Here’s the scenario: you’ve been living in Japan for a few months now. You have your futon and all your other necessary worldly goods. However, your futon is a little bit, shall we say, funky. Maybe you forgot to store it properly or forgot to air it out. You’ll get no judgement from me (I had mold growing on my futon once).
In any case, you may not want to spend the 4500 yen (45 USD) required to have your futon professionally cleaned. I understand; futons are heavy and money is tight.
The good news is, some Japanese futons can be washed at home! I’ve put together this guide from various Japanese sources on washing your futon at home in the washing machine.
As a side note before we start, many people wash their futon in the bathtub. This is done by filling the bathtub with mildly warm water, putting in detergent, and then putting in the futon. Stomping on the futon is used as both a method to wash, and once the water is drained from the bathtub, to squeeze out the water.
In this tutorial, I’m going to describe how to go about washing your futon in the washing machine, which is slightly less straightforward.
Washing Your Futon in the Washing Machine
- Make sure your futon fits comfortably in the washer before starting
- Wash your futon on a sunny day or have access to a clothes dryer
- On a related note, a 5 kg (11 lb) washing machine is only suitable for washing light blankets
- Consider using a coin laundromat washing machine; they are much larger
- Feather futons should not be washed in a washing machine
Instructions for Washing Your Futon in the Washing Machine
1. Roll up your futon
Basically, the best way to roll up your futon to fit in the washer or dryer is much like a sleeping bag.
2. Put your futon in a net or tie it up
This isn’t completely necessary, but putting the futon in a laundry net or tying it up will keep the futon from unraveling. In turn, this will help make sure that the futon is washed evenly.
3. Start washer, put in detergent
Many sites mentioned that there is currently no special futon detergent on the market, even in Japan. Thus, choose your favorite detergent. Both powder and liquid are fine. You should be sure to start the water flowing in the washer first and dissolve the detergent in the water BEFORE putting the futon in the washer. Placing detergent directly on your futon will damage the material.
4. Place futon firmly in washer
Pretty self-explanatory. Put your futon in the washer cylinder.
5. Wash your futon
Use the weakest setting when washing your futon. On an automatic washing machine, put the setting to “hand washed” mode. Most Japanese washers only use cold or room-temperature water; this is okay! According to this site, grime will harden at 60 degrees C (140 degrees F), so it is best to use a lower temperature.
Also, make sure the water wringing wash phase is less than four minutes. Any longer will shorten the life-span of your futon.
6. After washing your futon, squeeze out water
One popular method of wringing the water out of your futon is by putting the futon in the bathtub and stomping on it. Sounds fun to me. Take the futon out of the net before wringing out the water.
7. Completely dry your futon
You NEED to make sure your futon is completely dry before using it or storing it. The best way to dry your futon is to put it outside after wringing out the water. If it isn’t possible to put the futon outside, use a dryer. To use a dryer, roll up the futon in the same way that you did for the washer. If you don’t have a dryer, coin laundries often have large-size dryers. In a pinch, you can place your futon in the bathroom, close the door, and turn on the drying fan. The drying fan is often the switch above or below the light switch.
And there you have it: washing your futon in your home washing machine.
How to Take Care of a Japanese Futon Series
The below Japanese sites provided me with the information used to write this article about washing your futon. I’ve listed the articles starting with the sites with the most helpful photographs/illustrations. Even if you don’t read Japanese, the photos can really help you out.
Futon no sentaku houhou (Suzuki Futons)
Futon no sentaku houhou (Baku no Futon)