My cheap down comforter says dry clean only. Can it be washed in a machine?
Manufacturers say “dry clean only” because some cover fabrics will become less down proof with repeated washing. Still others will lose most of their downproofness with just 1 washing. There are some fabrics that can withstand many washings and retain their downproofness. But testing for downproofness after a wash takes time and money, so many manufacturers simply advise dry cleaning.
For most less expensive down comforters, this is safe advice. If the manufacturer did not test, or did test and found that the fabric does not retain downproofness after washing, then the law label or care label will indicate dry clean only. All the less expensive down comforters that I’ve seen produced do not have testing procedures in place to determine downproofness.
Only the better companies making down comforters have strict testing procedures in place to determine things like downproofness of fabric, thread count, fill power of down, percentage of down to feathers, etc.
But to answer your question more specifically, you can wash your comforter in a home machine, but you can expect it to shed more down than it did before. I’ve tried this a couple times with some down comforters that I knew did not have downproof after wash fabric, and the result was as expected. There were many little bits of down floating around my bedroom. However, I simply vacuumed them up every few weeks along with my regular vacuuming and all was ok.
So I would suggest that you wash it and prepare to do a little extra vacuuming. No big deal. Use a large capacity, front end loader washing machine (no top loader with agitator). You can wash with hot water, but only use a mild detergent, as you don’t want to take the oil out of the feathers and down. Then dry, dry, dry completely until very dry. I like to dry for 1 cycle, air dry in the sun for 2-3 hours, and then dry for 1 more cycle.