Before a busy summer season, it's always good to get all of your backpacking and camping gear sorted, cleaned, and ready to go for your next adventure. Down jackets are a indispensable part of your standard adventure arsenal, but are often some of the trickiest to maintain. If done right, washing your down jacket won’t just get rid of marks and odors, but it’ll also help rejuvenate the insulating properties of the filling.
We know it can be stressful putting an expensive backpacking essential like your down jacket in the washing machine; it's a tough one to get right! You need to clean it with special products that won’t ruin the unique feather construction – but not too often, otherwise you’ll risk damaging it, and on the right setting. Then there’s the drying. No need to panic though, just follow these easy steps to keep yours in great condition.
First, brush any mud off your jacket – by hand is fine – then zip up zippers and pockets. Once zipped up, turn it inside out. This will help protect the outer layer from ripping in the drum of the washing machine.
Spot clean any deep, bad stains with a down-specific cleaner such as NikWax’s Down Wash Direct, and let that soak for about 15 minutes.
Clean out the detergent compartment of your washing machine as residue from normal soaps can damage your down jacket. Put it in the washing machine on its own so it can’t get caught on anything, and fill the drawer with your chosen cleaner. Be sure to check the instructions on the back of the packet for quantities.
Put it on a cold wash and select the ‘delicates’ or ‘hand wash’ setting if you have it.
As soon as your washing machine beeps – don’t let your jacket sit in there for too long or it’ll start to smell! – pop it on a quick rinse cycle to make sure all the cleaning fluid has disappeared.
To dry your down jacket, run it through a couple of spin cycles, then gently squeeze any excess water out by hand, being careful not to squish the feather filling too hard and alter the shape.
You can air dry your down jacket, but a tumble dryer will guarantee the best results.
Set your tumble dryer to the lowest heat setting and add your down jacket along with two drier balls or clean tennis balls. As the balls bounce around in the drum they’ll work to fluff up the feather filling, stopping them from sticking together and losing their insulation. It’ll take a couple of hours for your jacket to completely dry, and it’s a good idea to interrupt the cycle every half an hour to shake it out and make sure the feathers aren’t clumping.
You’ll know your jacket is dry inside and out when it feels light and fluffy.
1) If you use your down jacket weekly, you should try to wash it at least every other month. For seasonal users, twice a year should do the trick.
2) Don’t be tempted to put any old cleaner in the drum with your favorite jacket. Normal detergents can strip down feathers of their natural oils, making them weak and brittle - we want them strong and fluffy to keep you warm! – and interfere with the water-repellent abilities of the shell exterior.
3) Don’t ever iron your down jacket – it will melt!
4) Always store your jacket – and anything filled with down for that matter – in a cool dry place, and hang it up rather than scrunching or folding it into a bag if possible.
And now that you know how to clean your down, can we suggest putting our Men and Women's Full Down Jackets to the test?