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How to Clean Duvets and Eiderdowns

Few beds these days boast plain old blankets, but the duvets and eiderdowns that we do use need special cleaning. Chances are you snuggle down under a duvet (comforter), a cotton envelope filled with feathers or synthetic fibres. And maybe you also have an eiderdown, an often patchwork cover that sits on the top to look good and, if you’re desperate, add extra warmth.

Most synthetic-filled duvets can be machine washed. But the sheer weight and size of a bed-sized cover filled with feathers or synthetic material turns duvet washing into a bit of a trial. A single may easily fit the washing machine tub, but you may need to use an extra capacity launderette machine to wash a king-size duvet. Tumble dry on low heat, removing now and again to shake the filling.

Feather and down duvets are best professionally cleaned. Their weight when wet makes cleaning them with water impractical and air drying them, which is the safest drying method, can take a week or longer.

However, if spills, sickness, or children’s wetting means you have to do something, it’s perfectly possible to launder a feather duvet in the machine (if it fits) or the bath (if it doesn’t). Gently scrape off soil and spot treat stains first. For example, rinse through blood stains with cold water. (See the Appendix for relevant stain instructions.)

You save a great deal of drying hassle if you soak just the stained sections of the duvet. Use a mild detergent solution (it needs to be mild for the sake of your acrylic bathtub – the duvet itself can withstand most detergents). Rinse, adding a few drops of disinfectant if you’re clearing up after vomit.

Bathtubs aren’t designed for prolonged exposure to detergent. If you’re worried how your bath may react to a duvet-washing session, use an absolutely safe solution such as bubble bath or washing-up liquid. However, if you use either of these, you need to rinse the duvet three or four times afterwards.

To dry, ideally use the clothes line outside. In winter, spread the duvet out in front of (but not touching) radiators, then finish in the airing-cupboard or somewhere else warm and dry.

Eiderdowns need only occasional washing, especially if you use them as intended – as pretty day-time covers for your bed that get removed at night. Their size means the two options are either professional cleaning or washing in the bath, if the fabric is washable.

If you’re prepared to use a sunny day this way, a children’s paddling pool makes an ideal washtub for duvets and eiderdowns. Start early (you’ll need maximum outdoor drying time). Instead of the outdoor tap, connect the hose to downstairs sink-taps to fill your pool with warm water and add non-bio detergent.

Get the whole lot done at once and add extra cleaning power by walking around the pool and all over your soapy washing with bare (clean!) feet. Imagine you’re at the vineyard, crushing the grapes, as you agitate the dirt away. Remember to use fresh water to rinse. To finish, squeeze out excess water by rolling up each duvet as tightly as possible without wringing, then peg onto the line.

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