What Soap To Wash A Down Comforter With
A down comforter is a big investment. Down comforters cost a lot more money than cheap synthetic comforters. The same is true of down sleeping bags and down jackets. So when washing down, you need to be extra careful not to damage it. The last thing you want to do is make your down product less effective at keeping you warm.
The most common way of accidentally destroying a down comforter is to use the wrong kind of soap when washing it. Soaps that are too harsh will destroy the natural oils that help down feathers trap warmth. Soaps with too many chemicals will actually damage the feathers themselves. This leads to down comforters that become thin and cold. When washed incorrectly down will loos its fluff and will not longer be able to keep you warm at night.
The first thing to know about washing your down comforter is that washing it as little as possible is best. This means using a duvet cover and keeping the comforter as clean as possible.
But washing a comforter cannot be prevented forever, no matter how careful you are. The good news is that with proper care your down comforter can last you decades before needing to be replaced, even with regular washings.
So Many Soaps
There's a ton of soaps and detergents in the world. Different soaps are meant for different products. For example, dish soap is great at removing oils. When choosing a soap for your down product, the first thing to do is read the care/washing instructions on the down product's tag. Some manufacturers also include washing instructions on their website. These instructions sometimes include the best type of soap to use. If the manufacturer specifies a soap to use, just use that.
However, while most products tell you what kind of washing machine to use, they do not specify a soap type.
Best Soap for Down
The best soap/detergent to use when washing a down comforter is one specifically made for down products. I have been using Nikwax Down Direct for years on my down comforter and sleeping bag and it has always done a great job of keeping my products clean and also retaining the warmth and fluff of the down.
The first time I washed my down comforter I was very scared. I ruined a down sleeping bag once by washing it incorrectly, and I did not want that to happen to the expensive down comforter I had bought a few months prior. Luckily, ruining the down sleeping bag taught me a valuable lesson on caring for quality products. High quality products require special care.
If you are wondering what happened with the ruined sleeping bag, it lost its fluff. A lot of the down started to clump together, and most importantly, the sleeping bag was no longer as warm as it was before being washed.
Since then, I have been washing down products regularly, and taking the effort and care to wash them correctly. I have used Nikwax soap, and my current sleeping bag and comforter are still super warm and fluffy.
I also use a front loading washer and dryer, and throw in a few tennis balls into the dryer to make sure that the down does not clump together.
Nikwax is actually a company that specializes in waterproofing things. They use natural ingredients for conditioning outdoor products like tents and jackets. Believe me, I was skeptical that this was a company that knew anything about laundry detergents or soaps. But it is true, their down soap is the best was to clean down products.
Nikwax is great because it removes dirt and body oils, but is gentle enough that it keeps the natural down oils from being removed.
Washing Down With Dr. Bronner's
Dr. Bronner's is a Castile soap that is loved by hippies and outdoor enthusiasts. It's actually a good soap, and the peppermint flavor is lovely. But it is a terrible soap to use on down comforters or sleeping bags. It's just too harsh and is actually likely to leave an oily residue on down products.
Dr. Bronner's is a general-use soap. On the bottle it lists a bunch of things it can be used for, from washing clothes, to showering, to brushing teeth. A general-use soap is not what you want to use with a super specific item like an expensive down comforter.
Skip the Dr. Bronner's and use a soap made specifically for down, like the NikWax down soap linked to above.