If you've ever wondered if it's OK to wash your down comforter without taking it to the dry cleaners, the answer is yes.
You can absolutely wash your down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live and how dirty it is) to have it dry-cleaned professionally. All you need is a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls), a few hours to spend at a laundromat and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.
To do this, you'll need mild detergent like Woolite, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work well), an extra-large front-loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:
Step 1. Load your down comforter into the largest extra-large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.
Step 2. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here, as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes them such a wonderful thermal insulator.
Step 3. Select the gentle or delicate setting on the washer and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent be rinsed out.
Step 4. Dry the comforter on the low setting in an extra-capacity clothes dryer. This will take some time -- even up to a few hours. Here's where your patience comes into play. The goal here is to make sure the down is completely dry to prevent the growth of mold.
Step 5. Add a few dryer balls (or tennis balls) to the dryer to keep the down from clumping as it dries. While wool dryer balls are most ideal. Clean tennis balls will also work to keep the down loose and well-distributed in the comforter, although you may notice a faint odor as the tennis balls get warm. You need something hefty in the dryer that will bounce around as the comforter dries to keep the filling moving.
Step 6. Stop the dryer, and take the comforter out a few times (even five or six times) to fluff it up during the drying process. This will help redistribute the down so that it dries evenly.
Step 7. Even if the comforter appears to be completely dry with the down fluffed and well-distributed, when you get home, hang it outdoors in a sunny area or an area inside the house that will allow air to circulate all around it.
Not all down and feathers are pure white in color. Some are brown, and some are white with black edges. When the comforter is wet, you may see a very dark color showing through. Don't panic. It's not mold. That's the natural color of your down or feather filling. As it dries, it will return to its normal appearance.
Making sure you always keep your down comforter (sometimes called a duvet insert) inside a washable duvet cover will cut down on the number of times it needs to be laundered in its lifetime. Just make sure you wash the duvet cover regularly.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually