforter can be cleaned in water, but it is old and beginning to wear out, it is best if you wash it in a bathtub, using a mild liquid laundry detergent.

  • Thoroughly mix the detergent before adding the duvet and let it soak for a few hours.
  • Afterwards, drain and rinse in cold water with half-cup vinegar to dissolve soap residue
  • Line-dry outside or tumble-dry in your dryer

Caution when laundering comforters 

  • Use gentle detergent that is recommended for your comforter, and avoid anything with bleach or fabric softener.
  • Be careful when pulling the wet comforter out of the machine since it will be heavy. Lift it up as you pull, little by little to avoid stress and tears.
  • You should never leave comforters in a dryer unattended, especially down comforters. As the fabric dries, it may expand excessively, blocking the hot air escape. This may scorch the comforter and risk starting a fire.
  • When laundering at home, use a front-load washer with no agitator to prevent the stitching from coming apart. A front-load vessel is recommended. If you don’t have one, go to a neighbourhood laundry centre with a non-agitating commercial size machine – use a gentle cycle.

Storage

After your comforter is properly cleaned, you can iron it to remove wrinkles, and then store it away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. Shake the comforter, fold it several times, and then wrap it in a breathable cotton bag or sheet. Do not store your comforter in a plastic bag as this may encourage mildew. Also, do not stock items on top of it to prevent matting.