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How to clean a duvet

Melanie Whitehouse / 03 January 2019

Around 35% of our time is spent asleep under a duvet, so it needs to be washed and dried regularly. Find out about the best way to clean duvets and pillows.


Most of us wash our sheets and pillowcases regularly but duvets - and pillows - are another story. Some of us rarely or never clean our duvets, but this is a job that should be done at least once a year.

Each night we shed skin cells, and we sweat as we sleep. This encourages dust mites, which produce droppings that encourage bacteria as well as causing irritable eyes and asthma. These droppings, skin cells and sweat accumulate in our pillows and in our duvets.

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The washing process

Start by checking the label. Some down, or feather-and-down, fillings need to be dry-cleaned.

If there are any stains on the duvet, shake the filling away until the stain is isolated, and treat the stain in the appropriate way before popping it in the washing machine.

Usually, a standard 7 kg machine can take a double duvet or even a king-size duvet but it may depend on the tog and the thickness.

The duvet needs room to tumble around the drum. The best way to feed it in is to fold it in half, spreading out the weight as you go.

If there isn't enough room in your domestic washing machine, take the duvet to a launderette, where there are big machines, both for washing and tumble-drying.

Wash all duvets on a gentle cycle. For feather/feather-and-down duvets use a non-biological detergent (without enzymes).

Run the duvet through two rinse cycles to make sure all the soap has been removed.

Use a normal spin setting.

If your tumble dryer is big enough, dry the quilt on a low heat, taking it out and shaking it occasionally during the cycle. Dryer balls, or clean tennis balls, will help prevent clumps of feathers and/or down forming.

In summer, dry the duvet outdoors in the sun – ultraviolet rays are a natural disinfectant which help to kill any remaining bacteria – but make sure it's totally dry before putting it back on the bed. In the winter, use a warm iron instead.

Washing your pillows

The experts at Persil recommend washing pillows twice a year – they are, after all, the recipient of all manner of bacteria from colds, flu and other germs.

Most pillows can be put in a washing machine but do check the care instructions and make sure your machine is large enough, and that the pillow case is robust and hasn't got any holes – you don't want wet feathers clogging up your machine.

Foam pillows, say Persil, should not go in the washing machine and may need professional dry cleaning.

Put the pillow inside a pillowcase to stop the filling leaking out.

A temperature setting of 60 degrees will kill most bacteria.

If you have room, wash two pillows together to keep the washing machine balanced.

It's important to dry pillows properly to prevent mould and mildew. If they can be tumble- dried, do so on a low heat.

Again, use tennis balls in a pillowcase – or even in clean socks – to stop the filling from clumping up.

A tip for fluffy pillows

Want fluffy pillows? Just pop them in the tumble dryer once a week. Spinning fluffs them up, and the heat kills dead skin cells and dries up moisture.

Use the bath

No room in the washing machine? Then fill your bath or a large plastic tub with tepid water and add detergent, mixing it in with your hands. Submerge the duvet fully, agitate for a few minutes to remove dirt and debris, then rinse until the water is running clean and free of soap. Squeeze out as much water as possible, then take outside, wring out again (it's easier with two, one on each end) and shake out to fluff up before hanging on the washing line. Start as early as possible so you have more drying time.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.