Dear Mary: I love your articles, and I have learned so much from you about which products to purchase. I don’t know if you have ever written anything about down comforters, but I am looking for one that is machine washable, not too expensive, can be used year round and has a lot of loft. — Jackie
Dear Jackie: I’m humbled by your trust in me to make a recommendation for an excellent down comforter. The first thing you need to know is how to rate “down.” Down is the layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers of ducks or geese. It’s the good stuff! A down-filled comforter is, not surprisingly, filled with down and quite luxurious. Down is a very lightweight insulator against cold and also against heat. It is a natural wonder and makes for a fantastic blanket, year round.
Some “down” comforters are filled with a combination of down and feathers, while others are only feathers, which can be stiff and “pokey,” albeit less expensive because they are of a lower quality.
Then comes a new version known as “down alternative” comforters. These are filled with polyester and have no down or feathers in them at all. And as you would expect, the prices of these alternative models are considerably less. Make sure you keep your eyes open for that word “alternative.”
Given your requirements, I recommend that you go for a true down comforter that is duck-down filled. Provided you stick with real down, a comforter with up to 750 fill power (this refers to the amount of down inside the comforter) will be wonderful year round as it will be lightweight, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in winter.
Last, you should pay attention to the quality and thread-count of the comforter’s cover. This should be 100 percent cotton for its breathability and the fact that cotton launders well, with at least 200 thread count, to assure a soft and inviting touch.
As for it being machine washable, all down comforters that are made with cotton covers are washable, provided you follow the steps to do this correctly.
Given all of this information, I don’t think you could go wrong with comforters by Royal Hotel. For example, as I write this column you can get Royal Hotel’s very best queen-size Siberian goose down comforter online, with 100 percent Egyptian cotton, 500 thread count cover and 750 fill power in solid white for less than $200. This is a comforter that, when cared for well and always kept in a duvet cover, will last a lifetime.
Another option would be a comforter from the Pacific Coast Co., made in the USA with imported materials. By way of comparison, as I write, a Pacific Coast queen-size comforter filled with Pyrenees down, 650 fill power in a 420 thread count Egyptian cotton cover is the very same price as the Royal Hotel comforter mentioned above —about $200.
There is no doubt that a good down comforter is a luxury. However, if you make a wise purchase and care for it diligently, you will never have to replace it. And that’s what will make it a very smart purchase. Now that you know what to look for, give yourself time to find just the right comforter. You might even find it on sale. Then treat it with all of the respect and care you would give any highly valued possession.
I wish you well in making your decision.
Dear Mary: I have read a couple of times about your love for Shark Navigator Pro Lift-Away vacuum. My home has all bare surface flooring. Is it just as good for these kinds of floors as for carpet, or do you recommend another vacuum? — Shirley
Dear Shirley: My Shark Navigator Lift-Away Pro is like Houdini! It transforms itself from a vacuum for carpet to one for drapes, stairs and also hard surface floors — almost like magic. The hard surface floor attachment uses a microfiber pad that takes care of even the smallest dust particles. I just love that feature. Given that the machine has anti-allergen HEPA technology, I think you and your floors will be very happy with it. You can just leave it in hard surface mode, knowing that should you opt for area rugs in the future you’ll be all set.
Dear Mary: Two or three years ago, based on your high praise, I bought a Shark Navigator vacuum. I’ve been so pleased with it that I bought one for my daughter-in-law, too. I did have one issue in that my vacuum would not stand upright. We called Shark, described the problem, and they said they would send a new part at no charge. We expected a little plastic ring but instead received an entire new lower head. Such great service!
Subsequently, we were silly enough to buy a $1,800 new vacuum from a door-to-door salesman. But after vacuuming with it and then doing a follow-up with my Shark, we realized we were getting as much dust and debris with the Shark as we did with the expensive one. We returned the new one and are again happy with the Shark. I love your column. Thanks! — Sandy
Dear Sandy: Happy you’re happy with your “Sharky,” Sandy. I am not at all surprised that it won the competition against that pricey vacuum cleaner (which I’m going to bet starts with the letter K) — and at one tenth the cost! I love my Shark, too!
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