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How to store bedding when it's off season

Stowing your comforter isn't as simple as out of sight out of mind.

A bottle of laundry detergent and clothes in a hamper Credit: Getty Images / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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When spring finally sprang this year, I was more ready than ever to get the winter bedding off my bed and out of sight. As I freed my down duvet of its cover and folded the insert itself, I wondered about the best practices for storing bedding (I’m Reviewed’s sleep writer, so all things snooze-related are always on my mind). After all, a lot of us have seasonal blankets and flannel sheets that we prefer not to use all the time.

It turns out that natural fabric aficionados, including me, face the brunt of bedding storage issues—such as mildew growing from dampness, or infestations of clothes moths. Here’s everything you need to know about stowing your bedding during off seasons.

How to store sheets

sheets
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The biggest concern with cotton sheets, in particular, is mildew, which is why dryness is of the utmost importance.

Sheets are one of the easier types of bedding to store, as they require less space and are rotated in and out more frequently than, say, a comforter or quilt. That’s not to say they’re completely simple—we all know the woes of trying to fold a fitted sheet. But before you get to stowing them in the closet, there are a handful of things worth considering.

Mildew is one major problem for cotton bedding, including sheets and duvet covers. It’s caused by various molds that are always present in the air. These molds thrive in damp, warm, and dark spaces. As such, it’s key to make sure your bedding is completely dry before putting it away, whether you use a dryer, clothesline, or drying rack. If you are unpleasantly surprised by mildew on cotton bedding, put it in the sun, as the UV rays can kill it, and let it air for a few hours. Afterwards, if your sheets still smell musty, you can soak the affected areas in a solution that's equal parts vinegar and water. You'll want to run them through the wash to replace lingering vinegar scent with the smell of fresh detergent. (Fortunately for fans of jersey blends or microfiber, polyester tends to be mildew-resistant.)

The area where you store sheets is another consideration. The space should be clean and dry, according to Sean Cormier, an associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York who has expertise in textiles. A dehumidifier in the closet or room where you're storing bedding can help cut back on ambient moisture. It’s also best to store sheets and other bedding in an area that doesn’t get excessive sun exposure to prevent fading, Cormier says.

Cotton sheets also have a propensity for wrinkling, which happens when the fabric is distorted by use (or folding) and the fibers don’t recover their original shape. Maybe crinkles don’t bother you—but if they do, removing sheets from the dryer as soon as they are fully dry can help limit it. You can also purchase wrinkle-resistant cotton bedding—like this popular sheet set from Target—which is created by using a specific acid in manufacturing that alters the cotton’s cellulose chains to prevent distortion.

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I wondered whether the creases caused by folding sheets and other bedding could be another source of wear and tear, especially when it’s stowed for months on end. Fortunately, Cormier says you don’t need to worry about it.

How to store quilts and wool blankets

wool
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Wool bedding and blankets require careful storage to prevent pesky clothes moths from making their way in.

Bulky items, like quilts, often have longer storage periods than sheets (which you should wash and change every couple weeks). When the season ends, launder or dry-clean quilts per label instructions and (again) be sure they’re completely dry before they’re stowed. Cormier suggests storing them in plastic, as it keeps them clean and protects them from moisture.

Wool blankets are a bit more challenging—if you’re not careful, you might find yourself with moths on your hands, er, in your bedding. As with most other bedding, it’s essential to store wool that’s clean and dry. Once the item is clean, check for pests before placing it in an airtight container. Cedar chests have been rumored to keep clothes moths away, but this is more attributable to their tight seals than the cedar itself.

How to store comforters and duvets

duvet clean
Credit: Getty Images / Olga Nikiforova

Natural fill comforters have their own storage requirements that will keep your fluff lofty for longer.

It may be tempting to vacuum seal your down comforter for the spring and summer, given you can shrink it down to a fraction of its original size, but this isn’t the best choice for the down fill itself. When you vacuum-seal a duvet, you may over-compress the down and compromise its loft, says Katie Elks, the director of design and product development at Brooklinen. Alternatively, “you can hand-compress the comforter into a breathable or cotton bag, as it protects from dust but allows moisture to escape,” she says.

As you might have guessed, puffy blankets should be stored clean, which is one of the reasons it’s key to use a duvet cover throughout your duvet’s on-season. Down comforters typically require dry cleaning, though Elks notes that “dry cleaning will shorten the life-span of the comforter, as the chemicals remove the natural oils in the down and the clusters will break down faster.” Instead, she suggests airing your duvet out on a clothesline on a day when it’s dry outside, then shaking it out. Personally, I have yet to wash my down-filled duvet, which I’ve owned for just over two years. It’s stored in the plastic bag it came in (that has a couple holes on the corners to allow the duvet to breathe) during the summer and always in a duvet cover during the winter, so I haven’t felt it’s necessary.

Synthetic-fill comforters differ from ones with natural fill in that they seldom require dry cleaning. It’s best practice to store them clean, too. While you should abide by tag instructions at your end-of-season cleaning, synthetic-fill comforters can often be laundered at home before putting away.

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