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Can You Wash a Duvet? Our Step-by-Step Guide May Help

unmade bed with duvet

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A great bed isn’t just made up of a mattress, a foundation, sheets and pillows – there are so many different components to the perfect bed and a duvet is one of them. Think of the duvet as the comforter’s cozier but more fashionable European cousin (even the term ‘duvet’ has French origins and means ‘down’, as in duck down). The main difference between a duvet and a comforter is that a duvet comes with a removable cover whereas the comforter is meant to be used as it is. But you might be wondering: can you wash a duvet?

We’ll get to that. But first, a bit of a history lesson.

According to Wikipedia, a duvet is a type of bedding consisting of soft bag filled with down, feathers, wool, cotton, silk or a synthetic alternative, typically protected with a removable cover, analogous to a pillow and pillowcase. Duvets originated in rural Europe and were filled with the down feathers of ducks and geese. Sleepers often use the duvet without a top sheet, as the duvet cover can be readily removed and laundered as often as the bottom sheet.

It looks like Wiki has answered your question.

But can you wash a duvet in the washing machine?

duvet washing tip sheet
Duvet Washing Tip Sheet

The answer is yes, you can definitely wash your duvet in the washing machine. That goes for both the covers and the insert.

Nowadays, we all know that duvets and their covers are designed to be washed and laundered. But certain duvets, especially ones filled with real eider down, can only be dry cleaned. It’s always best to check your duvet’s care instructions before chucking it into the wash or taking it to the cleaners. I am not going to lie, there has been a few times in the past when I forgot to read the care instructions and ended up with carnage of fluff. It is not a pretty sight.

Another important thing of note is that the filling can lose its fluffiness in time, especially with frequent washing. I recommended for you to only wash your duvet every 2-3 months but monthly if you tend to sweat at night or share your bed with a pet (I share a bed with a ball of fluff with claws so I do need to wash mine quite frequently). Lifestyle factors a lot into how often you should clean your duvet and only you can gauge the frequency.

Natural duvet fillings are usually made out of down, feather, silk or wool. The majority of natural fillings nowadays are machine washable and biodegradable. Synthetic fillings are made out of microfiber, hollowfiber or recycled hollowfiber material. While duvets with synthetic fillings can be washed regularly at higher temperatures, they are usually not recyclable or biodegradable.

No matter what fillings your duvet may have though, these can degrade and decrease in loft through time. Extra large duvets may need industrial sized washers so I find it is best to have them laundered by a professional.

Important tips: Always use a gentle eco enzyme detergent. Always wash on the gentlest setting. Always tumble dry low. No bleach unless really needed and even then, always use the gentlest possible kind. I am quite partial to OxiClean.

What about dry cleaning?

While dry cleaning may seem like the most convenient way to keep your duvet filling intact, the chemicals used in dry cleaning can be harmful to your health. Perchloroethylene or perc, as it’s most commonly known, has been scientifically shown to have adverse human health effects. In fact, the International Agency for research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, has designated perc as a possible human carcinogen.

Because a duvet is used so close to the skin – sometimes even covering our faces – (I am guilty of sleeping with a duvet over my face), the exposure to perc is high, no matter how minute the quantity may be. I say, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

So what do we do about the duvets that need dry cleaning specifically? Luckily, these days there are cleaners that offer “green” dry cleaning services. These cleaners utilize cleaning solutions that are perc-free, safe and more environmentally friendly. I suggest you keep the numbers handy of the most reputable green cleaners in your area.

Can you tumble dry your duvet?

It is important that you do as the filling should not be left wet for long periods. This can cause the duvet to develop a musty odor or worse, mold.

To keep the fluffiness intact, it is best to dry your duvet at 2 intervals, especially if your duvet is larger than a double. With each interval, take the duvet out and shake it about, making sure to turn the wetter insides out. For extra fluffiness, some recommend putting a tennis ball within a clean sock (tied of course), toss the sock in with the drying et voila: extra fluffiness. I sometimes like to add a freshly washed towel into the dryer, this can add even more fluffiness.

A few tips on how to keep your duvet clean between washings

  • Change duvet covers every 2 weeks. The rule of thumb is to change them at the same time you change your sheets and other beddings. A fresh and clean bed makes for a healthier and more conducive sleep experience. Also, I find it fun to change up my duvet cover every so often.
  • Avoid eating and drinking in bed. But should the unavoidable happen, a bit of spot cleaning will do the trick. Food and wine stains settle fast so you have to be quick about treating any sort of stain. If it’s a bigger stain, pre-treat the stain and then launder.
  • Avoid having your pets sleep in bed with you. This is easier said than done, I know. My cat has a designated sleeping spot right next to me, like a little human. He even has his own pillow! So, for situations like this, it is best to wash your duvets at least once a month.
  • No shoes on the bed, ever. Please.

Shifting stains from your duvet 101

So, you had a little Netflix and chill moment. Or you had a meal in bed. Now, you’ve got a little spill on your duvet that is slowly but surely turning into a stain. I’ve been there, don’t worry.

Fret not but act fast. Below is a (hopefully) veritable list than can help you keep your duvet and duvet cover stain-free. Remember, the fresher the stain the easier to take out.

  • Blood – Blot away excess. Do not rub. Sprinkle with salt, this will absorb the blood straight up. Wash immediately. For a semi dry blood stain, work in a paste of baking soda and water, allow to dry and wash straight after.
  • Chocolate – Remove any excess chocolate and soak the area with soda water or an enzyme detergent such as Arm & Hammer or Tide. Rinse with cold water.
  • Grease and oil – Douse with salt and leave to absorb for an hour or so before rinsing with cold water. Then wash. Alternatively, for smaller stains, a stain removal pen such as the Tide To Go can work wonders.
  • Ink – (Yes, ink. I like to write in bed and I’m sure some of you do too.) If very fresh, dab the stained area with a bit of hairspray. Blot with a dry paper towel. If it’s fountain pen ink, rinse immediately with cold water, pre-treat with enzyme detergent and wash.
  • Lipstick and makeup – Scrub the area with white non-gel toothpaste, rinse the spot with cold water and repeat if necessary. I understand all the too well that there are some nights when falling into bed, makeup and all, is unavoidable. For this reason, I like to keep a package of face wipes in my nightstand drawer and you should too.
  • Sweat and protein based human excretions – Spray with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. Allow to air dry and brush off dried paste with a soft bristled brush. Wash.
  • Red Wine – Rinse with club soda or white wine vinegar and wash immediately. I have also found the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap treatment can work well on wine stains.

You may have noticed that the stain treatment tips we gave for duvets are a bit different than the ones we suggested for mattresses. This is because duvets are washable whereas mattresses are not.

A well-maintained bedroom is a place of refuge from the rest of the world. And today, that refuge is more important than ever. Most of us are currently working from home or are spending more time at home. Nowadays, I find myself seeking refuge often and I’m sure, you do too.

Your bed is the center of that refuge and keeping it fresh, clean and of course, inviting is your main gateway to the most beautiful dreams. Because right now, these dreams are all we may have to keep going, even just for little while.