How to wash a duvet - banish bacteria, germs and bad smells with expert tips

Experts share tips on the best way to wash a duvet so that you can sleep cleanly

bedroom with double bed and side table
(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Most people spend at least eight hours in their bed every single day, but did you know that over time your duvet can become riddled with bacteria, germs, and even dead skin cells? And if you’re not a fan of sharing your bed, you might want to know how to wash a duvet.

While you may have the best duvet on the market, that doesn’t mean you can get away with not washing it. However, we understand why you may have put this task at the bottom of your cleaning calendar. Duvets are big and bulky, and the idea of washing them by hand or in the washing machine sounds like hard work. 

But it’s not as hard as you think, and it’s definitely for the best. Sally Bonser, spokesperson for Silentnight, says, ‘Caring for a duvet properly can extend its lifespan whilst also ensuring you get a hygienic and relaxing night’s sleep.’ And when you’ve washed your duvet, you should probably clean your mattress, too. 

Soft neutral bedroom with off-white double bed

(Image credit: Piglet in Bed)

How to wash a duvet

'Duvets should be washed every three to six months in order to decrease the build-up of bacteria and potential allergens,' says Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, Sleep Specialist and Sleep Counsellor, TEMPUR®. This is how to do it. 

How to wash a duvet in the washing machine

Red crimson bedding on double bed

(Image credit: Piglet in Bed)

Firstly, it's important to consider the material of your duvet to see how they wash best. Sally Bonser of Silentnight, states, 'Hollowfibre duvets can typically be washed at home in the washing machine. If your duvet is of a high enough quality, it should stay fresh and clean after each wash and maintain its softness and bounce for a comfortable night’s sleep. If you choose a natural feather or down filling, professional cleaning is always the best choice, as it’s very difficult to get a naturally-filled duvet dry without specialist dryers, and you may damage the comfort levels of your duvet.' 

'Always read the instructions on the care labels and follow these to ensure you are washing your bedding correctly,' says Emily and Jonathan Attwood, Founders of Scooms. 'This is your first port of call to make sure you clean everything properly without damaging your duvet.'

If the care label on your duvet indicates that it's safe to put in the washing machine, go ahead and do that. The experts at Scooms recommend doing this every 6-12 months, depending on when you think your duvet needs it. 

Wash the duvet at a maximum temperature of 40 degrees. 'This will effectively remove dirt and natural body oils while using less energy than higher temperatures,' says Rhiannon Johns, Interior Designer and Head of Brand at Piglet in Bed

Double bed with white bedding in neutral bedroom

(Image credit: Scooms)

'If your machine isn’t big enough, you may need to take the duvet to a laundrette to make use of a large capacity washer or dryer,' advise the experts at Scooms. 'If you can wash the duvet yourself, then wash with a non-bio (enzyme free) detergent, using a third of the usual amount and use a tumble dryer to dry your duvet thoroughly.'

If the duvet's care label gives you the go-ahead to put it in the tumble dryer as well, stick to a low temperature again. 'Use wool dryer balls in the dryer as they'll help the hot air to circulate more evenly and efficiently,' Emily and Jonathan suggest. 'This not only reduces drying time but saves you money on your energy bills too!'

For a wool duvet, Chris Tattersall, Clean Sleep Environment Expert and MD of Woolroom, suggests due to wool’s natural moisture management qualities that make it difficult for bacteria or fungus to grow 'simply hanging your wool duvet outside to aerate every two months is enough to keep it fresh and clean'. If it’s part of the machine washable range then 'placing it on a wool or delicate cycle with a slower spin speed on your washing machine and adding specialist wool detergent, before hanging it out to dry is the best way to care for your duvet.'

Finally, before putting your duvet back on the bed, give it a good shake to redistribute the filling. It's best to do this every time you change your bedding to keep it in optimal shape. 

How to wash a duvet by hand

If your washing machine isn't big enough for your duvet, or the care label doesn't recommend putting it through a wash cycle, you can wash it by hand in the bathtub. Fill the bath with enough water so that you can fully submerge the duvet, and add a mild detergent. Mix this in with the water so that it becomes a little slimy. 

The easiest way to clean the duvet in the bath is to knead it with your feet. This way you can maneuver your way around every inch of the duvet, which is more difficult when reaching into the bath from the side.

After this, the water will contain the dirt and bacteria from the duvet, so drain this and refill the tub with fresh water. Rinse the duvet in this until you're satisfied you've got all the detergent out. Wring out as much excess water as possible to speed up the drying process.

If it's a sunny day, air the duvet out on the washing line and leave it to dry naturally. Alternatively, leave it in a warm room where it's likely to dry, such as the kitchen or utility room. 

Wallpapered ceiling with floral pattern and rattan bed

(Image credit: Laura Ashley)


What is the best way to wash a duvet?

Knowing how to wash a duvet thoroughly all depends on the type of duvet you're dealing with. The care label is your new best friend; check it properly before you begin washing, so you can avoid ruining it.

'Synthetic fibre duvets should be washed in a large washing machine as per the care label instructions,' says sleep specialist Thomas. 'Feather and down filled duvets need to be dry cleaned so it may be worth keeping a spare clean duvet, so you don’t have the stress of taking the dirty duvet to the dry cleaners and collecting the same day.'

Hang it out in the sunshine every few months so it can deodorise naturally, and of course, make sure you're changing the bedsheets frequently too.

Dry cleaning is the more costly option, so if you don't want to go down the route, you can wash your duvet by hand in the bathtub instead. Consider giving the duvet some breathing space every so often to lower the chances of dust mites and bacteria breeding. 

Can you put a duvet in the washing machine?

Yes - as long as you check the instructions of the duvet before you do so. Most duvets will be machine washable, and washing in a machine is much easier than washing by hand. 

However, it’s important to note that you need to have a washing machine that will cope with the tog and size of your duvet. To get a thorough wash, you shouldn’t have a tight fit between your duvet and the drum. Instead, it should fit in the drum loosely to allow the water and laundry detergent to get into every nook and cranny. 

Can you wash a 10.5 tog duvet in a 7kg washing machine?

A 7kg washing machine should have the capacity to wash a single or a double 10.5 tog duvet, but it may struggle with a king-size 10.5 tog duvet. Ideally, you want the duvet to fit loosely in the washing machine - and a king-size day will probably be too large for the washing and laundry detergent to clean it properly. 

Can you wash a 13.5 tog duvet in a 9kg washing machine?

This all depends on what size duvet you have. Generally, most 13.5 tog duvets should be able to fit in a 9kg washing machine, but this might not be the case if you have a king-size duvet. 

Of course, you can always try your luck - but if your duvet is still dry after a normal wash cycle, it’s a sure sign that it’s too big for your washing machine. 

When was the last time you washed your duvet?

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.  

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