Nothing beats cozying up under a warm comforter, but like anything, they need a wash from time to time.
A comforter can be daunting to wash, mainly due to its bulk. Some have delicate fillings like duck down and wool, and even if your comforter filling is synthetic there’s a risk it can clump together. We have a dedicated guide on how to wash a down comforter, but here, we'll tackle other fillings.
You can of course take yours to a dry cleaner, but if you follow our simple guide on how to wash a comforter you can successfully clean them at home at the same time as you wash your bed sheets.
How to wash a comforter
How often you wash a comforter depends who's using the bed (a messy teen or a neat adult) and whether it's become a victim of spills. Otherwise, a good time to wash a comforter is seasonally when you switch from a winter to spring comforter or summer to fall.
‘You should wash your comforter every 3-6 months,’ says Rick Rome, CEO and founder of New York based WashClub. ‘However, if you deal with seasonal allergies or sweat when sleeping, you may want to wash the comforter more frequently to keep it smelling fresh.'
This is how.
1. Give it a thorough check for stains and tears
Before you pop your comforter in the washing machine, give it a really good check over for stains, wear and tear.
‘Pre-treat stains,’ says Rick. ‘If there are any visible stains on your comforter, pre-treat them with a stain remover or a mild detergent.’
Sew up any tears so they don’t get bigger during the washing process. The best stain removers are those with natural elements, this is because synthetic formulas can cause allergic reactions, and who doesn’t want to be more eco-friendly these days?
Rick Rome is a former Morgan Stanley trader who launched WashClub, a wash & fold and delivery dry cleaner in Manhattan. Wash Club provides eco-friendly washing, folding, dry cleaning, and commercial laundry services to New York City, diligently serving the residents and businesses of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
2. Check the washing instructions
Perhaps a little obvious, but it's so easy to forget: when washing an item for the first time, check the laundry symbols for guidance first.
Some comforters might have a dry clean label on them and if you don’t check that before you’ve put it in the washing machine you could have a disaster on your hands, utterly ruining your bedding.
What's more some will have incredibly specific washing instructions, and if you don't follow these, you could shrink your comforter or destroy the filling inside.
3. Check your washing machine size
One top tip is to make sure your washer is large enough; if you squash your comforter in, not only will it not wash properly but might ruin the appliance.
‘When washing a comforter, consider using a front-loading washing machine instead of a top-loading one. Front-loading machines tend to be gentler on bulky items and provide better water circulation,’ advises Prerna Jain, residential and commercial cleaning specialist and founder of Ministry of Cleaning.
4. Use the right detergent
This is vital. If you are washing a down/feather comforter, the wrong detergent could break down the filling in your comforter. Kendra Cosenza, brand manager at Heritage Park Laundry Essentials, points out that ‘Down and feathers are actually protein-based (like silk, wool, and cashmere) and should not be washed with enzyme detergent, which is made to break down proteins. Instead, use a mild, enzyme-free detergent that is formulated to clean protein-based fabrics', like Heritage Park's silk and wool detergent, available at Amazon.
5. Choose the right wash cycle
A comforter is a delicate item, more so if it has a down or wool inner – a vigorous cycle could stress and damage the materials.
‘Select a gentle cycle – set your washing machine to a gentle or delicate cycle, as this helps minimize agitation and reduce the risk of damaging the comforter,’ says Rick. ‘Cold or lukewarm water is generally recommended but refer to the care instructions for the appropriate temperature. After the wash cycle is complete, run an additional rinse cycle to ensure all detergent is removed from the comforter.’
6. Dry it properly
Once you’ve washed your comforter it’s important that you dry it thoroughly before using it again. Dampness can easily turn to mold, so it’s worth allowing it to dry properly. Kendra Cosenza from Heritage Park Laundry Essentials says it’s an exercise in patience and this goes for whatever inner material you have. And yes, you can use the delicate setting of the tumble dryer.
‘It may take several hours and should be done in a dryer. Gently remove your down comforters from the washing machine and give them a little shake to ensure the down is evenly distributed. Chances are they will feel quite heavy. Place your down pillow or duvet in the dryer (you may still need a large-capacity dryer at the laundromat) and use a low heat setting. Drying down in high heat is not recommended as it can damage the down and feathers as well as possibly scorch the fabric of the pillow or comforter.
‘Comforters don’t have to be dried outside for them to dry properly, but it is best aired outside if you want the natural effect, and it helps if you don’t have a lot of space inside. It definitely helps the drying process by being outside with a breeze and if the sunlight hits the comforter. If you cannot dry the comforter outside, set the dryer to a low setting and add some tennis balls to help fluff the comforter,’ adds Rick.
Future proofing your comforter
Ensure you use a cover for your comforter as it acts as a barrier between you and it and you can wash that as often as you wash your pillows and sheets. If pets do sleep on your bed then pop a blanket on top of the comforter so it has a layer of protection. Wayfair sells a good quality comforter protector, and Amazon sells a highly-rated comforter protector, too.
If you spill anything or see a stain then treat it straightaway, a simple dab might suffice rather than having to wash it. Give your comforter a good shake every morning and allow it to air during the warmer months before making your bed, every week flip it so the inner filling doesn’t settle in one place.
Can a comforter be washed in a washing machine?
As long as the washing tag doesn’t say 'dry clean only', then yes. It will depend on how large your washing machine is, do check it fits and allow a little room inside. It won’t wash properly if your comforter is too large for your washing machine.
How do you wash a large comforter?
After ensuring your washing machine is large enough to take the volume, wash on a gentle wash cycle. Due to the size, it’s worth running an extra rinse cycle at the end to make sure the detergent is thoroughly washed through. If you’re concerned your comforter is too large for your machine then take it to a professional for cleaning or your nearest laundromat.
A comforter is just the start. There are plenty of pitfalls when you're cleaning out other bedding too – there's more advice in our guide on how to wash bed sheets.
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Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.
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