How to Remove Smell From a Down Comforter

There are only two ways to remove smells from a down comforter: you can wash it completely, or you can hang it outside in the sunshine to air out.

Down comforters should not be cleaned more than once every two years if you want them to last for decades. However, most down comforters are filled with goose down inside a cotton cover, so I recommend you put it inside a duvet cover, and you can wash the duvet cover as often as you like. When it's time to clean and deodorize the comforter itself, follow these simple steps.​

Proper Preparation​

Start by reading the care label on the comforter, because laundering guidelines vary for different comforters. Since you will need a large front-loading machine, you should head to the nearest Laundromat. Examine closely for any tears or open seams, and repair before washing.

Spot Treatment​

Spot treat any stains you can see, and use a "Delicate" setting. Put it loosely into the machine, and do a double rinse cycle to make sure all the soap washes out. There are detergents made for down, but if you can't find one, try a baby detergent.

Dry Completely​

It is imperative that you dry it thoroughly to avoid mildew growth, and this could take hours, so bring enough quarters to the Laundromat. Here are some tips for proper drying:

  • You'll need a commercial-size dryer to provide enough room to move
  • If available, try an air-dry setting with no heat; otherwise, try the lowest temperature
  • Add two dryer balls to fluff the down and stop clumping
  • Interrupt the drying cycle periodically to re-position and re-fluff the down
  • Finally, sun-dry it by hanging outside to air out thoroughly

You may notice that wet down has a musky odor, but that quickly disappears when it dries. Do not store it for at least a month after you wash it, to avoid mildew.

Freshen It Up

​Model homemaker Martha Stewart says you should never put your down comforter in a washer or it will "lose its loft," but many people disagree with her on that point. If you're a big fan of Martha's, or if you'd rather not schlep your comforter to a Laundromat, I'll show you how to freshen it up your down: Spot treats it instead and, weather permitting, shake it out and hang in the sunlight. This is a natural and "green" way to get all smells out of your down comforter.

Down Pillows​

You can wash your down pillows in your home washing machine and dryer, but always check the label for laundering instructions. Use either a very mild detergent, or one made for down delicates, but avoid using any liquid or sheet fabric softener. Again, the devil is in the drying, so be prepared for several hours of tumble drying at the lowest temperature. Afterward, I recommend that you place it outside to "breathe" in the sunshine.

Use Common Sense - Not Febreeze​

As I have tried to show, the best way to remove the smell from down comforters is to wash and dry them thoroughly in large-capacity machines, and the second-best way is to spot treat and air them out in the sunshine. The worst thing you can do is repeatedly spray your down comforter with a deodorizing spray like Febreze; experts warn that, far from being a harmless mist, a fabric deodorizer will seep through the duvet cover to harm the natural oils in the feathers. In the industry, this is known as "stripping" the down.

You can, of course, bring it to a professional cleaner for a deep-cleaning that will not promote mildew. However, many retailers claim that any type of washing, or dry-cleaning, more often than once every two years may damage the down and shrink the comforter.​

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