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How to Wash a Down Jacket

Our best tips and tricks to keep your down jacket puffy and polished.

cropped hand pressing push button of washing machine at home
Jiraporn Gurle / EyeEmGetty Images

Most people take their down jacket for granted, expecting it to perform the same year after year without any maintenance. Over time though, down becomes compacted and dirty, which inhibits its loft and makes the jacket less warm. Cleaning your jacket, revitalizing its warmth and getting it ready for all of your adventures is more straightforward than it may appear.

Before we get into our tips and tricks, we'll answer a few common questions first:

Does washing a down jacket ruin it?

Definitely not — just make sure you don't treat your down jacket (or blanket, or anything down filled) like you would a normal t-shirt or pair of travel pants. Down jackets are more finicky, requiring extra care and attention during the cleaning process.

Can I put my down jacket in the dryer?

Yes, and the trick here is to go low and slow: pick the lowest temperature setting available, and budget some time to get your puffy completely dried out and ready for action.

Is it better to dry clean or wash a down jacket?

Although it may seem like dry cleaning would be the preferred option here, when it comes to down insulation, it's better to wash it — the down plume fill in jackets relies on natural oils to perform at its best, and the harsh chemicals involved in dry cleaning strip those away, weakening your jacket's performance over time.

Now, without further ado, here is our guide to washing a down jacket, the right way.

How To Wash a Down Jacket

Put your jacket into a washing machine without an agitator

It is easiest to do this at a laundromat, but if your home washer is of the large, front-loading variety, feel free to toss it in there. If you use a washing machine with an agitator, you run the risk of tearing open your jacket or clumping the down in large balls inside — so avoid agitators at all costs.

Wash with Nikwax Down Wash

person pouring detergent into a washing machine

Though there are other good down washes out there (namely Grangers), we recommend using Nikwax’s Down Wash. Add the down wash directly into the washing machine, using about three ounces. Follow the directions on the care label of your jacket for specific temperature and cycle settings.

Switch your jacket to the dryer and add tennis balls

Move your jacket over to the dryer, but before you turn it on, add in a package of new tennis balls. As the drier spins, the tennis balls will bounce around inside the drum, breaking up any clumps of down and helping dry the jacket completely. This also helps to restore the loft in the down feathers. As for dryer settings, low heat for a long period of time is the name of the game.

Pause the dryer and manually break up any clumps

Every twenty minutes or so, pause the dryer and manually work out larger clumps of down. While the tennis balls work well to help break up clumps, you’ll need to put some extra effort in to break them up completely.

Tumble dry until the jacket is completely dry

down jacket
Joe Tornatzky

Keeping going until the jacket is dry the entire way through. Not only does moist down function terribly as an insulator, but it’s also prone to mold, which will lead to the true horror: a stinky jacket.

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