How To: Wash a Comforter
Goodbye, dust mites—hello, good night's sleep! With a few simple steps, you can wash your bulkiest piece of bedding in your own laundry room and ultimately improve sleep quality.
Nothing beats crawling under a cozy comforter after a long day, but did you know the bulky piece of bedding likely harbors an abundance of dust mites? Since comforters don’t get washed as often as sheets and pillowcases, they’re hotbeds for allergens that can affect your health and sleep quality. Regular washing–every six months for most comforters and annually for wool or down comforters–keeps your bedding clean and reduces the amount of dust on the surface.
Comforters made with delicate fabrics, like wool, should always be handled by professional dry cleaners to prevent shrinkage and damage. But, fortunately for your bank account and busy schedule, you can wash a majority of comforters in your own home—so long as you have a large capacity washing machine. Extra-bulky down comforters, however, should be washed at a local laundromat instead, where double- and triple-load machines handle the plump bedding better than smaller at-home washers. You don’t want to over-stuff your appliances, after all: Filling dryers past their capacities can prevent proper drying, lead to mold and mildew growth, and even cause fires. Whether you end up in a laundry room or laundromat, follow these straightforward instructions for how to wash a comforter thoroughly so that you can rest easy in your clean bedding.
Check your comforter’s care label for manufacturer instructions. Some labels list recommended temperature settings or hand-wash instructions. At this same time, examine the comforter for tears or pulled threads. Dry cleaners will often repair these imperfections for a price, but you can DIY the repair with a needle and strong thread. Loose fabric should always be fixed before washing, since your machines can exaggerate the damage.
If any stains on your comforter need treating, shift the underlying filling to the side as much as possible so you’re working with just fabric. Dampen a small corner of a clean, soft rag with water, and lightly scrub to lift the stain. Next, apply a small sprinkle of baking soda (if you’re working with a light-colored comforter) or mild laundry cleaning product like Woolite (if you’re working with a dark-colored comforter) to the stain and continue to gently scrub with the rag. Once the spot has disappeared, remove the baking soda or cleaner by dabbing it with a clean section of the wet rag. Blot to dry.
Determine if the comforter will fit into your washer. The comforter should be loosely stuffed into the washer and still feel fluffy—not firmly packed—to the touch. Also, make sure you have a surplus of space at the top of the basin (about 20 percent from the top) so the entire comforter gets covered by water during the wash cycle. If you have to cram the fabric into the machine, it’s too bulky for at-home laundry treatment; take it to a laundromat instead. The following instructions for how to wash a comforter apply to any machine, residential or commercial.
Select the “gentle” or “delicate” setting on the washer to start. Then, set the water level for maximum, and adjust the temperature per the instructions on the comforter label. Keep in mind: Cold water will protect colors, preserve fabrics, and prevent shrinkage, but it won’t kill dust mites (you need 130 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate those). Still, trust your label for the max temperature your bedding can handle in washing and drying.
Add a mild laundry cleaning product to your machine, per the instructions on the bottle, and then start the machine. One trick sometimes used in the hospitality industry is to pour a bucket of temperature-appropriate water into a top-loading washer as the basin begins to fill with water from the cycle (or, in the case of front-loading machines, before you press “start”). Some high-efficiency machines don’t use enough water to thoroughly clean bulky materials like a comforter, so the extra liquid will ensure the dirt gets properly diluted.
Once the cycle ends, transfer the comforter to a dryer. Again, don’t force the comforter to fit into a too-small machine; if you need to transport the wet comforter to a laundromat for drying, do so in a large trash bag. Follow the label’s recommendations for dryer settings, likely a low temperature.
Remove the comforter after 20 minutes, fluff its fabric, place it back into the dryer to continue the cycle, and repeat. Depending on the efficiency of the dryer, your comforter may take a couple of hours to dry. This stop-and-go process ensures an even, thorough dry.
After drying your comforter in the machine, hang it on a clothesline for a few hours, if possible. The sun will evaporate any remaining dampness and impart a fresh smell to the fabric.
If you typically use a duvet cover, consider skipping it for a couple of nights so that the washed comforter’s fabric can breathe, thus eliminating any lingering, deep-set moisture. Instead, head off to make your bed with a newly clean, dust-free comforter!