How to wash and dry your down jacket

If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re at the stage where your down jacket needs a wash but you’re scared of ruining the insulation. You may be wondering whether down can be washed at all. The good news is that it can, and the better news is that it’s not as tricky as you might think.

Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll have a clean and perfectly functioning down jacket ready for your next outdoor adventure.

Step 1: Before you wash

Forgive us for sounding like your old high school teacher here but, when it comes to washing down, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Here’s what you should do before wash your jacket.

Remove any dried dirt with a brush or dry cloth. Remember that you should look to wash your down as infrequently as you can, so if this solves the problem then great – put the kettle on! If not, read on.

Empty pockets and do up zips. The tissue is the natural enemy of the washing machine. We’ve all done it and know how annoying it is peeling it out of the jacket pocket after washing, so make sure your pockets are empty. Zipping up the jacket will also help it to hold its shape in the wash.

Remove detergent build-up from your washing machine. Open or remove the drawer and give it a good wash with clean water. This helps to remove biological detergent which is harmful to sensitive materials like down.

Class dismissed. You’re good to go!

Step 2: Washing a down jacket

This step is simple and safe as long as you follow the instructions carefully. We’re going to be using a washing machine, but you can hand wash if you’d prefer.

Load your jacket into the washing machine. It’s best to wash the jacket on its own so the down doesn’t become squashed.

Add detergent. We strongly recommend Nikwax Down Wash Direct or Grangers Down Wash to carefully clean the jacket and give it a water-repellent boost. Alternatively, use a standard non-biological detergent.

Start your cycle. It’s important to check the care label on your jacket for washing instructions. As a rule, we recommend 30° heat and your machine’s gentlest setting (sometimes referred to as a hand wash setting). For extra water repellency, wash the wet garment again, this time with Nikwax Down Proof.

If your jacket is soaked to the point that it’s dripping when you take it out, run a spin cycle on the lowest spin count. You can do this multiple times to remove excess water, gradually increasing the spin count if necessary.

Step 3: Drying

Don’t worry if your jacket looks limp and slightly out of shape when you pull it out of the wash. Drying it correctly will restore its loft and any water-repellent barrier.

We’re going to focus on drying in a tumble dryer. If you don’t have one, dry your jacket on a radiator and give it a good shake once it’s fully dry so redistribute the down fibres. It may need more than one shake before its back to its best. 

Load your jacket into the tumble dryer with dryer balls. Dryer balls help to agitate the down insulation to break up clumps and give your jacket a more even fill. Grangers’ Down Wash Kit contains three balls and a bottle of their Down Wash cleaner. For a budget alternative, cut two tennis balls in half and add them to the dryer.

Dry on your lowest heat setting. Different jackets will take different amounts of time to dry. The trick here is to check on its progress regularly and give the jacket a gentle shake each time you do.

That’s it, your down jacket is now cleaned, re-proofed and dried. Easy, right?

How to restore down that wasn’t washed properly

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and we appreciate you may have arrived at this page after attempting to wash your down jacket without following the above guide.

If you’ve washed your jacket using bio detergent or on a higher heat, the best option is to rewash it using our step-by-step guide with Nikwax to give it extra re-proofing protection. There is a chance that the down will be damaged beyond repair, especially if you’ve washed the jacket multiple times the wrong way, but usually this will fix the problem. Don’t be afraid to wash it multiple times using specialist down cleaner to help rejuvenate the jacket.

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