How to Clean a Comforter That’s Too Big for Washer

by | Feb 28, 2023

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It’s laundry day and you’re feeling extra ambitious. Time to watch that comforter. Only one problem, though… It’s too big for the washing machine. If this is the boat you find yourself in trust me, you’re not alone; here’s how to clean a comforter that’s too big for a washer.

I’ll never forget my when I had someone visit my home in Canada from Australia for the first time. There’s plenty of similarities between our two counties, but the culture shock is really rooted in the small differences.

My guest, a mom, was completely in awe with our washer and dryer set up. See, most homes in Australia barely use a dryer (they use an outdoor clothesline instead). As for the washer, it just isn’t a thing there to have a big washing machine in your home.

And that means not being able to easily wash the comforter! I never realized until then that having a large front loading washer that could handle these big items was actually a luxury.

Anyway, here’s how you can make washing your oversized items and king size comforters a breeze regardless of your living situation.

How Often Should You Wash a Comforter?

Before we get into it, you should first ask yourself if you even need to wash your comforter. Here’s some go-to timeframes for how frequently to wash your heavy blankets or bedding.

If it touches your skin, wash your comforter or duvet cover ever 1-2 weeks, or as often as you’d wash your sheets.

Standard comforters or duvet covers separated from your body by another blanket or sheet should be washed every 2 months or so. More often if you have pets or young kids that get it dirty.

Duvets with a removable protective cover only need to be washed 2-3 times per year. Wash the duvet cover based on instructions above.

If you use a coverlet and the comforter isn’t touching you, you can wash the coverlet every 1-2 months and the comforter 2-3 times per year.

To Refresh a Comforter Without Washing

If you just want to refresh the comforter you don’t necessarily need to wash it. Here’s some easy ways to make it smell nice or feel clean:

Package of baking soda

Baking Soda

  1. Sprinkle the comforter with baking soda.
  2. Let the baking soda sit at least 20 minutes, but it can sit longer too.
  3. Vacuum up the baking soda thoroughly. Note: make sure you vacuum can handle baking soda or use a shop vac.
Woman using essential oil spray to refresh her bedding without a washing machine

Essential Oils or Sprays

Fill a mist bottle with water and a few drops of a refreshing essential oil then spray sparingly all over your comforter.

Alternatively, you can use a commercial fabric refresher like Febreeze.

white towels inside a dryer to illustrate using a dryer to refresh duvets

Dryer

Refresh the comforter in the dryer if you have one available and it fits. You can add a dryer sheet or gently spray with a deodorizer first.

A woman hanging heavy blankets on the washing line, in the fresh air.

Hang Outside

Hanging your comforter outside is also a great way to refresh it! You don’t need to do anything; just pick a nice day and hang it outside for a few hours.

The fresh air and sun will naturally deodorize and it will take on some of the outside smells too. I prefer a breezy (but not too windy) day to do this so the blowing helps refresh the comforter all the way through.

Easy Ways to Clean a Large Comforter if it Can’t Fit in Your Home Washer

Before I get into other methods that are a bit more involved, here’s the easiest ways to get this job done. These may not be available to everyone for various reasons, but if they are something you can access I highly recommend going one of these routes.

Ask a Friend For Help

Woman carrying a basket full of laundry

My mom doesn’t have a lot of laundry to do and hangs everything in the summer so when she upgraded her washer and dryer she opted for one of those weird combo units. You know, like the have in the UK all the time.

It works for them except for one issue: the comforters don’t fit. Thankfully she uses duvet covers so the actual blankets only need to be washed rarely. For the couple of times a year she needs to do this type of laundry what does she do?

You guessed it; she comes to my house.

Before you spend money or embark on a much tougher washing method, see if you have a friend or family member with a large washer who will let you come do laundry.

Laundromat

Washing machines in a laundromat

This is the alternative to asking someone in your circle; just go to a heavy duty laundromat. Some laundry facilities, especially in apartments, may still not be up to the task. If your regular laundromat can’t handle big blankets look for one that services commercial or industrial customers.

A lot of people I know will plan to do all their big laundry on one day and make a day of it.

It’s usually pretty inexpensive. In fact, if you were considering upgrading your washing machine to do comforters that only need to be washed a few times a year you might want to check that cost against just going to the laundromat instead.

Dry Cleaner or Laundry Service

Maid cleaning blankets at a professional laundry service

Comforters shouldn’t be dry cleaned (especially down filled ones), but many dry cleaners have industrial washing equipment that can launder comforters and other big blankets. Make sure you check first before booking, though, since they don’t all offer this service.

Some cities also have laundry services that do your oversized washing for you. These are super convenient for busy people; they come and pick it up, then drop it off later all clean.

Spot Clean

Removing dirt from textiles with a brush

If you got a spill but don’t want to fully wash your comforter you can also spot clean it by hand. Just apply a bit of laundry soap and warm water to the affect area and scrub. Then do your best to “rinse” either with running water or a washcloth.

Dry in the dryer or hang to dry.

How to Clean a Comforter Without a Washing Machine

OK, for whatever reason the above options don’t work for you, but you still need to get your comforter clean. This method isn’t exactly difficult, but it’s way more time consuming than if you can just launder your comforter normally.

You’ll need:

  • A bathtub or very large container (eg tote bin) that can fit the comforter with room to move it at least a bit
  • A water source
  • Laundry soap

Before you ask, yes you can do this outside in a kiddie pool. The only concern is I wouldn’t recommend dumping water with harsh laundry soap out in your backyard or campsite. Have a draining plan or opt for an eco-friendly detergent.

I recommend pre-treating and then rinsing any stains before you start. Washing by hand doesn’t agitate as much as a washing machine and won’t lift stains as effectively.

1. Put the Comforter in the Bathtub

Make sure the tub is clean before you start, then place your comforter inside. Spread it out as much as possible so it’s not balled up.

With the plug in, turn the water on to warm or cold, not hot. Fill the tub until your blanket is covered with water and floating slightly. There should be enough water on top so you can move it around and it stays submerged.

2. Add Laundry Detergent

The amount you add will depend on your detergent brand. Make sure to read the label. If you’re not sure, I recommend just 1-2 tablespoons of laundry detergent. You can always add more if you need to.

Adding too much soap will make rinsing harder, so always err on the side of caution unless your comforter is really dirty.

3. Wash the Comforter With Your Hands

To wash, agitate the comforter with your hands by pressing on and swirling it. Think about how a washer washes; shake your blanket around in the water as rigorously as you can.

For stains and dirty areas, I scrub with your fingers or use a soft laundry brush. Otherwise you should be able to get the comforter fairly clean just shaking it around.

Don’t wring the comforter while you wash it.

4. Let it Soak For 10-20 Minutes

After you’re done washing, let your comforter soak in the bathtub for an additional 10-20 minutes. This will help refresh it all the way through and clean any stubborn dirt.

Once the time is up, swirl it around again and work any stains you were hoping to soak off.

5. Drain the Tub and Comforter

Once you’re done washing and soaking, pull the plug and drain the water out of your tub. After the water is drained, press the comforter gently all over to get as much water out as you can.

Again, don’t wring. Just push.

If you’re using something other than a bathtub or pool with a drain this part is tricky; you have a heavy wet comforter that is now clean to maneuver.

If you can, have someone help you put the clean comforter into another container or clean space while you drain the dirty water. You can press on the comforter to drain it in this second container before moving to the first one for the next step.

6. Rinse With Clean Water

Fill the tub with cold water again. Keep pressing on the comforter all over to help the water move through it. Do this until it’s fully rinsed; you’ll know when no suds come out.

You can also swirl the comforter to help with this process. If you used a lot of soap you may have to drain and refill the tub multiple times before you stop seeing suds.

7. Drain

Now that your comforter is clean it’s time to deal with it being soaked. First, drain the tub. Then repeat the pressing you did before to help drain the comforter before rinsing.

I know it’s a pain, but it’s important to get out as much water as possible. Again, don’t wring; this can mess up the filling.

Once you’re satisfied that you can’t get any more water out pressing it’s time to dry.

8. Dry the Damp Comforter

It’s really important to dry the comforter as quickly as possible. A too-wet comforter that is drying slow may develop mildew (and a gross smell) before it dries. That will ruin all the work you just put into washing it!

If you have a dryer that can fit your comforter that’s the easiest way to dry it. The second best way is outside on a clothesline.

Not everyone has that option, though.

Here’s some other ways to get the damp comforter dried:

  • If you’re worried about dripping, place something (ladder, chair, drying rack) in or over the bathtub and hang the comforter from it to dry
  • Hang it in front of a fireplace or wood stove for faster drying
  • Drape it over the banister (one of my go-tos when duvets come out of the dryer damp in the middle)
  • Use two or more chairs to create a tent style drying solution

Regardless of drying method you’ll have to rotate your comforter to prevent wet patches.

And there you have it! A nice clean comforter. Don’t forget to wash your sheets too so you can enjoy that clean bed feeling.

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