Do Down Comforters Smell? A Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Your Bedding

Have you ever wondered if that earthy or musty scent coming from your down comforter is normal? Some claim pristine down should lack odor, while others argue a subtle smell is unavoidable.

This guide will examine the root causes of smells in down bedding and provide tips to keep your comforter fresh. We’ll discuss:

  • Common odors found in down comforters and their origins
  • Proper maintenance to minimize smells
  • Natural deodorizing remedies
  • Construction factors affecting scent
  • Allergy and sensitivity considerations
  • FAQs about fabric softeners, down alternatives, and more

What Is a Down Comforter?

Before diving into odor issues, let’s level-set on terminology.

Down comforters consist of an outer fabric shell packed with interior baffle boxes filled with down feather insulation. The fluffy, soft down helps trap body heat, making comforters ideal for cold weather.

Down used for insulation comes from ducks or geese. Goose down is generally higher quality in terms of warmth, loft, and durability.

Do All Down Comforters Smell?

Contrary to popular belief, a subtle natural scent is inherent to down bedding. The level of odor depends on the:

  • Fill power: Higher fill poder uses larger, more mature down clusters that are less odorous.
  • Type of down: Goose down smells less than lower grade duck down.
  • Fabric shell: High thread count, breathable shells like cotton contain smells.
  • Cleaning routine: Frequent washing keeps odors at bay.

Well-maintained, high quality down with tight fabric should emit minimal smell. However, ignore cleaning guidelines and scents may develop.

Common Down Comforter Odors

If your bedding has an unexpected smell, the main culprits are:

Musty odors

Caused by moisture buildup from:

  • Improper drying
  • Storing in humid environments
  • Bodily perspiration

Mildew odors

Related to moisture, potentially from:

  • Leaks leading to soaked bedding
  • Insufficient drying after washing

Body odors

Trapped sweat and skin cells creating unpleasant scent

Preventing Odors

You can avoid unwanted odors through proper care between washes:

1. Air Out the Comforter

  • Hang it outside when possible
  • Let it sit unmade for a few hours

2. Use Duvet Covers

  • Wash covers more often than comforter
  • Barrier protects interior down

3. Store Properly

  • Avoid humidity
  • Fold loosely in breathable bag

Cleaning Down Comforters

Routine washing every 6-12 months is crucial. We suggest:

Hand washing in bathtub

Pros: Gentle, thorough, preserves construction

Cons: Extremely labor intensive

Machine washing on delicate cycle

Pros: Convenient

Cons: Risk of damage to baffles

See our guide for best practices when machine washing down comforters.

Professional dry cleaning

Pros: Removes difficult odors like mildew or body oil

Cons: Expensive

“I get my down comforters professionally cleaned every few years when odors persist after home washing.” – Down Bedding Expert

Deodorizing Remedies

For smelly bedding, try these simple homemade solutions in addition to washing:

Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda directly on the comforter before airing out. The particles will absorb odors trapped in the down.

White Vinegar

Add 1 cup vinegar to wash cycle. The acid neutralizes unpleasant scents leaving fabrics fresh.


The UV rays in direct sunlight act as a natural sanitizer.

Construction Impacts Scent

Higher end down bedding uses superior materials resulting in less noticeable odors:

  • Goose down has larger clusters that retain less smell
  • Higher fill power down ($600+) uses more mature feathers
  • Tighter thread count (600-900) smooth fabric contains smells
  • Baffle boxes have less insulation shift than sewn-through style

Allergy Considerations

For those with sensitivities, certain models can help:

Hypoallergenic Down

Undergoes extra cleaning to remove allergens. More expensive but less irritating.

Barrier Covers

Protects from dust mites, dander and pollen entering the bedding.

Frequency Asked Questions

Do down alternative comforters smell?

Yes, synthetic fills like polyester or microfiber can hold odors too. Maintain them similarly to down bedding.

Can you use fabric softener with down comforters?

No, fabric softener coats the fibers compromising the down’s lofting ability.

How long should a quality down comforter last?

With proper maintenance, at least 10-15 years depending on initial quality.

Keep Your Down Fresh

While it’s normal for down bedding to have a mild scent, proper cleaning and care will keep odors at bay. Follow these tips:

  • Wash down comforters several times a year
  • Completely dry after washing
  • Use duvet covers for protection
  • Store folded loosely in breathable bag

By taking care of your comforter, you can enjoy cozy warmth for over a decade before odors become an issue.