How to Clean and Reproof Down Jackets
Pulling on a down-filled jacket is like coming home to a real fire....cosy, comfortable and warm. But what many people don't realise is that these jackets are not too keen on the wet - and need special care when it comes to washing and drying.
Down jackets are one of the hardest pieces of outdoor wear to clean at home, and if in any doubt we recommend a professional company be used. 3-4 season down sleeping bags should always be professionally cleaned.
Please note that this is intended as a guide. Always consult the manufacturer's washing instructions, found inside the jacket.
Before washing, a down jacket should be gently shaken to remove any loose dirt or dust. Stain removers should not be used, as this can harm the fabric. For stubborn stains Nikwax Down Wash (or similar soap cleaner) can be applied neat.
Most down jackets can be machine washed, although often hand washing is preferable. Make sure to check your garment's instructions.
- Use gloves. Immerse item(s) in hand-hot water in bowl or bathtub.
- Add the recommended amount of Nikwax Down Wash (see bottle for quantities.)
- Agitate to mix, leave to soak for 5-10 minutes, then agitate thoroughly.
- Rinse clothing in cold water until water runs clear.
- For sleeping bags repeat process, drain and gently press bag to expel excess water.
- Start the washing machine on a very gentle cycle, without detergent.
- Remove the jacket, and carefully squeeze out the excess water. If the water is clear, the jacket can then be returned to the machine on the same, gentle cycle, with two or three cups of special down detergent such as Nikwax Down Wash.
- If the water is not clear, however, repeat the process without adding any washing powder, until all the remaining water shows no sign of discolouration.
- When you remove the jacket from the machine, it will almost certainly look a strange shape - this is quite normal.
Provided a specialist cleaning product like Nikwax Down Wash is used, jackets do not need to be reproofed every time they are washed. Usually washing will rejuvenate the DWR (water-repellancy) up to 8 times. Should you wash and dry your jacket and notice that water no longer 'beads' on the fabric, then it's time to reproof. Mercifully this is a very easy thing to do!
You should always apply a reproofing product to a clean garment, and the beauty of Nikwax Down Proof, is that it allows you to apply whilst the garment is wet. So basically once you've washed the jacket as above, simply fill the sink/washing machine tray with Nikwax Down Proof and rewash. (Again, Nikwax bottles with have more detailed instructions on the amounts required.)
Drying down jackets is the hardest part of the process. When wet the down will have clumped together and it must be unclumped to work effectively.
If your jacket's care instructions allow, you will find a tumble dryer almost indispensable.
- Before drying, lay the garment on a flat, clean surface. Use a clean white towel and press down gently to remove all excess water. Repeat this until most of the water has been removed. Never wring the jacket as this may tear the baffles which help spread the down evenly.
- Down jackets may be tumble dried, but always pay very close attention to the recommended drying temperature on the manufacturer's instructions.
- As a guide, place the jacket in the tumble dryer - on a cool setting - for five to ten minutes, remove, and pat down carefully. Turn inside out, return to the dryer, and allow it to dry for a few more minutes. Continue this process until the jacket no longer feels damp to the touch, but never leave it in the drier for longer than ten minutes each time.
- Remember, the drying process can take several hours before the garment is completely dry and there is no moisture remaining - although the outer fabric may feel dry and warm, down contained within the baffling can still be clumped together because of any lingering dampness.
- TOP TIP - Putting a tennis ball or two in the drier along with the jacket, will help fluff up and re-distribute the down.
- When the jacket is completely dry, it is advisable to store it uncompressed in a dry, cool place. Air thoroughly for up to two days before use.
As mentioned, down clothing/sleeping bags are the hardest bit of outdoor gear to clean at home, although once you've done it once it is much easier in future. Should you not feel confident, please seek professional cleaning. This is intended as a guide only, and Gear Zone will not be liable should your jacket be damaged whilst washing at home.
Please note that cleaning a down jacket ultimately reduces its effectiveness, so if possible it's best to avoid cleaning it too often.