Q: Can a down comforter be washed at home? A: Washing a down comforter is not wise, because the down could clump and the ticking could shrink...

Share story

Q: Can a down comforter be washed at home?

A: Washing a down comforter is not wise, because the down could clump and the ticking could shrink and wrinkle, either of which might ruin the comforter. Furthermore, soap and water remove essential oils from feathers, diminishing their loft.

With good day-to-day care, however, a comforter can last for at least several years without needing to be dry-cleaned. Always keep the comforter in a duvet cover, which is like a big pillowcase with ties or buttons along the open end. A duvet cover looks good, and it also protects the comforter from dirt and dust.

If a spill does reach the comforter, spot-clean it with a mild soap, such as Woolite. Push as much down out of the way as possible so it doesn’t get wet during washing. To prevent the down from becoming musty, let the comforter dry thoroughly in an airy spot.

When you get out of bed each morning, shake the comforter to restore the down’s loft. You also should air out the comforter regularly on dry, breezy days; this allows the down to circulate and removes trapped moisture.

Down is very warm and insulating, but it’s also lightweight. Depending on your comforter and climate, a down comforter may be used year-round. If you store the comforter during the warmer months, keep it in a bag that isn’t snug and allows air to circulate. Never encase it in plastic. Fortunately, down can be reused in a new casing.

Q: How do I decide what size rug to use for a room?

A: One important consideration when choosing a rug is the traffic pattern. For example, the carpet shouldn’t force people to walk with one foot on the rug and the other on the bare floor.

The next factor to think about is the size of the room. A small room looks best, and most unified, with a rug that takes up most of the floor space and ends no more than a foot away from the wall around the perimeter.

Break a large room into cozier areas with smaller rugs, each holding a group of chairs or a work area. Smaller rugs should extend at least to the front of a sofa but not more than a few inches beyond the back.

Send questions to mslletters@marthastewart.com.

Sorry, no personal replies.