Whether yours is thin and airy or plush and heavyweight, one thing’s for sure: Comforters give your bed character, warmth, and tons of personal style.
While you might not wash and sanitize them as much as your sheets, the reality is that they can still get a little grimy. Studies show that 17% of people take their meals into the bedroom, while 38% of remote workers actually clock in from under the covers!
While a good scrub is necessary, you might feel a little iffy about just tossing your comforter in the washing machine. High-end bed linens aren’t only luxurious, but they’re also expensive and made with delicate materials that you need to handle with care.
Then, there’s the issue of bulk. Can your machine even handle your oversized, extra-cozy down comforter in those cold winter months? Before you decide to try anyway, check out our guide. Today, we’re explaining exactly how to wash a comforter, with a step-by-step guide that covers every detail.
Understanding Your Comforter: The Basics to Know
Before you can clean your comforter, you need to learn as much about it as possible. Put simply, a comforter is any type of thick, quilted blanket that you use to keep you warm in bed. One main characteristic separates it from a quilt or coverlet: It’s fluffy!
Most comforters are filled with synthetic fiber fillers. Once they stuff the lining with these fillers, manufacturers will usually quilt or stitch them into squares to make sure the material is evenly distributed. Without this step, you could wind up with a bunch of filling in one corner, and absolutely none in another.
If yours isn’t filled with a synthetic material, then it might contain plant fibers, such as cotton. Others will contain goose down feathers, sheep’s wool, or even silk.
Often sold as part of a complete bedding set, comforters sit on top of your flat sheet and give your bed a pulled-together, uniform look. Often, the design of the comforter will coordinate with the pattern on your sheets and pillow shams.
Comforters vs. Duvets
At first glance, a comforter and a duvet might look the exact same. This is especially the case if they are both solid white. While you can use a duvet as a comforter, it’s meant to fit inside of a slightly larger protective case called a duvet cover. Typically made of thin and breathable cotton, this cover is what rests against you as you sleep. Most are designed to attach to your duvet via durable ties attached to each corner. This way, they won’t slip and slide all over the place as you toss and turn.
When it’s time to wash your bedding, you can simply slip off the duvet cover and wash that piece separately. Your inner duvet is safeguarded from most bedtime messes, such as spills and sweat. In this way, your duvet cover functions similarly to a pillowcase.
What should you do, however, if your comforter doesn’t come with a cover? Or, what if you’ve let your duvet insert go long enough and it’s finally time to clean it?
If you’re wondering whether or not the process is worth it, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Here are a few reasons why.
Why You Need to Wash Your Comforter
It’s bulky. It’s cumbersome. Why should you spend time washing your comforter, especially if you make sure to keep your sheets nice and clean?
The answer lies in how you use this piece of bedding and what it contains. As it sits in your bedroom, your comforter can trap airborne allergens, such as dust mites and mold. Then, when you snuggle up into it, you breathe those particles right into your body. Dust mites alone can create around 20 droppings every day, and the average person has around 100,000 to 10 million of those tiny buggers trapped in their bedding.
While this sounds disgusting, some people aren’t bothered by the presence of these mites. Yet, they can easily aggravate your allergies if left untreated. In turn, this can make you feel ill, and at the very least, ruin a great night’s sleep.
Then, there’s the issue of bodily dirt, sweat, and other fluids. It might sound gross, but you shed thousands of skin cells every single night: 300,000 of them, to be exact. You can also produce up to one quart of sweat each night!
Over time, these substances can build up on your comforter, so you’re practically swimming in your own bacteria. If these aren’t great reasons to wash your comforter periodically, then we don’t know what is! Thankfully, you don’t have to wash it nearly as often as you clean your sheets. If you wash your comforter two to three times per year, then you’re on the right track!
How to Wash a Comforter: Your Step-by-Step Guide
You’ve decided to wash your comforter. You stripped the bed, took off the other linens, and now you’re looking at your bare mattress. Whether yours is a standalone comforter or a duvet insert, it’s now time to figure out what to do. Here is your complete, step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Check the Label
Always start by reading the manufacturer’s label that is attached to your comforter. Here, you’ll find detailed washing instructions, along with restrictions and guidelines. Before tossing yours right into the wash, find out if you can even perform this process at home.
Certain comforters will be made of delicate materials that aren’t suited for at-home washing. For instance, wool or silk comforters (or duvet covers) might become damaged by the agitator inside of your washing machine. Or, they may shrink if they get too wet and aren’t properly handled.
If your label says “Dry Clean Only”, then respect those instructions, even if it would be much easier and less expensive to try a DIY method. Doing so could wreak havoc on your high-priced bedding, and leave you scrambling for a replacement. In this case, it’s best to let the experts take the reins.
If you don’t see those instructions, then you should be fine to wash your comforter at home. Read the label carefully to see if there are any specific instructions you should follow as you do so. For example, some comforters might require handwashing, while others work best with certain water temperatures or types of detergents.
Step 2: Check Your Washing Machine
Resist the urge to shove your comforter into your washing machine if it simply won’t fit. While many large, heavy-duty models will easily accept this item with plenty of room to spare, yours might not fall into this category. You’ll know fairly quickly if you’re over-filling it.
While you may be able to squeeze it into the machine, it can make the central agitator budge, which can cause water to leak out of your machine. Unless you want to ruin your laundry room floors, don’t push it. In addition, a too-tight cycle could also compress the filling inside of your comforter, which can lead to unsightly bunching and wrinkling. Plus, when an item can’t spin around, it doesn’t get entirely clean.
Your comforter should fit comfortably into your washing machine, with enough room around it to allow the agitator to move freely. If your machine doesn’t include an agitator, you should still have lots of free space left around the comforter. If the manufacturer permits machine-washing but yours just isn’t big enough, then you can always take your comforter to a local laundromat, which should have larger commercial-scale machines.
Wondering what you should do with all that spare room before you press “Start”? Do not add in extra clothes or towels. Even if the space is ample, it’s best to wash your comforter by itself, without any other items.
Step 3: Spot-Treat Your Comforter
Did you accidentally spill a little red wine on your comforter? What about coffee? You may also be dealing with other stains, such as those that result from makeup or haircare products.
Especially if they’ve set in for a while, don’t expect a single wash in the machine to completely remove those spots. It’s best to treat them ahead of time before you move on to the next step.
If your comforter has quilted squares, then you may not be able to move the filling around too much. However, try to get as much of it out of the way as possible, so you’re applying your cleaning solution mostly to the outer fabric of your comforter, and not its inner contents.
Again, consult your manufacturer’s label to learn which products to avoid using. If none are mentioned, then you may be able to effectively remove the stain with a common household laundry cleaner, such as Woolite or Shout. Apply a small amount to the affected spot and work it in vigorously using your fingers or a clean rag. If you’d rather avoid using chemicals, you can also create a simple, natural alternative using baking soda and water. Start with a few teaspoons of baking soda and add in just enough water to form a thick paste.
Once you’ve scrubbed it all in, wait a few minutes to give it plenty of time to work. If your comforter is solid white, then you may be able to treat any yellowish stains with a little bleach before washing the entire thing. Yet, avoid bleach if your comforter is any other color or pattern, as it can easily discolor it.
If you need to take your comforter to the laundromat next, then rinse out the spot cleaner, first. Use warm water to rinse, as it’s better for loosening stuck-on dirt and debris.
Step 4: Look For Sewing Imperfections
Before you wash your comforter in the machine (or while you’re waiting for the spot treatment to dry), you can give the item a quick once over to check for any torn seams or long, loose threads. Go ahead and mend these areas now, as they could worsen with the aggressive repetitive motion of your machine.
You don’t want to open your washer only to find that the filling has been completely or partially ripped from the material. Address any weak or compromised areas to keep everything securely in place.
Step 5: Choose Your Detergent and Wash
It’s best to wash your comforter with a gentle, natural laundry detergent if possible. You can even use a product that’s meant for extremely delicate items, such as one designed for baby clothes, or those with skin sensitivities.
Be sure to follow the instructions on the box or bottle, and add only as much as you need. If your washing machine has a gentle or delicate cycle, then set it to this. You can also use the bulky cycle, if it’s available on your machine. Because it can be difficult to fully clean a large item like a comforter with one single rinse, you can also add a second rinse at this time.
Otherwise, just reset your machine to the rinse cycle once the wash is over and the timer buzzes. This step makes sure that all of the detergents is fully rinsed from the filler, without any residue left inside. While extra soap might not bother some synthetic materials, it can interact significantly with others. For instance, natural goose-down feathers can turn into a flat, sticky, smelly mess if their natural oils mix with detergent and stay that way.
Next, let’s talk temperature. If your manufacturer’s label mentions a certain setting, then you’ll need to use that. For instance, some comforters might require cold water, while others are fine to wash in warm water.
Keep in mind that both cold and warm water will protect the colors in your comforter and can help prevent patterns from streaking or fading. However, hot water is best for sanitizing. If you’re concerned about dust mites and really want to kill off living particles that might be on the surface of your comforter, you can use hot water. Still, it’s important to understand that doing so could change the appearance of your bedding, especially if you’ve never washed it before.
Avoid adding any extras into the machine, such as scented fragrance beads or fabric softener. Load your comforter carefully into the machine, taking the time to distribute it evenly around the agitator to balance the load.
Step 6: Dry Your Comforter
The easiest and gentlest way to dry your comforter is to allow it to air-dry. Yet, it goes without saying that most of us don’t have a space that’s large enough to drape it over! While you could technically lie it on your bed, it can dampen your mattress, which can cause mold or mildew to develop.
If your dryer is on the smaller side, then you might need to take your comforter to the laundromat and use a commercial-grade one. Otherwise, you should be good to go ahead and transfer it! Set your dryer to the low-heat or medium-heat setting to avoid damaging the inside of your bedding. If you want to completely sanitize your comforter (such as after a virus exposure), then you can use hot heat for about 20 to 30 minutes before changing over to a lower temperature setting.
Is your comforter filled with real or synthetic down? If so, then you may be concerned about keeping the filling in place as it gets tossed about. A simple solution is to add a few tennis balls to the dryer before you proceed! You can also use specially-made fluffer rings or wool dryer balls, which all serve the same purpose. These keep your item tumbling at a consistent and regular pace, which helps you avoid that dreaded lumpiness that the dryer can often create. They can even keep your fabric from wrinkling and even speed up drying time!
Remember the size of your comforter, and expect to spin yours in the dryer for several hours. Check after each hour-long cycle to determine how long you ultimately need to keep yours in. This is also a great time to get your comforter out of the dryer and give it a few good shakes! Doing so is another way you can redistribute the filling and keep it even.
Enjoy Your Clean, Fresh Comforter
There’s nothing like sinking into a fresh comforter that feels as clean as it looks. If you’re eyeing your comforter and thinking that it’s time for a wash, then you’re probably right.
For most homeowners, this is a common conundrum that can leave you perplexed and unsure where to turn. You love your bedding and want to keep it in great condition, and washing it at home might seem daunting. Now that you know how to wash a comforter, however, you can see that it’s much easier than it looks.