Down jackets on a rack

How to Wash Down Jackets

Posted on February 10, 2022 by Steven Toltz

Although it can be intimidating to think of cleaning your down coats and clothing, like winter jackets or ski bibs. In reality, when you know what to do, cleaning down jackets and clothing is very straightforward and simple.

There are a lot of myths out there about down clothing—although, since they may leave your clothing filthy, we consider them dirty lies. Some people claim that you can’t get down clothing wet, or that moisture will damage your clothes made of down. In reality, down is a hardy natural fabric that, when treated with care and cleaned using natural methods, down is perfectly washable in a washing machine.

Related Article: How to Care for and Clean a Leather Jacket

Skip the Dry Cleaning for Down Jackets

While it might seem like you should dry clean your down jacket, that is actually not the case. Because down feathers rely on natural oils to keep them light and fluffy, the chemicals involved in most dry cleaning processes are a bit too harsh for their natural chemical makeup, and will strip the feathers of their insulating qualities. While there are experienced dry cleaners who know how to handle down properly—for instance, here at Dependable Cleaners, we would never turn away down clothing when asked to dry clean it—it is often just as easy and less tricky in the long run to clean your down clothes by washing them with soap and water.

Wash Your Down Clothing Gently, with the Right Soap

To effectively wash your down clothing, you’ll first need to make sure that you have all the appropriate supplies. Patagonia has a good explainer as to why a lot of these steps seem oddly specific. Down has certain needs, and must be treated with care. You can wash your down coat and such in a washing machine, so long as it is a front-load washer and not a top-loading one. Due to the way most down jackets are made, top-load washers tend to tear the fabric of down coats, so unless you’d prefer your down jackets deconstructed, stick with a front-loading washer. You’ll want to make sure the washer has temperature control, so that you can dial the water down to cold. Last but not least, you’ll need to buy a down-specific soap, like Nikwax Down Wash Direct.

Once you have what you need, here are the steps to wash a down jacket:

  1. Put your down coat in the front-loading washer by itself.
  2. Set the washer to cold, on a delicate spin cycle, if possible.
  3. Add a small amount of the down cleaner, per the instructions on the bottle.
  4. Start the washer and let the down do its thing.
  5. When the cycle is complete, check that the down coat is intact, then put it back into the washer for a second rinse. Same settings: cold water, delicate.

Now, your down coat should be ready to dry.

Related Article: How to Wash Wool Clothes

Hand-Washing a Down Jacket

Drying your down coat seems straightforward, but because down jackets are thick and full of layers of individual feathers, it can take a long time. The most important stage of washing down clothing is drying—if a down jacket or coat is packed and stored away before it dries completely, you run the risk of mildew growing in the insulation, which is much harder to get rid of. There are two ways to effectively dry a down coat. When down dries, it clumps up, and these clumps retain moisture. Whichever drying method you use, make sure that you intermittently check your down coat or jacket for these clumps and use your fingers to massage them out before continuing to dry the coat.

There are two ways to dry your down jacket:

  1. Tumble dry your down coat on low heat in a home dryer, along with a few clean tennis balls to help break up the clumps.
  2. Lay your down jacket out flat to air dry on a clean towel, in a temperate room away from direct sunlight. This method might take a few days but is ultimately safer.

Get a Professional Down Jacket Cleaning

If all of this seems like a hassle, or if you don’t quite trust your down-cleaning skills, you can always trust your down clothing to a professional laundry service. Here at Dependable Cleaners, we treat our customers’ clothing like our own, and use the utmost care with delicate or specialized materials such as down. With same-day service, free pickup and delivery, and more, taking advantage of professional help certainly makes cleaning down clothing much easier.

So there you have it—the low-down on how to get dirt out of your down clothing. Hopefully this guide will help you conquer your down-washing fears, but if not, Dependable Cleaners has your back. We can clean your down clothing for you at any of our many Colorado locations, using the best practices for down clothing care so that you can rest easy knowing your favorite winter coat will stay fluffy and warm. After we clean your coat for you, you’ll be more than ready to get down in your down-filled winter clothes. Swing by with your coat today at our trusted dry cleaner.

Bill M.

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I have regularly used this cleaners for 5- 6 years and it has been terrific! Always timely and everything in order and all items returned.