I remember the first time I got a comforter on my bed. I was only about six years old at the time. It was the ’70s (yes I’m that old) when sheets and blankets were just starting to be replaced with this new-fangled invention. As well as being super warm and cosy, having a comforter instead of several sheets and blankets meant making a bed a whole lot easier!
Here in the UK, we call these gorgeous bedding items ‘duvets’. From what I can gather, US people call them comforters and the outer is called a duvet cover (if that’s wrong please do let me know).
From what I can remember of the ’70s we didn’t wash the blankets on our beds all that often. The purpose of the inner sheet was to absolve us of washing them, though they probably got fairly yucky by today’s standards.
Are we all guilty of keeping things ‘too’ clean today, very probably I think! Nowadays we like to keep our bedding fresh and clean and to be honest I prefer that.
So now we are lucky enough to enjoy duvets and comforters on our beds. should we just do what the ’70s housewives did and not bother washing them or should we keep duvets cleaned, and how often should we do that?
Here’s the quick answer:
Aim to wash your comforter once or twice per year. If you don’t have a duvet cover on it then it will need washing a lot more often. If it has direct skin contact wash it weekly.
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How often should I wash my comforter?
At a minimum, you should wash your comforter every six months to a year. That’s if it has a cover on it. If it doesn’t, then treat it as your other bedding which will mean washing it once or twice per week. My advice would be to always put a cover on it and you will save a lot of time washing it!
But as with everything, there is more to consider.
You will want to wash your comforter more often if …
- You’ve been sick. You’ve probably sweated more in the night during your sickness and probably spent more time than normal in bed. There will be mucus, drool and all sorts of yucky stuff on your comforter. It is best to wash your comforter immediately after an illness to avoid reinfection.
- You have a duvet cover. In that case, you can wash your comforter once or twice per year and then wash the cover once or twice per week.
- Do you shower before bed? If so you will be cleaner when you hit the sack and your bedding and comforter will need cleaning less frequently.
- If you use a flat sheet between you and the comforter. Adding an inner sheet on top of you will mean you need to wash your comforter less because you reduce skin contact and it will stay cleaner.
- Do you have a pet that sleeps with you? Then you will want to wash your bedding and your comforter more often.
- Do you have allergies? Dust is the worst for causing allergies and the worse culprits are skin cells. According to Imperial College London we humans lose 200,000,000 skin cells every hour. In a typical night that amounts to an incredible 1.6 billion skin cells.
Why should you wash your comforter?
It’s best to keep your comforter clean because over time you will find that it will start to smell less than fresh. If you don’t have a cover on your comforter then it will also be in direct contact with skin cells, sweat, body oils, saliva, mucus and more!
I was amazed to find that in a typical night we can actually lose 1.6 billion skin cells. Skin cells and flakes of skin are the favourite food of dust mites. So that is one reason alone to wash your bedding regularly.
If you have been ill then you will probably have sweated more during the night and so your comforter will be harbouring excess moisture and germs. You will want to avoid reinfecting yourself or your partner by washing your comforter.
If you don’t have the time to wash your comforter too often then add a cover on it because it is much easier to remove and wash the cover than the whole thing.
How often should I wash my duvet cover?
Along with your sheets, a duvet cover should be washed once or twice per week. The duvet inner can be washed less often because it isn’t in direct contact with your skin.
How to wash a comforter
Always check the label and the type of padding it has before you consider washing your comforter at home.
If your comforter contains feathers then you will need to treat it differently to make sure that the feathers don’t clump together during washing. If you are not sure what is best for you, the safest option is to get your feather comforter washed professionally or check these directions below for washing a feather comforter yourself.
If you don’t have a big enough machine for your comforter to fit easily inside, don’t attempt to machine wash it yourself. To get a good wash and rinse it needs to be able to agitate freely in the drum. Laundrettes and dry cleaners usually have big washing machines available that are perfect for large items like comforters.
Here are the directions for washing your comforter in a washing machine:
Step 1 – Treat surface stains
Before you wash your comforter always treat any stains. Vanish stain remover bar is great for removing surface stains from comforters. Simply wet the bar and rub it onto the stain. If you don’t have that you can also use plain dish soap on stains.
Step 2 – Wash gently
- Always choose a gentle detergent and a gentle cycle for washing your comforter.
- Use a big washing machine either at home or the launderette if yours isn’t big enough. Your comforter should have enough space to agitate freely in the drum.
- Don’t use too much washing detergent. If you have pretreated the stains you shouldn’t need much detergent to get all the stains out.
- Wash at 40c or higher if the washing label advises that.
- Make sure the comforter is rinsed thoroughly. Add an extra rinse to the washing cycle or do an additional rinse cycle at the end.
Step 3 – Dry thoroughly
- It’s important that you dry your comforter thoroughly before you put it back on your bed because you risk mildew growing inside it.
- I like to hang my bedding out on a line on a sunny day. As long as there is enough sun and breeze I find that it doesn’t take long to dry.
- If you don’t have suitable weather or an outside line, tumble drying on a cool setting is the next best option. Either at home or the launderette if your machine isn’t big enough.
- Dry on a low setting.
How often should I wash my down comforter?
You should wash your down comforter once or twice per year. Down can be machine washed too. Check the label and wash it carefully in your washing machine as below or get it professionally cleaned.
How to clean a down comforter or feather duvet
Always check the label. If you are in doubt as to whether you should machine wash your feather duvet, err on the side of caution and get it washed professionally.
Having said that, as long as my comforter fits easily in the washing machine drum I will always attempt to wash it myself.
Step 1 – Treat the stains
Always treat any surface stains first. I like to grab a Vanish stain remover bar for this because it is very effective at getting rid of protein-based stains. Got a bloodstain? Vanish bar should make it disappear easily. If you don’t have that rub a small amount of dish soap into the stain.
Step 2 – Machine wash
Does your feather duvet fit easily in your machine? There should be enough space for it to agitate freely. If it is a tight fit you won’t get a great clean. Your best option would be to get it professional cleaned or take it to your launderette and use one of their large machines.
Choose a gentle cycle and use a small amount of washing detergent.
Step 3 – Dry
Give your feather duvet a really good shake to disperse the feathers as much as possible. You will find that they have clumped together in the wash but they should separate again as the feathers dry.
It’s important that you dry your feather duvet thoroughly before you put it back on your bed. If you are lucky enough to have good weather, the best place is outside on your washing line. When you line dry you will want to shake out the duvet from time to time to make sure the feathers disperse.
The next best option is your tumble dryer. But again only attempt if your tumble dryer is large enough to take the duvet. If not consider taking it to the launderette.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to wash a comforter?
How long it takes to wash a comforter depends on your washing machine and how you dry it. Front-loaders that use less water tend to have longer cycles than top-loading machines to compensate for less water usage. As a guide, my front-loader takes about 90 minutes to complete a gentle wash.
You need to allow time for your comforter to thoroughly dry. You can dry your comforter in a tumble dryer, but I find the best option is to hang it out on the line on a sunny and breezy day.
Can you wash a feather or goose down comforter in the washing machine?
Check the tag for washing advice, but do bear in mind that manufacturers don’t want any come-back if you ruin your comforter in the washing machine, so they will err on the side of caution.
My view is that almost anything is machine washable if you do it right. Down comforters need a large drum so they don’t bunch up during the wash. Take it to your launderette if your machine isn’t suitable. Check your dry cleaning company, they will probably have some big machines perfect for large items like duvets.
Always use a gentle cycle warm or cool cycle and gentle detergent. If you are unsure take it to the dry cleaners for a professional clean.
How many times a year should I wash my comforter?
If your comforter has a cover then you should only need to wash it once or twice a year. I like to choose a sunny day so that I can dry it thoroughly outside in the sunshine.
Should I wash a comforter before I use it for the first time?
I always recommend that people wash their new towels, and the same goes for comforters too. Your new comforter may seem clean but it will likely have collected particles from the manufacturing process such as dust from the air and machinery. It’s best to get that all out with a first wash. If you have allergies you could get a reaction unless you carefully wash and dry your new bedding.
Can you wash a white comforter?
Yes, white comforters can be washed. Of course, white comforters will show stains more than colored ones. If your white comforter has stains on it, rub some stain remover directly on the stain before you wash it. You can use something like Vanish stain remover bar. Simply wet it and then rub the bar on the stain. Plain dish soap will work well on stains too.
Are white comforters hard to keep clean?
White comforters are always more susceptible to staining than coloured comforters of course. My advice would be always to put a cover on it. That way they are not hard to keep clean. You can wash the cover without having to keep washing your white comforter.