Down comforter - washing tips?

izeveJanuary 26, 2012

I would like to wash a queen size down comforter in my LG FL. This is an older comforter but since we always use duvet covers that get changed and washed weekly, the comforter itself has never been washed before. It's not stained but it has definitely reached a point of needing good refreshing.

So here are my questions:

What cycle should I use: Bulky, Delicate, Hand Wash? or something else?

What water temperature? I'd like to use HOT to kill dust mites but will this damage the down?

What detergent? I have a choice of Persil Silk and Wool Wash, Vaska, Eucalan or Woolite Delicate Wash.

When I dry it, should I use my dryer balls? I have 5 or 6 of them in the dryer and use them when drying most of my loads.

Any other tips?

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We've only washed ours once in our Kenmore FL. I would definitely say 'Bulky' cycle. Since you're just freshening, I would think Woolite Delicate Wash would be fine (I'd prefer Charlie's Soap laundry detergent as it rinses clean). I'd do a double rinse. Yes to the dryer balls. Can't say if hot water temp would damage the down, I would think not, but I just don't know. Hope this helps & good luck!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 9:15AM
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I would not recommend washing a down comforter in any home machine. If it is a tight fit in the washer it won't get cleaned much and the down may get damaged. Drying it is another matter. Even in a commercial dryer where there is lots of room it can take hours to dry them and you can't have the heat too high. To get the down really dry and fluffy in a home machine is difficult. I would recommend taking it to a laundromat yourself or having a laundry service do it for you.

I finally gave up and changed to a down alternative comforter. Not quite as fancy but much easier to wash/dry.

Good luck with your comforter.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 12:30PM
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Don't use enzyme detergents on down or feathers (potential damage), and such materials must be dried thoroughly or it'll mildew. Tumble dry at LOW temp, for repeated cycles (~40 mins each, may take several hours), flipping/fluffing between cycles.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 12:35PM
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I have washed my down comforters and other items for many years.

From an old thread:

Purchase special down washing soap from a camping store or use Cuddledown down-washing product. In a pinch you can use sweater washing products without built-in f/s, but NOT liquid Woolite. The ban on Woolite applies to FL's as it is very sudsy. If you were doing this in a TL, Woolite would be OK. Do not use regular laundry detergents, especially anything with enzymes (like Cheer for instance) which will be very hard on the down. Most regular laundry detergents have various additives that could be very damaging to the down by stripping it. The special down soap is worth the trouble to locate. I have had very good luck with stuff from Cuddledown, and they sell by mail order. I prefer a product called Downe, but it may be hard to find.

First inspect the comforter very carefully to locate and repair any tiny tears or seam rips. If you don't do this beforehand you will be picking the down off the inside of your machine.

Pretreat any especially grimey areas with a bit of the liquid down soap. If the spots are really bad, push the down away and use a liquid spot cleaner product just on the soiled area of the shell. Rinse well in a bath tub to remove as much of the pretreater as you can as it will be hard on the down.

Take the comforter down to your washing machine and stuff it in. Do not be worried if it barely fits; it's full of air and when that is pressed out, it will wash just fine.

Run a cold, rinse-and-spin cycle (or whatever passes for that on your machine, even a quick wash program). DO NOT ADD SOAP at this point. Keep repeating this cycle until the machine has completely saturated the item and the spinning action has collapsed the down and driven the air out of the comforter. It should look quite smashed. It is now ready to be washed.

Set the machine up for a short to medium length wash period with a high water level, at mildly warm temps with gentle action, with as many rinses as possible and an energetic spin cycle. Often gentle action comes with an attentuated spin cyle. If that's the case, don't worry about it. After the gentle wash cycle is completed, leave the item in the machine and perform a high-speed spin-only program to drive out as much moisture as possible.

Use only a small amount of the down soap, as it often is quite foamy. Use NO fabric softener, though a bit of vinegar won't hurt.

When you retrieve your comforter after the wash cycle it will look utterly awful, but that's OK. In fact, if it doesn't look like you've pretty much ruined it, it probably isn't clean!

I generally try to do comforters on warm breezy days as I like to alternate machine drying with line drying. However I always start with a period of machine drying. When you purchase the down soap you should also get some fat nylon rings. These are necessary to bang up the wet down clumps and add some necessary static electricity at the end to regain maximum loft. Some people use clean tennis shoes or tennis balls, instead, but I find the rings more satisfactory. You can put them in clean cotton socks if the banging is annoying. You can also get these rings at pet stores that sell Nylabone dog toys.

Run the dryer at low temps for an hour or more. Pause it occasionally to check that things are going well and to shake out the comforter. After an hour I would hang mine out in the wind, and alternate between periods of 2 or 3 hours outside and another hour in the dryer. The shell will dry hours before the down will, but you absolutely must soldier on and get the filling fully dry. You can pause the half-dry comforter overnight if you don't want to run it while you're sleeping. Just hang it somewhere outside the dryer and arranged relatively loosely. You do not want to allow any opportunity for the down to get moldy before it is completely dry!

You will know when it is fully dry because the it will regain its original loft and a careful "feeling" of it will reveal no little bumps of clumped (and therefore still damp) down.

Home-washing of down items is a lot of work, but the advantage is that they are cleaned without drycleaning solvents. Properly done they will wind up clean, soft and sweet-smelling.



    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 5:12AM
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Look at the fabric of your comforter very carefully. If it has a high thread count or appears tightly woven, this might be a problem for your washer.

After getting our first FL this year, I used the "Comforters" cycle to wash two bed pillows because my washer's owners manual said this was the cycle for pillows.

Once the water passed through the tightly woven fabric cover of the pillows and got inside the pillow, to the poly stuffing, the fabric cover held the water inside the pillow. It was so heavy with water that the washer would not even spin. The water didn't want to drain out easily, either. It was such a mess that I had to put it outside and the pillow was a complete loss. This was a standard size pillow, so a bed-size comforter could end up a real mess, depending on the weave of the fabric.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 10:50AM
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This all sounds familiar. I washed my son's new LE down parka in my Miele W4842. I used Miele's down detergent but I also have LeBlanc for down as well.

I used the outerwear setting and the coat floated on top of the water for quite awhile. Water finally penetrated it and it looked soaked. It came out nice and clean and smelling lovely but it looked awful. I was scared it was ruined.

I had to dry it forever to get it dry. I did use two tennis balls but I still ended up with some clumps of down. It did eventually fluff out after he wore it a few times. After a few days the coat looked brand new.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 5:00PM
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Thank you all. I think I will give it a try tomorrow morning. As I said this is an older comforter that hasn't been used in at least 4 years. I recently took it out of the linen closet and started using it again but it just doesn't look, smell or feel fresh. If it gets ruined in the wash, then I'll get a new one. I won't feel bad since it wasn't expensive in the first place.

Here is my plan:
- run a quick rinse and spin cycle in order to saturate it
- then run a bulky cycle with Water Plus and Extra Rinse using Persil Wool and Silk wash (no enzymes or brighteners) and warm + water
- if needed, rinse and spin again
- spend the rest of the day drying it ;-)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 6:05PM
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Good plan except expect that it will probably take more than one Quick rinse and spin cycles to completely saturate the item, through and through.

Don't bother starting the wash-phase cycles until the darn thing looks like a drowned rat - one that's been flattened by a semi. You're not at the right point until you look at the thing and think OMG, I've ruined it.

Additional rinse cycles may be necessary since sometimes previously-unwashed comforter covers can shed a fair amount of sizing/filler during their first trip in water.

Plus plan on drying it some more the second day after a night of airing indoors.

Also be sure to pre-treat any really grungy spots ahead of time.

I'm sure it will be fine!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 8:38PM
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As stated above the big problem is getting it completely saturated. For comforters and high thread count items I start the clycle on delicates and after 10 minutes stop and restart it on the bulky cycle. This seems to give time for absorption. Any detergent without enzymes will be fine. After the 2nd spin I stop the washer and again go back to the delicates cycle, then back to rinse. For drying my uber bulky king size comforter I take it to the laundromat. My dryer just isn't big enough to circulate the air and fluff it. Dry on low. Run one extra drying cycle when you think it is done. Down gets funky if not dried completely and the feathers seem to hide moisture.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:26AM
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Thank you all. The comforter is now finishing drying! It washed really well. What I had to do is run a Rinse and Spin cycle, then a Quick Wash cycle (no detergent), then I started my Bulky cycle adding a prewash and an extra rinse. Then I rinsed again. I wanted to be absolutely sure that the comforter was well saturated and rinsed really well. It looked like a drowned rat when I was done with it ;-) but it washed beautifully. There were no stray feathers in either the washer or the dryer!!! I have been drying it on medium, pausing every ten minutes or so to untangle it and fluff it. It's almost the end of the second 1 hour cycle and it seems completely dry. It is super fluffy and looks brand new!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 1:49PM
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