How to Wash a Down Jacket

As the temperature begins to drop, it’s time to make sure your winter weather clothing is ready to help you battle the cold. You do not want to discover that your jacket needs to be cleaned or that you can only find one glove when an early winter storm throws a wrench into your plans.

I love the warmth that a down jacket provides but with normal wear and occasional winter exploring, down jackets eventually become dirty, lose their loft, and acquire the smell of a yeti. You can not, however, toss a down jacket into the washing machine with regular detergent.

Yet, with the right detergent and tools, you can bring life back into your jacket. Learn how to wash a down jacket and stay warm for many more winters.

How to Wash a Down Jacket

Materials

  • Washing machine without a center agitator
  • Down detergent
    • I use Nikwax Down Wash. It is water based, biodegradable, and contains no flourocarbons (PFCs) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Large bath towel
  • Dryer
  • Dryer balls (or clean tennis balls)

Directions to Washing a Down Jacket

  1. First, empty the jacket pockets, wipe away loose dirt or debris, close all zippers and clasps, and turn the jacket inside out.
  2. Place the down jacket in a washing machine that does not have a center agitator. A center agitator can damage the jacket’s down cells. If you do not have a washing machine without a center agitator, you will need to make a visit to a laundromat or friend’s house.
  3. Add the proper amount of down detergent to the machine’s dispenser (read your down detergent’s instructions to know the correct amount). You should not use regular detergent for a down product because it will damage the feathers and ruin their loft.
  4. Set the washing machine to a warm wash with a second rinse on a delicate, hand-wash, or wool cycle (I’m almost certain that these are all virtually the same thing). The second rinse will make sure that all the detergent is removed from the jacket.
  5. After the wash cycle is complete, remove the jacket and squeeze out the excess water. Then, lay the down jacket on the large bath towel, roll up the jacket in the towel and gently press to absorb more water.
  6. Place the damp jacket into the dryer and run on low heat for 15 minutes. Dry with dryer balls or clean tennis balls to fluff the down during drying.
  7. Stop and remove the jacket every 15 minutes to fluff and even out clumps of down. Dry the jacket for another 15 minutes and continue to alternate between hand fluffing and machine drying.
  8. Once dry, your jacket is now clean, fluffy, and ready to keep you warm.

Advice

  • Always check the care instructions of your jacket before washing. If the care instructions say to dry clean only, you should dry clean your jacket. However, if the jacket is machine washable, the above method should do the job.
  • When fluffing the jacket in between drying cycles, lay the jacket flat to fluff. Holding the jacket up will cause gravity to pull down the wet down.
  • Down jackets and sleeping bags should be stored uncompressed to retain their loft and heat trapping ability. Short term compression is fine, but they should not be stored compressed. AND, never store wet down.
  • Only wash the entire jacket when need. Regular spot cleaning is your best routine option.