A down jacket is a trustworthy companion – always with you during those winter camping trips, rainy day hikes and backpacking, and over-air conditioned rooms. Sometimes, it will even go under your sleeping pad to serve as a pillow when spending the night in the wilderness.
Over time, oil, sweat, and dust from your skin will penetrate your jacket’s fabric, weakening the fleecy down inside. When this happens, you may notice that your cherished garment is not as snazzy as it used to be, doesn’t feel fluffy, or it is no longer warm like before. All these are signs that your jacket needs a good wash.
Any person who spends time skiing, hiking, or adventuring outdoors knows that a down jacket requires care and attention to give it a longer lifespan. A well-maintained jacket will offer unbeatable insulation and could mean the difference between enjoyment and just basic survival.
Good news? Washing and caring for your down jacket is a simple process. Here is a guide on how to wash down jacket that will bring its spiffiness back and lengthen its lifespan.
1. Study The Instructions
Read the care label to see if the jacket needs any specific care. Are there some kind of special instructions that you should put into consideration when washing down jacket? Does your garment need hand washing, a special cycle of machine wash, or professional cleaning?
Knowing exactly what is required of you will help you provide the best care for your jacket. If you only need to do a minor cleaning like removing mud splotches or coffee spills, spot washing alone could be sufficient and you may not need to hand wash or machine wash your jacket.
2. Fasten All Zippers And Clasps
Down filled garments can tug easily when wet. It is therefore important that you take care of things that may pull or rip the material during the cleaning process. Zip up the zippers, close loop and hook fasteners, secure any flaps, and do up the pockets.
3. Get Rid Of Excess Dirt
Using a dry piece of cloth or sponge, wipe any dirt, loose mud or debris from your jacket. Removing large clumps of dust and mud will make the washing process much easier because you will only have the smaller dirt particles to deal with.
4. Remove Tough Stains
If your jacket’s got some tough stains, get rid of these before proceeding. A simple spot cleaning will get the job done and as we mentioned, you really don’t have to give your jacket a full wash unless it is really dirty.
Spot cleaning is always a better option than a hand or machine wash because first, you will use your jacket immediately, and second, you will help your garment last longer because full cleaning subjects it to a lot more rips and tear.
To spot wash your jacket:
- Get some mild soap and water, pour these in a small container, and stir to make a paste. If you have a down-safe soap, even better because this one won’t be too harsh on the inside fill.
- Hold the stained fabric away from the down filling.
- Dip a piece of cloth into the paste and once it is soaked, use it to clean the soiled fabric. Alternatively, apply the paste on the stain, let it soak for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse it out.
- Rinse the fabric carefully so that water doesn’t seep into the insulation fill.
- Put your jacket out to dry.
- Make sure the water has dried out completely before putting the jacket away.
- If your jacket is dirty, then you can proceed to a full hand wash or machine wash.
5. Give The Jacket A Soak
Fill a large container, sink, or bathtub with warm water and dip the jacket in it. Agitate it gently with your hands and then leave it to soak for about 20 minutes.
How to wash down jacket properly depends on how well you do your pre-cleaning. And soaking will help you remove any excess dirt, mud, and even residue soap from spot washing. Once you are done soaking, remove the jacket from the water and squeeze it gently to discard excess water.
Machine Washing Your Jacket
1. Clean The Soap Compartment
Even before you throw your expensive garment inside the washing machine, make sure the detergent compartment is clean. You don’t want any leftovers from your regular soap in this section, as these can ruin the down feathers.
Wipe the soap chamber with a wet cloth to get rid of any residue detergent. Once the compartment is clean, pour the right amount of down-safe soap as instructed by the soap manufacturer or as indicated on the washing machine.
It would be nice to use the same soap that you used during spot cleaning to reduce the risk of damaging your down fill. Using different soaps on down feathers can strip of their oil, causing them to lose their fullness and loft, which could result in reduced insulation.
2. Put It In The Washer
Place your jacket in the washing machine alone and set the right cycle. Resist the urge to throw in your fishing gloves, socks, or the rest of the dirty clothes from your last camping or backpacking trip. You may think that you are killing several birds with one stone but other clothes may contain zippers and sharp objects that may pull and rip the material of your jacket.
Before pressing the start button, set the washing machine to delicate, cold wash, wools, or hand wash. Only use a machine that doesn’t have the agitator, as this can tear the material and ruin the down fill, rendering the jacket useless.
3. Rinse Thoroughly
Once the machine has completed the washing cycle, run the rinse cycle to wash out any remaining detergent. You don’t want any leftover soap on the material as this could damage the oils of the down feathers, compromising the insulation of your jacket.
Remove your jacket from the washing machine and cradle it like a baby as you move it to the drier. Be careful because down can get ridiculously heavy when wet and you can easily rip the stitching or the fabric if you carry the garment anyhowly.
Gently put the jacket into the drier and set it at the lowest heat. Completely drying a down jacket may take a while, but you need to make sure there is no water left in it before you take it out of the drier. We wouldn’t advise you to air-dry your jacket because it would take days to dry completely and if the weather is not cooperative, your dear investment could attract mildew or mold.
Hand Washing Your Jacket
Sometimes machine washing just won’t cut it, especially when your jacket needs a good scrubbing. If you just returned from this particularly muddy or dusty trip, it may be great to give your jacket a hand wash. This will help break up those large clumps and debris that may be hiding in the pockets, stitching, and cracks of your jacket, where the washing machine may not be able to reach.
However, down is fragile and even though you want to restore its fluffiness, hand washing your jacket too often will cause you more harm than good. If you don’t want to always find yourself patching your down jacket, stick to one hand wash a year and use a machine when you really need an elaborate cleaning.
1. Fill A Large Container With Water
It can be a bathtub, laundry tub, or large sink. Fill this with cold water and add down-safe soap. Make sure your jacket recommends hand washing before deciding to ditch the washing machine. If you don’t have down-safe soap, find out from your retailer which other detergent you can use for your particular jacket.
2. Soak Your Jacket
Dip the jacket into the water and press it down so that it can get compete saturated with the soapy water. Agitate the jacket gently with your hands back and forth to remove dirt and then leave it to soak for at least 30 minutes.
Once the 30 minutes have elapsed, press the jacket onto the side of the container and tilt the container at an angle to drain the soapy water. Do not pick the jacket up. Add clean water to the tub and rinse the jacket. Drain the soapy water and repeat the process until the water flows out clean.
If the water is still soapy even after rinsing for several times, soak your jacket again. You can leave it for 15 minutes this time, then come back and drain the soapy water. Rinse your jacket again and pour clean water over it to remove any leftover soap.
4. Squeeze The Excess Water Out
Using your hands, squeeze the jacket to discard excess water before lifting it up for drying. Avoid lifting your jacket when it is heavy with water as this can damage the fabric and the down filling.
Drying A Down Jacket
Now you know how to wash down jacket, but how about drying it? As stated, we don’t recommend leaving your jacket out to dry in the sun, as this may take forever, plus you really don’t want to be dealing with the funky mold smell after the long wait. As such, you should dry your down jacket using a drier. Here is how you go about it:
1. Spin The Jacket
Damp down takes time to dry even when using a drier but you can hasten the process by draining as much water as possible before starting the drying process. If you are using a washing machine, run your jacket through several spinning cycles after you are done rinsing. Two or three additional spins are enough to get things done. If you can increase the speed of each spin cycle, the better, as this will remove even more moisture.
If you are hand washing, squeeze the jacket gently using your hands to clear out the extra water. Do not wring your jacket, as this could ruin its down.
2. Tumble Dry
After spinning or squeezing the excess water, put the jacket into the drier and throw in three or four clean tennis balls. The idea is to end up with a puffy jacket and adding the tennis balls will do the magic. As they bounce up and down and side to side in the drier, they will fluff the down inside the jacket so that it doesn’t clump together.
Note that drying alone can take up to four hours but you should never raise the temperature above low, as this can cause damage or even make some of the jacket parts to melt. We recommend tumble drying because leaving a down jacket to dry by air can take so long but if you do not have a drier, you can still hang it out to air dry. Just make sure to spray the jacket before putting it away to get rid of the awful mildew smell.
As your jacket dries, take it out of the drier after every 30 minutes and shake it vigorously to break up the down clumps. If the feathers have stopped clumping together and the jacket feels fluffy and light again, then it is dry. Hang it outside for a few hours before putting it on or storing it.
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A down jacket can be a lifesaver in chilly situations. However, it will only be effective if dry and taken good care of. The above tips on how to wash down jacket will keep your prized fluffy working properly and serving you year after year.
Cleaning your down jacket is not as daunting as it seems. As long as you know what needs to be done, your garment will come out looking brand new. Just do not overdo it to avoid damaging the down feathers and lowering their insulation capacity.
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- Can a Down Jacket Be Washed Instead of Dry Cleaned?, livestrong.com