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How to Wash a Down Jacket Without Ruining It

A down jacket is a must-have in the winter, whether you live somewhere with a cold season or your love winter sports. Men’s down jackets are much warmer than synthetic materials and are available in ultra-light options, making them a less bulky alternative to synthetic down jackets and parkas. Goose or duck down is an effective insulator since the fluffiness creates lots of small air pockets, trapping the warm and air retaining heat. Down jackets are definitely on the pricier end, especially if you have one of the best Canada Goose jackets which are designed to tackle the most vicious wind chill. After it’s been sitting in the back of the closet all year, it desperately needs some TLC. Instead of pushing that musty old jacket aside and wasting your paycheck on a new one, make all your gear look brand new by learning how to launder your down garments properly. 

Knowing how to wash a down jacket is a key life skill if you want your jackets to last longer. Dirt and body oils can accumulate on this outerwear and make it less effective. When you wash it regularly, it looks and performs its best. 

No matter what kind of down jacket you buy,  one thing is for sure: you can’t just pop it in the washer and dryer along with your normal clothes. Or can you? Down cannot insulate when wet, and it takes a long time to dry. Still, this shouldn’t scare you away from washing a down jacket at home – it’s definitely possible when done correctly.

In fact, many people suggest that washing your down at home actually has benefits over taking it to the dry cleaner who doesn’t necessarily know how to wash down jackets. The process can leave your once-fluffy down flatter than a pancake and exposes the down to harsh chemicals. Luckily, there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure that your down jacket comes out looking and feeling brand new.

How To Wash a Down Jacket

1. Spot clean your jacket

Use a spray stain remover or some down soap with water to spot clean, removing dirt or spots as the washer won’t take care of this. Scrub with a toothbrush or a soft sponge, rubbing gently in circles. Give it a few minutes to set before wiping it away.

2. Place the jacket in a front-load washer

A front-load washing machine is ideal because, unlike a top-loading washer, it doesn’t have an agitator, which can damage a down filling. If you can’t access a front-loading washer, be sure to use only the gentle or delicate cycle on a top loader, but damage may occur. A front loader is absolutely necessary if your down jacket is thick or a more substantial parka since the box wall construction can be ripped otherwise. 

3. Place down soap in the machine

While many think getting your down wet is dangerous, using normal detergent is the biggest faux pas that will ruin your jacket. Regular soap strips the oils in down and doesn’t rinse clean, so it’s better to use a cleaner specifically for down. NikWax Down Wash is a popular choice, but you can buy plenty of other affordable options on sites like Amazon and Walmart. Read the instructions on the soap and don’t add more, as an excess can stop your down from lofting. For extremely dirty garments, stop the machine mid-wash and let it soak for up to an hour. Run on an extra wash cycle without soap to ensure no residue is left. Avoid spin cycles or set them as low as possible and never wring. Below, we’ll share our pick for the best down soap. 

4. Dry on low heat or air dry

Maybe you have somewhere to go, and you’re tempted to pop it in the dryer on high heat. Well, this task is best done the day before you have to attend to any pressing matters because it’s not the fastest process. Low heat is necessary, so be careful if you’re doing this at a laundromat since commercial machines can get very hot even on the lowest setting. Add a tennis or dryer ball to fluff the feathers evenly and avoid clumping. Rather than leaving your jacket on for the full cycle, take it out once in a while and pull apart the clumps with your fingers. If this process seems too nerve-wracking for you, air-drying is a safe bet. Lay flat on a towel in a warm, dry spot. Flip and de-clump/fluff occasionally.

Tips to Remember When Washing a Down Jacket

  • Tiny holes in your down aren’t uncommon, but washing them with holes will only make them more obvious. Rather than trying to band-aid it with duct tape, pick up some down jacket repair patches, which can often be bought in the same color as your outerwear. 
  • Store it hanging in your closet – when it’s stored in a suitcase or drawer, squished feathers won’t always re-loft the way they should.
  • Always empty pockets and zip your coat up before placing it in the washer to avoid unexpected stains or unzipped zippers causing a tear.

How to Hand Wash a Down Jacket

  1. Fill a big sink or bathtub with lukewarm water and the proper amount of down soap based on the instructions.
  2. Fully submerge the garment in water. To work in your soap, push it up and down several times. 
  3. Drain water from the tub and gently press it out of the jacket. Keep filling your basin with clean water until the suds are gone. You may have to do this a handful of times before the water runs clear.
  4. Drain water out of the jacket but never wring it. Gently carry it to the dryer and use two hands as it may be heavy. Try to even out clumps and place it in the dryer, turning it on the lowest heat setting on tumble dry and checking once in a while to de-clump. If you’re not placing it in the dryer, air dry, but keep in mind that this process can take nearly a week and may invite mildew. 

Remember that less is more when it comes to washing a down jacket, especially if you’re figuring out how to wash a Patagonia down jacket or a similar premium down jacket. The less you wash your down, the longer it’ll last, so try to keep it clean and purchase a shell if you’re frequently dirtying it up on outdoor adventures. 

If you don’t have access to the right washing machine, consider starting with a hand wash. Remember to air dry for as long as possible (up to 48 hours), even after you take it out of the dryer since down holds water so easily. You don’t want to risk clumping those feathers and catching a chill on a snowy day, so follow the above steps if you want to stay as cozy as possible for this winter and many to come. Read on to see the essentials that every down jacket owner should have when laundry day comes around. 

Using a down-specific detergent like Nikwax doesn’t just leave your outerwear sparkling clean. Remember to read the instructions and dose accordingly. It’ll be puffier, and after those delicate feathers get a good clean, and a better loft means more warmth in chilly conditions. If you run out of Nikwax, a gentle detergent such as Woolite may work, but the same high-quality results aren’t guaranteed since down wash specifically works to preserve the natural oils in down.

While tennis balls are a great choice to toss in the dryer, so are these wool balls. Unlike tennis balls, they don’t contain synthetic materials that can sometimes release chemicals when heated in the dryer. Additionally, tennis balls are sometimes treated with colorants, and nobody wants a stained jacket. Think shorter drying times, softer fabric, and less static in your laundry loads. 

Rather than buying your dryer balls and down wash separately, get this convenient kit, which is more affordable than a la carte purchasing. Made in England, Granger’s down kit works on everything from down outerwear to sleeping bags and comforters. The soap itself is scentless and leaves garments feeling fresh. 

Dryers are not a friend of down (especially laundromat dryers), and this accessory can help with the air drying process. While you can certainly air dry it on a towel on top of a surface, a drying rack like this will allow air to circulate better and speed up the drying process. It will also ensure that surfaces below, like a table or a bed, won’t get soaked during the drying process.

Got a little dirt, debris, or maybe even a stain on your down? If it’s otherwise moderately clean, skip the extensive wash and dry process and instead use this natural liquid which eliminates stains and odors, acting as an at-home dry cleaning agent that leaves behind zero residue. A great buy for maintaining your jacket between laundering sessions.