How to wash a down jacket
A down jacket will inevitably need washing after much use, whether it's used to keep warm everyday in the winter or on a climbing trip in the mountains. The down properties that keep us warm need to be treated carefully. They can get damaged when wet and drying is as important as washing.
Many down jackets are coated with a waterproofing agent to provide protection if it gets wet. Down naturally gets very heavy when wet and loses its warm properties. This waterproof coating prevents this although it is a good idea to keep this in mind when washing your jacket as it will also need to be re-proofed.
Before you wash your jacket...
Before you put your jacket in the wash it is worth checking the following:
- All the pockets are empty
- Any dried mud is brushed off
- All the zips are fastened
- The washing machine drawers are clear of any previous detergent or fabric softener
Washing your down jacket
- Follow the instructions on the label, usually this is on a 30 degree wool or delicate cycle. (Any washing machine is fine, so long as there isn't a centre-mount agitator.)
- Ideally, wash one item at a time.
- Using a specialist down wash such as Nikwax Down Wash or Grangers Down Wash will wash and protect the insulating and hydrophobic properties.
- Spin on a low setting and spin again to get rid of as much excess water as possible.
- BEWARE: using a biological detergent can damage the down and outer fabric.
If your down jacket has a hydrophobic coating (Rab jackets have Nikwax hydrophobic down) it is worth re-proofing this straight after washing it.
A re-proofer such as Nikwax Down Proof can be used in the washing machine and washed in as you would wash it above.
Drying a Down Insulated Jacket
Drying a down jacket is as important as the correct wash as the feathers can clump together so need to be shaken out.
Tumble drying is a good way to do this and having tumble dryer balls or a clean tennis ball in the machine will also keep the down moving while drying.
The tumble dryer will need to be on a low heat and it is worth removing the jacket and shaking it out every 15 minutes. It can take hours to dry and it is important to make sure it is completely dry so the down does not clump and hold the damp. This will inevitably make the jacket smell.
Down is a natural product that has to be treated carefully and washing your jacket will ultimately prolong the life of it and enhance it's insulating properties.