How to wash a down jacket

A good quality, lightweight, warm down jacket is an essential piece of outdoor kit that should be part of everyone’s bundle of gear.

I’m sure most of you have heard stories of perfectly good jackets ending up in that the great pile of old gear in the sky because they’ve been washed incorrectly. Advancements in modern fabrics mean you can wash your down jacket completely safely. In fact, we advise cleaning and reproofing as part of good practice as part of maintaining your gear. You don’t need to be scared of it!

Here’s our guide on how to wash and reproof your down jacket.

 

What you will need:

  • A down jacket (obviously!)
  • A washing machine without a central agitator
  • Suitable non-bio down wash and proofing agent. We recommend Nikwax down wash and Nikwax down proof products.
  • Tumble dryer balls or half cut tennis balls

Preparation

  • Before washing your product empty all pockets
  • Brush off loose dried out mud, dirt and debris.
  • Ensure all zips/storm flaps, any other openings are closed.
  • Use dedicated cleaning agents. Regular detergents and softeners can damage the down and feathers, as well as remove the fabric of any water resistant coating.
  • Remove any existing detergent from your washing machine, particularly the detergent compartment – you may consider running your machine on a hot wash with nothing in it in order to clear any residual traces.

Washing

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While you can handwash your down items, we recommend that you machine wash them. Do not use a machine that has a central agitator, as they can damage the fabric.

  • Put your down jacket in the machine. Ideally, wash only one item at a time.
  • Be sure to read the garment’s own care label.
  • We advise a gentle cycle with a slow spin is selected – ie a ‘wool’ or ‘delicate’ cycle.
  • Pour appropriate amount of down wash into the tray. Berghaus recommend 150 ml for medium and hardwater areas and 100ml for soft water areas.
  • Water should be a low temperature.
  • Once the initial wash cycle is complete, put the jacket through several rinse cycles to ensure that all of the cleaning agent has been removed from the down before drying.

Proofing

For those of you who have older jackets that have been through sustained use, it is worth reproofing it too. Your DWR coating will ‘wear away’ over time due to contamination from dirt, etc. We recommend using Nikwax Down Proof as a way of rejuvenating your jacket’s performance.

  • Wash your item as explained above.
  • Add 150 ml of Nikwax Down Proof
  • Wash on a synthetic cycle with a slow spin.
  • You may want to run another spin cycle.

This takes us nicely to:

Drying

The best way to dry your newly washed and proofed down jacket is to place it into the tumble dryer on a low heat. Don’t be tempted to turn the temperature up too high, it will only destroy the seams and other areas of the garment, rendering it unusable. The light heat of the dryer helps to active the DWR coating.

Drying a down garment requires some patience. Your down jacket will need to be removed from the tumble dryer frequently, every 15 minutes, and shaken vigorously in order to separate the down clusters. Not drying your jacket sufficiently will result in the clusters remaining stuck together. If the jacket isn’t fully dried then it will lose loft and the damp clumped down clusters will begin to smell.

The tl;dr version: 

  • Use Nikwax Down Wash & Down Proof
  • Do NOT use biological detergent!
  • Wash down jackets at a low temperature on a gentle cycle with a slow spin.
  • After washing run several spin cycles to remove excess water from the jacket.
  • Reproof older jackets before drying
  • Tumble dry the jacket on a cool temperature with tumble dryer balls
  • When drying, remove the jacket every 15 mins
  • Shake vigorously to fluff the down clusters back up.
  • Drying can take a long time. Be patient and keep shaking!
  • Always consult the care label on any garments you wash

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