Are you part of the puffy club? Down jackets, so named for the ultra-fine, insulating duck or goose feathers they use, have become more popular in Australia. But how the heck do you wash them?
Why’s down getting more popular? People are realising that a) Australia does get kinda cold sometimes and b) these things are pretty neat!
Down or puffer jackets are super light and can pack down very small, because down is super compressible. This is why hikers, climbers and campers are obsessed with them. There’ve been some other developments too. The down in the jackets is now generally sourced responsibly and features a durable water-repellent coating that keeps it lofty and warm.
Now for the bad news. You can’t wash your puffer jacket just by throwing it in the washing machine. For all it’s practicalities, down has some drawbacks. A normal wash (or, cringe, dry clean) will strip the natural oils from the down. No bueno!
I admitted last week that I’d never washed my sleeping bag. So for round two, we turned to my mate Aidan’s down jacket. This filthy thing went backpacking through Mongolia and still wasn’t given the dignity of a bath.
We set out to make things right.
Why You Should Wash Your Down Jacket
Sweat, suncream, sand and snow can damage your down jacket. Basically any moisture and contaminant can damage your jacket’s shell or affect the loft (and warmth) of the down. Not the puff!
Luckily you don’t need to wash your down jacket too often. Once a year is fine. Just like your sleeping bag, I recommend washing at the end of winter, so your jacket is stored (hung up not squished!) all summer nice and clean, and is looking fresh when winter rolls around.
What You’ll Need
- Down jacket
- Cleaning product (down wash)
- Plastic tub or bathtub
- 1-3 clean tennis balls
- Clothes dryer (highly recommended)
- Gloves (if hand washing)
How To Wash Your Down Jacket
The principles of washing your puffer are pretty simple; you’re hand-washing a delicate jacket with a special kind of detergent, then being obsessive with your drying to get rid of any moisture.
Hand Washing Your Down Jacket
- Fill a big bucket or bathtub with enough warm water to cover the jacket.
- Add the cleaning product according to instructions. I used Nikwax Down Wash Direct.
- Put on gloves and slowly push the jacket through the warm water to ensure even coverage.
- Leave it for 15 minutes to soak (or however long your cleaning product recommends).
- Give it another decent mix with your hands.
- Drain the dirty water and squish the puffer to remove excess dirty water.
- Fill the tub with clean water, rinse and squeeze the jacket again
Now it’s time to get it dry!
Tip: Roll your down jacket to squish out all the water. Then lift the rolled-up jacket with two hands – it’ll be very heavy and could tear if you’re not careful!
Machine Washing Your Down Jacket
You can machine wash your down jacket but I don’t recommend it. This is mostly because hand-washing gives you better control over how long it soaks for, how much you rinse it and how rough you are.
You can only use a front loader, as top loaders usually have an agitator which can damage the jacket.
- Check your manufacturer instructions. Some brands will give machine washing a hard ‘no’.
- Rinse the detergent compartment of any other detergent, then add your cleaning product.
- Zip up your jacket, secure any fasteners and chuck it in.
- Run the wash on a gentle or hand-wash cycle.
- Run the rinse and spin cycle again to make sure there’s no detergent left.
- Roll the jacket into a ball and remove it (if you just pull it you might tear your jacket!).
- You’re reading for drying!
Drying Your Down Jacket
The dryer is highly recommended for drying your down jacket. If you don’t have one, head to a laundromat and pretend you’re in Flight of the Conchords. You’ll need a week of nice weather to get close to the same results otherwise (these things hold a lot of water once they’re soaked!).
- Lift your jacket (it should still be in a ball!) with two hands and place it in the dryer.
- Chuck in some tennis balls to break up the clumps of down and assist drying.
- Run the dryer on a low setting.
- Keep checking the dryer frequently (every 20 minutes) to turn the jacket inside out, make sure it’s not overheating and free any balls that have become stuck.
- Periodically feel for bigger clumps of down and break them up by hand.
- This process might take a few hours, make sure you have the time handy.
- When your jacket’s feeling pretty dry, pull it out and leave it out to dry for a few days before packing it away.