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Primer: How to Wash a Down Jacket

There are a handful of essential gear items found in every outdoorsman’s collection of trail-ready-wear. One such item, though, often finds itself coveted more than most due to its warming and insulating properties while out and about for hours or days on end. We’re speaking, of course, about the down jacket. A puffy yet comfortable article of outerwear offering a cozy fit in otherwise unbearable temperatures.

Such reliance on the down jacket’s warming properties often results in continued and consistent wear throughout the chilly fall and winter seasons. And with this constant exposure, a favorite down jacket often encounters some serious abuse, if not a significant dirtying in the process. Unfortunately, this is an inevitable reality existing at the corner of the jacket’s intended use and environments they’re worn in. Needless to say, washing your down jacket is a must to ensure multi-season use and a mitigation of straight-up offensive odors from emanating off the item in close quarters. Clearly, no one likes a dirty or smelly down jacket, so if you’re looking to keep yours clean for the foreseeable future, follow these simple steps for washing this reliable gear.


Keeping Things Fluffy

The first step in learning how to wash a down jacket is to understand what’s keeping you warm and insulated when wearing one. In this case, we’re speaking of what are called down feathers – the insulating layer found on geese and ducks located between the skin and the oily layer of their hollow outer feathers. This layer works to keep them warm in frigid waters and air temps, which is why down feathers are used in the construction of these jackets.

What’s keeping you warm and insulated are down feathers – commonly found on geese and ducks.From here, we need to consider storage when not in use. With that in mind, the most common mistake we often find is where these jackets are aggressively stuffed and stored in their respective travel stuff sacks. And while this is a great space-saving device for backpacking or camping trips, over time down feathers in such cramped spaces will clump and stick together – resulting in spotty insulation and cold patches in the jacket. So, in order to avoid this unfortunate scenario, be sure to keep the jacket unfurled when storing it and only use the stuff sack when traveling.


5 Easy Steps

Aside from keeping the overall appearance of your down jacket in check, washing it also protects the insulation. That’s because a good wash from time to time protects the jacket’s DWR finish from wearing down due to body oils, dirt, abrasions, and overall grime. Therefore, based on how often and how heavy your down jacket is worn, it’s generally suggested they receive a fresh wash about once a month to once every three months. Here’s how it’s done.

Pro Tip:

When drying your jacket, throw a couple tennis balls into the dryer as well as they’ll help restore the natural fluff of the down material.

  1. You’ll need a front-loading washing machine to get the job done right without damage. Why? Because the agitator of top loading machine (the middle cylindrical mechanism that spins the clothing) can easily damage the down feathers.

  2. Set the dial to cold water, and add an appropriate amount of down cleaner. Normal detergents can sometimes strip down feathers of their natural oils – reducing their fluffiness in the process – and can eventually lead to them becoming brittle and broken down.

  3. After the wash cycle, give your down jacket a thorough rinse to remove and down cleaner residue from the jacket. Some owners like to run it through an extra cycle if it’s especially dirty.

  4. Once the washing stage is complete, toss the jacket into the dryer on low heat. You’re going to want to make sure the jacket gets fully dry at this point which may warrant a couple additional low heat cycles as well.

  5. Throughout the process, it’s very important to not use any bleach, fabric softeners, or even iron the jacket after drying it as the heat could very well burn or melt the material.

Our Pick: NikWax Down Wash Direct

Purposed for both hydrophobic DWR gear and regular down, this cleaner not only refreshes but restores water repellency all while revitalizing insulation in the process. Leaving your favorite down jacket looking like new each and every time.

Purchase: $11

Hands On

Time to Patch Things Up

Like most down jackets, odds are yours is lightweight yet durable thanks to its low-denier nylon construction. However, this material is still susceptible to rips or tears while out and about. If this happens, no need to panic, all it takes is a little nylon fabric repair tape or some fabric glue which is easily found at any crafts store for an easy fix. Also, as a precaution, it’s advised to stay away from sewing the hole shut, as this leaves the jacket more vulnerable to additional tears and rips down the road.

For rips and tear, stay away from sewing the hole shut, as this leaves the jacket vulnerable to additional tears and rips.
Just like any other high-ticket outdoor item, a little care and respect for your gear can go a long way in preserving its lifespan. This not only goes for down jackets, but any other products built for heavy outdoor use. Therefore, no matter where the trail or the lift may take you, treat these insulted jackets with the same warming embrace they offer on both cold days and bone-chilling nights.

Best Packable Travel Jackets

Looking for something more lightweight and travel ready for Spring? Have a look at this roundup of the best packable travel jackets and scoop up a couple before the next trip.