How to wash a duvet

A complete cleaning guide

When it comes to keeping your bed as clean as possible, it's easy to overlook a duvet. A lot of people will regularly wash their sheets, but tend to forget about the bedding that keeps them nice and cosy through those cold nights. While it's true that your duvet — along with your pillow — don't get dirty as quickly as their covers do, it's still vital that you wash them to ensure they stay fresh.

Washing a duvet may seem like a chore, especially as they can be quite large and bulky, but with the right know-how, you can easily keep yours clean and hygienic. In this guide, we'll walk you through the best way to clean your duvet, as well as answering some common questions on the topic.

We'll cover:

  • Can you wash a duvet?
  • How often should you wash a duvet?
  • How to clean a duvet
  • How to dry a duvet
  • How to store a duvet
  • Replacing your duvet

Can you wash a duvet?

You can and certainly should wash your duvet — most can be either machine-washed or hand-washed, depending on what the manufacturer recommends— you will usually find this information on the care label.

Cleaning your duvet is absolutely essential. Though your bed sheets and nightwear will offer a layer or two of protection from the likes of dust, dirt, sweat, and skin particles, the long stretches of time you spend in bed means that your duvet will still become dirty. Washing it makes sure your bed is always a hygienic place for you to sleep.

Another key reason to wash your duvet is to prevent it from becoming a home for dust mites. They are microscopic mites that live in dark, warm, and humid locations — just like an unwashed duvet. They survive by eating dry skin, which can also be present if your bedding is not clean. These mites can be bothersome for those with allergies and can also cause skin issues, such as rashes. Get more information on how to avoid and remove these pests in our dust mite cleaning guide.

How often should you wash a duvet?

It's recommended that you wash your duvet every 2–3 months, with every 6 months as an absolute minimum. While the task is more time consuming than cleaning regular bed covers, it doesn't need to be done regularly, a little bit of effort every now and again will ensure your duvet stays fresh.

Should you wash a new duvet?

Wondering whether you should wash that new duvet you've just ordered right away? It can come down to preference. Some people are quite happy to use bedding right out of the packaging, but others like to wash their bedding right away to remove any odours or particles picked up during the production or packaging stages and to add a familiar smell. As you haven't slept with the duvet yet, there shouldn't be any of the irritants that build up over time present.

Can you put a duvet in the washing machine?

The majority of duvets can be put in the washing machine, but you should always check the washing instructions on the label to confirm this is the case. There may be some natural duvets that cannot be put in a regular household machine, and may require some specialist washing techniques. Another thing you'll need to consider when using a washing machine is whether your duvet will fit

Can you wash a feather duvet?

For the most part, it's possible to wash natural feather duvets, like goose down and feather, in your washing machine at home, but you should take care to follow the manufacturer's instructions just in case there are any special requirements. One problem you might run into is fitting the duvet into the machine itself, as they tend to be bulkier than synthetic duvets. They also take much longer to dry afterwards, which is something you'll need to account for.

Can you dry clean a duvet?

You should not take your duvet to be dry cleaned — no matter whether it's natural or synthetic. This is because dry cleaning makes use of strong chemicals for stain removal that can affect the filling of your bedding. There are also some reports[1] that have classified the oft-used dry cleaning chemical PERC to be carcinogenic to humans when exposed for a long time. Because we spend long periods of time under our duvet, it may be best to avoid dry cleaning as a general rule.

Please note: Professional cleaning is not the same as dry cleaning, so if your duvet manufacturer's instructions recommend this, they probably mean having a specialist cleaner wash it with the right type of equipment. Some dry cleaners offer professional cleaning services, so make sure you choose the right one when booking in your duvet.

Can you hand wash a duvet?

Yes, it's possible to hand wash a duvet — some people prefer this approach if they need to gently wash a natural duvet. It may also be a solution if your washing machine is too small.

How to clean a duvet

When it comes to cleaning your duvet, the first thing you should do is find out what type of filling it has — synthetic or natural — as this will impact the cleaning method. Below we will provide advice on how to machine wash, as well as how to clean stains, wash a large duvet, and what to do if you don't have a washing machine.

Note: You can also get expert advice on cleaning your mattress and pillows in our two other care guides that are well worth a read.

How to wash a synthetic duvet

  1. Pay attention to the manufacturer's label to see if there are any special instructions to follow when washing.
  2. Check if your duvet will fit into your machine. It should be loose enough (around three quarters full) so that agitation — the movement of clothes in the washer as the spin cycle commences — can take place.
  3. Set your washing machine to the highest temperature that the care instructions allow — the majority of synthetic duvets can be washed at 60⁰C, which is enough to kill off dust mites.
  4. Use around a third of the usual amount of detergent you would for a full load of clothing.
  5. Set your machine to a regular spin cycle and begin the wash.
  6. Once the wash is complete, remove the damp duvet and shake it so the filling is evened out.
  7. Your duvet is now ready for drying.

How to wash a natural or feather duvet

  1. Pay particular attention to the duvet's care instructions and don't be tempted to ignore them — if they indicate that the duvet needs a specialist clean, then it really is worth taking the right precautions.
  2. Check whether the duvet will fit into the washing machine — it shouldn't take up more than three quarters of the cylinder. Feather duvets can be bulky, so if your machine is too small, then it may be worth hand washing or seeking a professional clean.
  3. Natural duvets (like wool) or feather duvets (like goose down), can generally be machine washed but need more care and attention than synthetic materials:
  • Feather duvets: Should be washed with a small amount of mild detergent on a gentle, warm cycle. Don't use any bleach or brightener. Consider putting in one or two washing balls (or tennis balls) to ensure the feathers remain evenly packed.
  • Wool duvets: Can typically be washed on a wool cycle with wool-friendly detergent, followed by a spin dry to release any held water afterwards.
  • Silk duvets: Should not be machine washed or hand washed in their entirety unless the instructions say they can. Instead they should be completely covered, and spot cleaned when there's a stain.

How to get stains out of a duvet

When there is a spillage or accident on or near your bed, it's important that you react quickly to stop any stains from forming. Though your duvet will initially be protected by its cover, there is a chance that the substance will soak through if you don't act rapidly.

If the worst happens and the spill seeps through, you will need to immediately carry out a spot clean on your duvet. The aim is this is to remove most of the substance right away, then take action to get any that has set in straight out of the material. Follow these steps to carry out a thorough clean:

  1. Soak up any liquid as soon as possible using a clean cloth or paper towels. Be careful not to rub the area as this risks setting in the stain even more.
  2. Once the excess has been removed, try to push as much of the filling away from the area as possible, then tie it off with an elastic band to keep any from moving back into the space.
  3. Soak a fresh cloth or towel in cold water and dab at the stain area, which should hopefully remove any that has started to sink into the material. Don't use warm water as this causes the spillage to set in further.
  4. If there is still some stubborn stain remaining, you can apply a mild detergent to try and remove it. You can try to use a gentle soap and water mixture, or you can apply a baking soda and water paste by mixing together two parts soda to one part water. Soak a cloth in your detergent and blot at the area without rubbing.
  5. If you use baking soda, leave it on the stain for an hour or two then vacuum it up.
  6. Leave the area to air dry (you can also use a hair dryer on a low setting to speed it up).

How to wash a queen- or king-size duvet

Looking to wash a queen- or king-size duvet at home? It's worth checking whether the capacity of your washing machine's drum will be able to handle the bulk of a larger item. Most household appliances should be big enough to fit a single or double duvet, but you may run into issues when attempting to squeeze in one of a greater size.

The easiest way to check this is to simply try putting your duvet into the washing machine. It's worth remembering that it should not take up more than three-quarters of the drum, as there needs to be some room for agitation to take place. If it's packed in too tight, there will be no movement and the cleaning action will not be as effective.

For easy reference, here is a general guide to what type of drum capacity is needed for certain duvet sizes. It's worth keeping in mind that this is approximate and does not take into account whether you have the likes of a bulkier feather duvet or a thick high-tog duvet. In a lot of cases the capacity of a washer is either written on the side or in the instruction manual.

Drum capacity

Duvet size

6kg

Single duvet

7kg

Double duvet

8kg

Queen-size duvet

9kg

Medium king-size duvet

10kg

Heavy king-size duvet

So, what if your duvet is too big for your home washing machine? Then you'll need to look at other solutions. For one, you could handwash your duvet, which is more work but just as effective. On the other hand, you could take your duvet to be professionally cleaned.

How to clean a duvet without a washing machine

If you want to clean your duvet at home but don't have access to a washing machine, you may wish to handwash it, which is a perfectly possible solution. This is also an alternative if your want to wash a queen- or king-sized duvet but your machine is too small.

For this method, you'll need to use your bathtub or, failing that, a large plastic tub that is big enough to fit the whole duvet within it. If you're not planning to carry out the cleaning in a bathroom, it's probably best to do it in area you don’t mind getting wet or outside if the weather is acceptable.

  1. Fill your bath or tub halfway with tepid water. Add a gentle detergent and use your hand to swish through the water to activate it and create suds.
  2. Put your duvet into the water and fully submerge it, allowing it to soak.
  3. After a minute or two, step into the tub with your bare feet (ensure they're clean first) and start to step on and off the duvet to recreate the cleaning action of a washing machine. Take care when you're doing this to avoid slipping — you can also sit on the side of the bath and dip your feet in if you don't want to stand.
  4. Leave the duvet in the tub but drain the soapy water. Refill the tub and begin to rinse the duvet through to remove all the detergent residue. This can be a slow process and you will likely need to repeat the refilling a few times to fully rinse.
  5. With the tub finally empty, begin gently squeezing the duvet to remove the excess moisture, taking care not to wring too hard and cause wrinkles to form. One effective method is to roll the duvet up as tight as you can without wringing, then quickly unroll it, then repeat.
  6. Once excess water has been removed, you're ready to dry your duvet.

How to dry a duvet

After you've washed your duvet, it's time to dry it. It's very important to make sure that your duvet is completely dry before you place it back on your bed, as dampness can cause mildew to form and natural fillings to begin rotting. It's also worth knowing that even when the surface feels dry to the touch, there may be moisture still trapped inside the filling, so be sure to allow extra time.

Can you tumble dry a duvet?

It may be possible to put your duvet in a tumble dryer, but you will need to check the care label first to not only see if it's possible, but to see if there are any requirements. Generally, you don’t want to exceed a temperature of 60⁰C, while a cycle of 45 minutes will probably be sufficient. You can also add washing balls to ensure that the filling of the duvet doesn’t swell.

How to dry a duvet without a dryer

The only alternative to drying a duvet in a tumble dryer is to do it naturally. Essentially, this means placing it in a location that will help it to dry as quickly as possible.

Doing this outside on a sunny day in a balcony or garden is ideal, but this won’t be possible if you don't have an outdoor area or if the weather is terrible. An alternative is to dry it in the warmest room in your house, or, if you can set the thermostat for an individual room, raise the temperature in there to avoid heating the whole house. Again, it's worth stressing that you should leave the duvet for more than a couple of hours to make sure that it's completely dry through.

How to store a duvet

If you're looking to buy a new duvet and keep your current one as a spare, or are changing to one of a different tog to match the season, you may be washing your duvet to put it straight into storage. Should this be the case, then it's worth knowing how best to store it so it stays in great condition.

One of the best ways to do this is to use a vacuum-sealed bag to protect your duvet. Not only will this save space by compacting your bedding, but it will keep it wrapped against dust mites and humidity. If you don't have a vacuum-sealed bag, you can put your duvet in a large linen bag or wrap it in a cotton sheet. You should then store it in a cool, shady place with low humidity.

How often should you replace your duvet?

It's generally recommended that you replace your duvet every five years[2]. However, the exact time you should say goodbye to your bedding may depend on other factors, such as how often you use the duvet, whether it is of a high quality, and how you care for it.

There are a few warning signs that indicate your duvet is getting worn out:

  • Feels thin and limp: Through use, you may have compressed the filling of the duvet. This means it can't trap air and insulate you against the cold as effectively as it should.
  • Feels lumpy: This can happen when the duvet has been washed many times or if the filling has been unevenly spread over time.
  • There are rips and tears: If there are rips and tears in your duvet, or even a thinning of its casing, the filling could fall out and render the bedding useless.

When the time comes to replace your old duvet, it's worth looking for one of a high quality that will keep you as warm and comfortable as possible during the night. We recommend browsing the range of duvets here at Dormeo, where you'll find a choice of products made to the highest standards, as well as a variety of tog ratings to ensure you're cosy no matter the season.

Washing a duvet at home can be easy with a little know-how. Just follow the tips above and you will be all set. Looking for more sleep advice? Be sure to check out Dormeo's advice centrefor other sleep guidesandread our blog. You can also get in touch with any questions you may have.

[1] Environmental Protection Agency. Risk Evaluation for Perchloroethylene. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-evaluation-perchloroethylene

[2] The Sleep Council. Sleep healthy this year by changing your bedding frequently. Available at: https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/sleep-healthy-this-year-by-changing-your-bedding-frequently/

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