Taking Care of Your Down

Let’s face it: sometimes when you buy something really nice, it requires a little extra care. If you buy a BMW, for example, you can expect to put more effort into keeping it nice than the junky old station wagon you borrowed from your sister. This is true of down … if you take proper care of it, it will give you the best slumber experience you can imagine. But if moisture gets to it and mold sets in, your dream bedding can turn into a nightmare. The good news is that this scenario is completely preventable, and only requires a few easy steps. Once you have made your perfect nest, here’s how to keep it soft and snug …

The most important thing is to keep your down protected! Pillow protectors extend the life of your pillows and keep nasties like dust mites out of the picture. The same goes for mattress protectors, whether for feather or fiber beds. And when it comes to covering your comforter with a duvet, not only does it keep it nice on the inside, it looks great on the outside, too.

Another thing you can do to prevent allergens from building up is to sun your mattress, comforter, or feather/fiber bed every now and then – the fresh air and direct sunlight help dry it out and let odors escape.

When it comes to washing, less is definitely more; the soapy water can strip down clusters of their natural oils and cause them to break. This is another reason to use mattress and pillow protectors and duvets – you can wash them as often as you like, keeping your down products fresh and clean without actually subjecting them to the wear and tear of a machine. If you have a featherbed or fiber bed, it should only be spot-cleaned, never thrown in the wash. Use a safe, citrus-based cleaner and dab it with a clean wet sponge, pressing down and holding until the stain is gone. The let it air-dry until it is completely dry (moisture is bad for down and synthetic downs) … keep in mind that taking shortcuts with a hair-dryer is a bad idea as the heat can scorch the fabric.

As long as your down products are well-protected, they should only need to be washed once or twice a year. They should never be dry-cleaned; the harsh chemicals damage the down. Instead, wash your down pillows and comforters in a large washing machine with a mild detergent (such as Dawn dishwashing liquid), in warm water on a gentle cycle for about six minutes. Be sure not to use an agitator machine – this is going to be too rough on your down products. If you do not have a large, front-loading washer, it’s best to take it to the Laundromat as large items can hurt your machine. Before washing, make sure the fabric is not weakened by age or wear. You don’t want a load of feathers in your machine!

If you happen to smell a strong odor after washing, just dry thoroughly – the smell will disappear. It takes about three hours to dry two pillows in a large commercial dryer on a medium setting. Lower settings are preferred so as not to scorch the material … but make sure the down is completely dry as mildew can ruin your bedding. Adding a couple of tennis balls enclosed in clean socks can help break up clumps of filling and maximize the fluffiness of your pillows and comforters. Believe it or not, throwing in a pair of clean gym shoes such as Keds or Chucks also works great for this!

Once your down products are clean, if you need to store them, the key factor is keeping them dry and able to breathe. Use breathable bags or cotton fabric to enclose them – plastic is a big no-no as it can cause moisture to condense.

Finally, one last easy tip to keeping your down products in top condition: fluff your down comforter and pillows daily when you make your bed. This will keep them even and consistent, as well as looking nice and plump! It may sound like a little extra work to take good care of your down, but the rewards are well worth it. If you are good to your down, it will last for years, and every night will be like sleeping on a cloud!