How to Clean Feathers and Down

Down is the fine layer of feathers found under a bird’s tougher exterior feathers. Down is a very fine thermal insulator or padding used in production of some type a of jackets, pillows, duvets, comforters, and some sleeping bags.


Facts About Down
  • ­There are 3 versions of down – Duck, Goose, and Down Combinations.
  • ­Federal trade commission states that products labeled as “100% down” can only contain down of duck or goose. Products labeled as “down” may be a mixture of fibers, synthetic fibers and down.
  • ­Duck down can be no less than 90% duck down & 10% duck feathers.
  • ­Down becomes more allergenic over time as it becomes contaminated with moisture, mold, dust mites, etc.


Can you Clean Down at Home?
  • Yes, you can. Down can be cleaned in home, but with it being feathers and an absorbent type of filling, it can be difficult. Precautions need to be taken.
  • Down if not taken care of properly can mold, mildew & absorb smells. If not dried thoroughly, down can lose its thermal properties. It will clump, and begin to rot, mold/mildew, & begin to smell.


How to Clean Items Filled with Down
  1. READ the Label.
    • If it specifically says dry clean only. Be advised that taking the item on as an item you clean in house, can possibly cause damage or ruin the item. Regular dry cleaning can strip the down of its natural protective oils. Make sure your cleaning service has a down friendly cleaning method.
    • Also make sure you look up Manufacturer’s recommendations. Some manufacturers offer warranties to their products and you can potentially void that warranty by not following their instructions.
  2. You can hand wash in a tub/basin or use your washing machine.
    • Washing Machine: Try to use a front loading or an agitator less-top loading washing machine. An agitator can damage the feathers and cause clumping. Cold water will yield the best results. You can use any detergent you would like, although many companies will recommend a down soap (Nikwax Down Wash) or mild commercial detergent. Wash as you would normally. DO NOT use bleach, bleach alternatives, or fabric softeners while washing down. A second rinse can be utilized if you feel it is necessary.
    • Hand Washing: Fill basin or tub with cold water. Add detergent and agitate before you add your down item. Add the item, let it soak, and agitate as you go. You will need to empty out the tub or basin and rinse the item in sections until the water runs clear.
    • Drying: Using either washing method, you will need to “squish” the excess water out of the item. You may wring if you have to, but realize you may cause some clumps by wringing. You will have to be diligent about breaking up any clumps during the drying process.
      • The drying process can take HOURS. It is a lot easier to clean/wash the item than to dry it. DO NOT HANG DRY OR LAY FLAT TO DRY.
      • Move the item carefully to the dryer, as down can be super heavy. Medium heat is the best to dry down. You will need to stop the drying process periodically to pull the item out and break up any clumps and rearrange the item in the dryer. The use of tennis balls or dryer balls to aid in drying will help tremendously. Remember, drying is a long process and needs to be taken seriously. Down needs to be completely dried.


By Whitney Hogan