"Just like sheets and pillows, comforters harbor allergens such as dust mites as well as perspiration, dead skin cells, body oils, and residue from pets," says Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress. "Regularly washing comforters removes this buildup as well as unwanted odors."
When it comes to different types of comforters, the difference comes down to the filling. From down and wool to silk and synthetics, what's in your comforter will impact its weight and how it feels. But for the most part, the washing routine remains pretty similar.
"You can wash most comforter fabrics at home—even if they’re considered dry clean," says Lindsey Boyd, also a co-founder of The Laundress. "For duvet inners and comforters, you can wash by hand or in the washing machine. The washing machine is your easiest method."
Common mistakes when washing a comforter
1. Overfilling the washing machine
"Overfilling a washing machine can prevent the comforter from getting fully saturated with water," says Angela Bell, cleaning expert with cleaning product company Grove Collaborative. "A comforter should be washed in a solo load in a standard washing machine, using the heavy or large load cycle. If you have a compact washing machine, you might want to head to the laundromat for washing larger items like a comforter."
2. Adding too much detergent
"Resist the urge to double up on laundry detergent," says Bell. "While you might be tempted to add more soap to launder such a large item, a normal dose of detergent is perfectly adequate to get it clean."
"If your comforter doesn’t get completely dry after laundering, it can take on a musty smell," says Georgia Dixon, also a cleaning expert with Grove Collaborative. "Be sure to fully dry a comforter using the highest heat setting advised for the fabric type (you should be able to find this on the care instructions tag). If you have access to air drying a comforter, this is another great option for getting it completely dry."
How to wash a comforter properly
1. Remove the duvet cover
For those of us who are team naked comforter, this may be a turnoff. But Whiting explains that using a duvet cover means you can stuff your big fluffy comforter in the wash less frequently. With a duvet cover, you can wash that every one to two months and wash the comforter every three to four months or sooner if it becomes odorous or stained. If you keep your comforter bare, make sure to always use a top sheet to create a barrier between you and the comforter and then wash it every one to two months.
2. Pre-treat stains
The last thing you want it to go through the hassle of washing your comforter for stains to still be present. Dixon recommends treating stains with a stain spray, like the "Grove Collaborative Stain Remover Spray ($5).
3. Keep the machine setting gentle
"Select the woolens or delicate cycle on your washing machine," says Whiting. "And make sure the water temperature is cold and spin is on medium or low." But of you're washing a cotton or synthetic comforter, she says you can use warm water.
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4. Use the right detergent
Boyd explains that you always want to use the right detergent for your comforter type. Down comforters, she recommends the Wool & Cashmere Shampoo ($19). For comforters made of cotton or a durable synthetic she likes the Signature Detergent ($21). For delicate fabrics like silk or delicate synthetic, she likes to wash with the Delicate Wash ($19) "to preserve and protect the integrity of the fabric."
5. If you're hand-washing, take your time
First things first, clean out your tub.
"Fill the tub with cold water (warm for cotton or durable synthetics) then add your comforter and appropriate detergent," says Whiting. "Agitate the water with your hands to create a soapy solution. Allow to soak for up to 30 minutes, then remove the comforter, drain the water, refill with clean, cold water and add comforter back in to remove excess suds. Drain, press comforter against the side of the tub to remove excess water, then hang or lay flat to dry. Be sure it’s completely dry before replacing on your bed, otherwise, you run the risk of mildew growth inside."
Drying your comforter
1. Redistribute the filling
"Halfway through the dryer cycle, remove the comforter and give it a good shake to redistribute feathers," says Boyd. "Move around any remaining clumps with your hand before replacing. Make sure it's fully dry to prevent mildew. If the filling still clumps together, excess water is present."
2. Use wool dryer balls
"Wool dryer balls ($18) help comforters to dry evenly and more quickly by increasing airflow and fluffing," says Dixon. "Be sure to use at least three balls at once for optimal results."
Maintaining your comforter
To extend the life of your comforter, consider swapping it seasonally.
"Having one comforter for the warmer season and one for cooler weather can be a great way to update your bedroom seasonally," says Bell. "Be sure to launder before packing away for the next season. For extra freshness, fold a dryer sheet into the comforter before stowing it away."
And be sure to treat it well. By avoiding common mistakes, using the proper settings and detergents, and allowing it to fully dry out, you'll have a clean and happy comforter that's set to last you for years. And seriously—if you haven't already, consider getting a duvet cover. Excuse me while I browse some options.
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