Home Improvement Magazine

How to Clean and Care a Feather Mattress Topper

By Richard Morse @insidebedroom

Knowing how to clean a feather mattress topper is a very important factor in its life. A mattress topper is a self-contained layer of cushioning that is placed on top of the mattress. Its function is twofold:

  1. It can be used to firm up a mattress that is too soft for you. A firm mattress topper is useful if your current mattress allows you to sink into it and make you feel entrapped, or if your mattress has lost its support.
  2. It can be used to soften a mattress that is too firm for your liking.
  3. A topper can also be used to extend the life of an aging mattress.

A down or feather mattress topper is frequently referred to as a feather bed, and, as is inferred above, significantly increases the comfort of your bed when placed over a regular foam or innerspring mattress. Although more sensitive to pressure and contaminants, a down or feather mattress topper should last several years if you maintain it properly and care for it. The quality of the feathers and cover of the topper are important factors in its life, although of far more importance is how you clean it and keep it fluffed up. Our purpose here is to explain how to clean a feather bed and keep it clean!

Table of Contents

How to Clean a Feather Mattress Topper

How to Clean and Care a Feather Mattress Topper

The best way to keep a feather topper clean is not to get it dirty! Where possible, spot clean it, particularly if you have a cotton slip-on cover for it. If you must wash the topper, your own washing machine will probably not be up to the job. We strongly advise against you trying to do this! A feather or down mattress topper is significantly more fragile than a foam topper. It is far better to care for it properly and keep your topper clean and fresh.

Rather than wash it, hang your feather mattress topper outside on a line and let the wind and fresh air keep it looking and smelling fresh. They are too expensive to take chances with! A feather topper should last at least 8 years if looked after carefully. Airing it in bright sunlight every 4-6 months will extend its life and help remove or reduce the smell that can develop in feather or down mattress toppers over time.

Using a mattress protector over the topper will also help increase its life. Even better, try to find a mattress encasement or protector that can fit over your topper and mattress together. Some can cover toppers and mattresses from 6" to 22" separate or combined thicknesses. You can also use separate protectors for each - mattress and feather or down topper. If you can't source an encasement to suit, then make sure you use a cotton cover (waterproof if possible) over the topper to help keep it clean.

Washing Light Feather Toppers: If your topper is fairly light in weight and you have a large washing machine then you may be able to wash it yourself. Check the Label first: most manufacturers will recommend you using the services of a professional cleaner. If you do it yourself you can damage the feathers and reduce the loft. Make sure you use a feather or down soap and use cold water only. Run it on a short wash cycle, then spin-dry it in a warm dryer for three full cycles minimum to fluff it up.

How to Clean a Feather Mattress Topper: Here is our recommended procedure for washing a feather mattress topper that is starting to give you aches and pains and keeping you awake rather than providing a lovely soft cloud that rapidly sends you to sleep.

    First, read the cleaning or washing instructions on the label. Try to follow these as much as possible.
    If the topper has a removable cover or protector then remove it! Wash that separately. Check the topper - it may be that the cover has been enough to keep the feather or down topper clean. If it looks clean and doesn't smell, then it may not need a good wash. Simply clean the cover.
    If it needs washing, then unless you own a washing machine large enough to accommodate it, check for the nearest Laundromat with a machine that provides room for the feather topper to move around enough for it to be cleaned. It's the movement of the article in the machine that provides the energy to clean it. If your topper simply swirls around with the warm water without moving around in the drum then it may not be adequately cleaned.
    Wash the topper (also referred to as a feather bed), using a warm wash (not hot) and a mild detergent. Try to use a feather or down detergent or soap if you can, but it should be mild. Check the machine for a 'Delicates' setting and use that.
    Feathers may have clumped together during and after washing. Try to separate the clumps before drying. When drying, use a low heat setting and dry the topper slowly rather than rapidly with a high heat setting. Warm is enough, and if you can get some dryer balls then they will help to get your feather topper back into its correct shape with the feathers spread evenly inside it. The dryer balls break up clumps of feathers and tend to spread them more evenly inside your topper. Plastic dryer balls may break up clumps and spread the feathers or down more evenly than wool dryer balls, though you may prefer to try both and compare results.
    Take the topper out of the dryer every 15 - 20 minutes and try to get it into shape manually. Put it back in and run the dryer for another 15 - 20 minutes on a 'warm' setting. Manually try to get into its correct shape again, each time you stop the machine. Break up any clumps of feathers you can feel each time. Continue until the feather topper is dry and the feathers are fluffed up and evenly spread inside the cover.
    Finally, hang the topper outside on a line if you can. A breezy, sunny day is best. The sun and breeze will help complete the drying process. Try not to store your feather topper when it is still damp. If you do so, the feathers are likely to rot. You must be sure that the topper is thoroughly dry throughout before storing it away or putting it on the bed.

Knowing how to clean a feather mattress topper is essential if you have one or intend to purchase a feather or down topper. Washing is a final resort. You can either delay or eliminate the need for washing by airing a feather topper regularly on a washing line on a sunny day with a breeze in the air. You should also get yourself a protector or topper encasement - you may even find an encasement large enough to protect the topper and mattress together. Then all you need do is to spot clean the encasement and air the topper every 6 months at most. You can air it more frequently if you wish.

If you cannot find a washing machine large enough to accommodate your topper, even in a Laundromat, then you will have to spot clean and air it as above. Then manually remove feather or down clumps and smooth the feather topper out.

Types of Feather Mattress Toppers

There are two fundamental types of feather toppers, aka feather beds. One is the pillow-top topper. The pillow-top has two layers of feathers. The bottom layer consists of ordinary feathers that provide depth and a relatively inexpensive base for the topper. The top layer is a cushion containing only down, the small, soft feathers that lie under the functional feathers of the bird. These are the softest feathers that provide a wonderfully soft sleeping surface.

The other main type is a baffle box. With this, there are several rectangular boxes filled with a mixture of down and feathers. The box construction enables the filling to remain in place and not form in clumps. Many prefer this to the pillow top feather mattress, although the latter offers a sheer luxury sleeping surface.

Cleaning Pillow Top Feather Mattress Toppers

You can use a spot treatment fabric pen to clean a pillow top feather topper. However, certain types of stains will leave a mark. Another way is to use a diluted fabric cleaner and a slightly damp cloth. You can then dry the topper as far as possible using a drying cloth. Anything that absorbs moisture will do for drying. Finally, let the feather bed topper completely air dry before pacing it back in its cover and putting it back on the bed.

How to Clean and Care a Feather Mattress Topper

Caring for Feather Mattress Toppers

Each time you clean your sheets or clean your feather or down topper you should also rotate it to even out the wear as far as possible. We don't recommend flipping it unless the instructions, or the vendor, states that it is flippable. This is because many mattress toppers are single-sided and should not be flipped. If your feather topper (or feather bed) is flippable then also flip it.

Spot clean and air your topper protector regularly. If you want another level of protection then, as mentioned earlier, place your feather mattress topper on the mattress then slip a mattress encasement over both together - the topper and the mattress. This will not only help keep the topper in place but will also protect it from spillages, bedbugs, and other contaminants. It is sure to increase the life of your feather or down topper, and extend periods between cleaning or washing. Also, do not allow pets to sleep on your feather topper.

If you need even more protection, then a thin mattress pad should do the job. This Classic Brands mattress pad is fairly thin and available in six mattress sizes with a 22" deep skirt to fit most mattresses plus the topper. It has a thin quilted top that protects the feather topper from spillages and bedbugs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are some of the questions we have had regarding cleaning feather mattress toppers.

How to Clean a Feather Mattress Topper - Conclusion

Knowing how to clean a feather mattress topper properly can extend its life considerably. Unless you can find access to a large washing machine, big enough to take the bulk of the feather mattress topper and still allow it to move about in the washer, cleaning will be a matter of spot cleaning and airing. An alternative approach is to protect the feather or down mattress topper with a mattress encasement or use a thin mattress pad over it. It is easy to ruin a feather bed while cleaning it, so be careful how you do it and treat it with care. Good maintenance and protecting it from getting dirty enough to require washing is a better approach.

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