How to Wash a Down Jacket

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I went almost years without ever washing my first down jacket mostly because I was afraid of ruining it. After all I had spent a pretty good chunk of money on it and could not stomach having to get a new one. I finally did multiple hours of research and gave it the spa day it deserved. In this guide I am going to save you some time and teach you how to wash a down jacket

Key Takeaways

  • Understand how to properly care for your down jacket
  • Identify if it’s natural or synthetic and spot treat stains before washing
  • How to wash a down jacket use a special cleanser and dryer balls

How do I Wash a Down Jacket?

Supplies for washing a down jacket

Gather Your Supplies

I recommend using a down specific detergent just to further help with the longevity of the down. you can use a gentle laundry detergent if you want and that’s all you have just use a little less than you normally would.

For down specific detergent I highly recommend using Nikwax Down Wash Direct or Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner. I have used both of these, and they are great products.

Down specific cleaners are recommended because they do not strip down the natural oils as much as traditional detergents. The natural oil in down feathers is super important for maintaining the loft which keeps you insulated.

Another thing I like to recommend is the use of tennis balls or wool dryer balls. Using a couple of these in the drying process really helps to fluff the down. This is one problem with hang drying as down can tend to clump in sections and not loft up as well. Wool dryer balls have a couple advantages being they reduce static and absorb water more effectively than other balls.

Checking down jacket pockets

Prepare Your Down Jacket for Washing

Proper preparation of your down jacket is important before washing. This includes spot treating stains, especially around the underarms, cuffs, and neckline, and checking the care instructions.

Checking Care Instructions

Before washing your down jacket, checking its care label is imperative. The care label typically includes information on washing and drying temperatures, detergent recommendations, and other instructions to maintain the jacket’s insulation and fill power.

Spot Treating Stains

To spot treat stains on your down jacket, follow these steps:

  1. Use a down-specific detergent or mild soap.
  2. Gently rub the stain with a washcloth and water, or add a little down specific cleaner, or dab of mild detergent.
  3. For cuffs or collars, spray a mix of water and detergent, then rub with a damp towel.
  4. After treating the stains or extra sweaty places, rinse the spot well to remove any residual detergent.

Check Your Pockets

Be sure to check all your pockets for any leftover wrappers, snacks, or any other items. Also, be sure to zip up any zippers, pockets, or buttons. This can help to prevent any snags in the washing process.

Tossing the Jacket in the Washer

Choose Your Washing Method

I prefer to use a washing machine just for convenience. If you are doing the same, then preferably use a front-loading machine without an agitator. Agitators in top-loading machines can damage the down feathers.

If you only have a top-loading machine, consider taking a trip to your local laundromat if you’re not willing to take the risk. I have used a top loader before, and it was fine though it is more aggressive of a wash to your down jacket and may impact longevity.

You can also hand wash your down jacket as well. If you are going to hand wash instead then skip down to my hand washing instructions.

Selecting Nikwax Down Wash Direct

Select Your Detergent

Choose a down specific or mild detergent, such as a gentle laundry detergent, for washing your down jacket in a machine.

Some of my top picks include Nikwax Down Wash Direct and Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner. I have used both of these cleaners, and they work really well. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, as they can be too harsh on the delicate down feathers and definitely do not try to iron you down jacket!

Washing Machine Settings

To properly wash a down jacket, choose a wash setting that is between gentle and normal using cold water. Cold water protects the feathers and keeps the jacket lofty. Wash the jacket first through a cycle. After that, if possible, add a second or extra rinse cycle to ensure all detergent is removed from it.

Hand Washing Your Down Jacket

If hand wash is your preference instead of machine wash, then you will:

  1. First, soak the jacket in a sink or basin filled with cold water and a small amount of mild detergent or down specific soap for about an hour.
  2. Second, be sure to give it a quick once-over to remove any dirt or debris from the outside and treat any tough stains with down detergent before soaking.
  3. After soaking, gently squeeze the water out of the jacket, but do not wring or twist it, as this can damage the down feathers.
  4. Lastly, refill the basin with fresh water and soak the jacket for another 5-10 minutes to rinse out any remaining detergent.
  5. Repeat this process until the water runs clear, then gently squeeze out excess water.
Setting the drying machine

Drying Your Down Jacket

Correctly drying your down jacket will keep the loft and insulation of your down jacket intact. Here’s how I recommend doing it:

  1. You can either air dry you down jacket or put it into the dryer. If air drying be sure your jacket is completely dry prior to storing so it does not mold.
  2. If using a dryer use one with a fairly large drum to allow for air to circulate.
  3. Set the dryer to low or air dry. I often use air dry. This can take multiple cycles.
  4. Add some dryer balls or clean tennis balls to keep the down from clumping.

Tip: If you are planning to air dry, I still recommend at least doing a cycle in a dryer after while using tennis balls or wool balls. It is hard to loft the down when air drying, and finishing up with a dryer cycle with allows the balls to help loft the down and prevent clumping.

Storing my down jackets

Storing and Maintaining Your Down Jacket

To keep your down jacket in good shape and ensure its warmth, regular maintenance is necessary. Some key maintenance tips include spot cleaning, deodorizing, and storing your jacket properly.

Store your down jacket on a hanger and make sure it is not compressed. Allow enough room for the jacket to stretch out.

I recommend not storing your down jacket in a stuff sack or pocket until you are needing to compact it down on trail or during travel. Storing it compressed for long periods can damage the feathers and their ability to bounce back.

Regular spot cleaning and deodorizing can help keep your jacket smelling fresh and looking great, ensuring it’s always ready for your next winter adventure.

Recycling and Disposing of Down Jackets

If you need to recycle or dispose of your down jacket, consider donating to coat drives, charities, or consignment shops. Organizations like One Warm Coat and The Salvation Army accept down jacket donations.

Recycling down jackets benefits those in need and also lessens waste and environmental impact, a win-win situation for all involved.

If your down jackets have any rips or tears you do not have to get rid of them. Learn how to repair and patch them so you can continue to wear them out on the trails.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wash down jacket in washing machine?

Yes, you can wash a down jacket in the washing machine if it follows the care instructions. Use a gentle cycle or down-specific soap or detergent, like Nikwax Down Direct. Skip the spin cycle and allow your jacket to drip dry or use a tumble dryer on low heat or preferably air dy.

How do you fluff up a down jacket after washing it?

To fluff up a down jacket after washing it, try drying it on a low heat or air-dry setting with some tennis or wool dryer balls to separate the clumped feathers and keep them fluffy.

Can I use regular laundry detergent to wash my down jacket?

Preferably not, it’s best to use a down-specific detergent to protect the natural oils in the down. You can use a mild detergent if you need to.

Can I air dry my down jacket after washing it?

Yes, you can air dry your down jacket. Though from my experience you will get the best results using a dryer in low or air-dry settings with wool dryer balls to ensure it stays fluffy and maintains its insulation properties.


In conclusion, proper care and maintenance of your down jacket are crucial for keeping it warm, cozy, and long-lasting. By following the steps outlined in this guide, including washing, drying, and storage techniques, you can ensure your puffer jacket remains a reliable companion when you are out on the trails. Give your down jacket the love and attention it deserves, and it will keep you warm in return.

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