Can You Wash Down Filled Pillows & Comforters? Yes But…

Goose and duck down filled pillows, duvets and comforters are soft and luxurious to sleep on but they do require a bit of care to keep clean. It’s not advised to launder these items as frequently as you would regular bedclothes, but there are a few things you can do to clear out dust mites, dead skin and freshen up pieces that are starting to smell a bit funky.

What You Need To Know:

Check labels first for care instructions, although the inner content may be fine submerged in water, the cloth case may be dry clean only.

If the case is made of silk for example, submerging in water might do damage to the fabric and ruin the item (likely beyond repair). Dry cleaning will be the only option in this situation.

Eyeball the pillow casings, will the fabric hold up in the machine? If it looks a bit fragile (common with older materials), do them by hand in a tub instead.

Note: The directions below may differ from care instructions that are listed on the label, follow the manufacturer’s advice for best results.


Getting Started: Check for any weak seams or rips and repair if necessary. I know from experience what a mess is made if there’s even a small tear in the fabric ;).

Fill the empty washer with the articles to ensure that the appliance is large enough to hold the bedclothes without having to pack them in tight.

Laundering items in an appliance that’s too small can cause damage to the bedding, your best bet is to use those at a laundromat since they’re typically much larger than the average household’s (you could also soak pieces in the bathtub).

After determining that materials are washable, set the machine to the delicate cycle and the temperature set to warm. Use a mild detergent and add to the water as it’s filling the drum…wait a minute or so then toss in the articles (this helps dilute and distribute the soap).

Is it ok to add bleach? It’s not advised since bleach will certainly cause damage to the down’s natural oils.

How regularly should they be laundered? Pillows can be done twice a year, duvets and comforters every three years or so (really!). Why so infrequently? Washing too much can break down its natural oils and structure.

Finishing Off: Hang outside on warm days or in the dryer on a medium heat setting. Remove from appliance every 30 minutes, fluff and allow to cool for a few minutes before stuffing back in the machine (to help prevent scorching). Rearrange large blankets as you stuff them back in for more even results. It will likely take a few hours to complete.

Quick Tip: Throw in a couple thick towels, they’ll help absorb some of the moisture so things finish quicker.

More Tips

Storing Pieces: Ensure bedding is fully dried without a smidge of moisture before packing away for storage, they’ll get mildew if stored while damp. Wrap in cotton textiles so the materials can still breathe, plastic bags are a no-no.

Nature’s Alternative: Shake articles then hang on the clothesline during hot summer afternoons, the sun assists in destroying dust mites. If it’s too chilly outside, a 15 minute tumble in the dryer (medium heat) also does the trick.

I also like to set out portable/folding racks to lay pieces on during very windy days (the windier, the better). You may need to anchor the racks so they don’t fall over, but I find several hours of this treatment is very effective at flushing out stale odors (turn articles over/reposition every couple hours). Punch, shake out and fluff periodically too.

Provide Protection: Cover items with a good quality case (high thread count) before slipping inside shams and duvet covers, they hold up well when laundered regularly and work to repel dirt, stains and odors.

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    • Loretta S.

    Also – throw in one tennis ball in the dryer with down. It will help keep it fluffy as it dries. HT: Martha Stewart

      • dawn

      how will it keep the comforter fluffy?

        • Liz

        I think it knocks the wet down apart, I have used tennis balls in the dryer when I dry down since one of my son’s down jackets came with instructions to do so.

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