How to wash a down jacket is one of the biggest questions that outdoor clothing owners face. You’ve invested in a down jacket, so to preserve its quality, it’s worth investing your time into keeping it looking and functioning at its best.
Many hikers, cyclists, adventurers and climbers believe it isn’t possible to clean a down jacket, for risk of ruining it or being left with a down jacket that’s not as insulating as it once was.
The truth is that it is totally possible to wash a down jacket, you just need to make sure that it’s done properly, using the right equipment and detergent to avoid the panic of thinking you’ve ruined your prized possession. With a bit of time and care, this guide will have your down jacket looking good, feeling warm and will actually extend its usable life.
What you’ll need:
- Front loading washing machine (or large tub if hand washing)
- Down jacket specific washing detergent
- 2 or 3 clean tennis balls or dryer balls
Expected time: 2 – 3 hours
Down Jacket Washing and Drying Method:
1. Pre-Wash Preparation
Before you wash your down jacket, it’s a good idea to remove any loose dirt with a brush. Make sure you do up any zips or velcro, close any flaps and ensure there’s nothing in the pockets. Down jackets can tear against rough or sharp objects and surfaces, so don’t give them any excuse to.
Turn your jacket inside out, and if it’s really dirty, you can even soak it for an hour in warm (not hot) water, before sticking it in the washing machine. This will help to ease off any excess dirt, just try to squeeze out some of the water before you put it in the washing machine, but make sure not to wring the jacket out as this is likely to damage it.
2.a. Machine Washing
It’s important to note that you should only use a front loading washing machine for this step. If you don’t have access to one, we recommend hand washing instead (2.b). Do not use a top loading agitator washing machine, as this can damage the jacket.
The first thing you need to do when you wash your down jacket in a washing machine is clean out the detergent section of any leftover suds or powders. Then if you can, run a hot wash without anything inside the drum. This is to ensure that there’s no residue left in the machine that can damage the delicate plumes in your jacket.
Set the machine to a cool, gentle wash at around 30°C (some machines refer to this as the Wool Cycle). We recommend using a down jacket specific detergent, these are designed not to damage the water-resistant coating or the down itself. If you can get hold of NIKWAX Down Wash Direct, this is a great detergent to use.
Follow the instructions on the down jacket detergent, regarding the amount of detergent to use, and set the cycle going.
Once the machine has finished its cycle, run an additional rinse cycle to make sure all the detergent residue in the down has been washed away, and place the machine on a low speed or a gentle, delicate spin cycle to remove any excess moisture. After that, it’s time to start the drying process (3).
2.b. Hand Washing (skip this step if you followed 2.a)
Machine washing your down jacket will yield the best results, however, if you don’t have access to a front loading washing machine or if you’re not very trusting of your washing machine and you’d rather wash your beloved down jacket by hand, you can do so by placing the jacket in a large tub, or even the bath.
First, fill the tub with warm (not hot) water and leave your jacket to soak for about 30 to 60 minutes. Then, using the same down jacket friendly detergent, gently hand wash the jacket to remove dirt and stains. Finally, rinse the jacket well under cold water, making sure to remove any excess detergent, and then carefully squeeze out any excess water (making sure not to twist or wring it) before you start the drying process.
3. The Drying Process
Once your down jacket has been thoroughly cleaned, carefully lift it from the washing machine or tub, making sure not to twist or wring it en route to the dryer. Don’t be alarmed that it looks like a soggy mess, this will improve as the jacket begins to dry. Before popping it into the dryer, squeeze any excess moisture gently from the jacket, again without twisting or wringing the fabric.
Tumble dry the jacket on a low heat (some dryers call this a Wool or Delicates drying cycle) and before you close the door, throw in two or three clean tennis balls or dryer balls. These help to re-loft the down as it dries and stop it from clumping together. Do not try and speed up the drying process by using a high heat setting as this is likely to damage your jacket.
Take your down jacket out of the dryer approximately every 15 minutes to fluff the jacket by hand, as you would a pillow or a cushion. This might sound quite lengthy, but it will result in returning your puffy jacket to its best. Depending on the amount of down in your jacket, it can take up to 2 hours for it to dry completely, so make sure you’ve got a good book and a cuppa to hand. Once the jacket is mostly dry, you can begin to give it a little shake to reposition the down to any areas that feel a little empty, returning it to the dryer again for another 15 minutes or so. Once it’s completely dry, your down jacket should be as good as new and ready for your next adventure together.
Things to bear in mind:
- Don’t wash your down jacket in a top loading washing machine. The centre agitator is likely to damage it.
- Don’t worry if your jacket smells a little straight after you’ve washed it – this should have disappeared once it’s totally dry.
- The thing to bear in mind when you need to wash a down jacket is to do it as sparingly as possible, but as frequently as necessary, or in other words, about once or twice a year.
- If the outer fabric on your down jacket is old, weak, damaged or deteriorated, we recommend hand washing instead of using a machine.
- If you’ve got a synthetic insulation jacket, the cleaning process is much the same, except you don’t need to be as rigorous with the drying process, as the synthetic material doesn’t clump or absorb water in the same way natural down does.
Follow this simple guide to keep your down jacket in the best condition possible. It is commonly believed that washing a down jacket will damage it, but in fact, keeping it dirty and unkempt is likely to be more damaging. It’s good to take the time to care for your down jacket to ensure it has a long and functional life, keeping you warm. Take a look at our NESSH Down Jacket to explore the features it has to offer and to get to know our story.