In this economy, we're all forced to be penny pinchers. And it's a shame, since many of us love luxury. Down and feather bedding certainly sounds luxurious, but it can be an economical expense. Let me explain. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends we lower our thermostats by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day in order to save 10 percent on our heating bill. And even in Florida, we're sure to have some cold nights. • Here's where down feathers come in. With their natural insulating properties, down insulates by trapping warm air and wicking away moisture. And down comforters are light, too, so you don't feel buried under heavy coverings. Down is also 100 percent natural, not petroleum-based like some synthetic bedding fillers.
Here is a list of tips for buying and caring for a down comforter from the American Down and Feather Council.
• The best comforter stitching allows the down to remain fluffy while minimizing shifting and bunching. Baffle (three-dimensional boxes) and sewn-through constructions are the best options.
• Look for comforters with shells made of 100 percent cotton and at least a 230-thread count. This will maximize fluffiness and will keep the down from escaping the comforter.
• Oversized comforters tend to drape better and accommodate larger mattresses.
• The term "fill power" on the label refers to the comforter's insulating ability. The higher the fill power, the more insulating ability per ounce. Look for products with fill powers of 525 or higher.
• Place a cover over your down comforter to protect it from dust, dirt and body oils.
• Shake out comforters regularly to prevent the down from bunching up.
• Comforters can be refreshed by being aired out on a clothesline or shaken out a window.
• It is important to follow the instructions on the care label, but most comforters can be machine washed on a gentle cycle using mild, non-bleach detergent. For oversized comforters, go to a Laundromat with oversized washing machines.
• To dry a comforter, place it in a dryer on a low setting, and toss in two or three tennis balls to break up any clumps that formed during washing. Drying times vary, but the process may take several hours. It is important that the comforter be dried thoroughly before use or storage to avoid mildew.
• Look for products that carry guarantees against defects in materials and workmanship. The best products have the longest warranties, making them the best value.
• Lastly, be sure to always read the labels because federal and state regulations specify how down and feather products should be listed. The ADFC's Seal of Approval on the labels is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. If you are interested in more information on down and feather bedding, check out the ADFC Web site at www.downandfeather.org.