How to wash your down jacket

how to wash down jacket

As outdoors people, the down jacket is one of our most coveted possessions.  But with heavy use – living in your down jacket all winter – exposes the jacket to dirt, moisture, and spills which wear down the fibre and can damage the insulation. So to keep your jacket looking great and the down insulating properly, we recommend washing your jacket regularly throughout the winter. Through heavy use, wash it once a month.

Why wash your down jacket?

Most outer fabrics that make up the exterior of your jacket, the layer that faces the elements, are sometimes treated with a durable water resistant (DWR) finish. This layer is designed to repel water to protect your down from moisture, as we know wet down piles and does not insulate properly.  Though the DWR is a barrier, dirt, sweat, body oils, (such as those from your face when you have the jacket zipped up past your neck), abrasion and regular use will reduce the jacket’s performance.  Even if your jacket doesn’t have the DWR coating, washing it can rejuvenate the insulation.

nikwax down washHow to wash your down jacket

It’s not as hard as it seems. First of all, use a specialized wash, like Nikwax Down Wash. The wash is made specifically mild for cleaning down, normal detergents can strip down feathers of their natural oils, and it’s the oils that give the down it’s fluffiness.  If these oils are stripped your down will become brittle and breakdown, and the down will loose it’s loft. Your jacket will come out like new and perform as well as it did the first day you wore it. Some companies recommend sending down to a professional down cleaner, but you can get the same results at home at no cost and it’s simpler.






Steps for washing your jacket at home

1. You need a front loading machine. Regular top-loading machines have an agitator which can damage down feathers. If you don’t have a front loading machine, nor do any of your friends, take it to a laundromat.

2. Use cold water to wash. Use a little bit of soap or specialty down cleaner.

3. After the wash cycle, make sure your jacket gets a thorough rinse.  You may need to do two rinse cycles.

4. This part is really important: your jacket must be dried in the dryer on low heat or a no heat setting.  This may take awhile to get your jacket super fluffy so you may have to do several cycles, and it may take several hours.  It’s also a good idea to thrown in a couple of tennis balls to really get the loft back in your down. Do not stop drying until your jacket is fully dry.


Never use bleach, fabric softeners nor hot irons on your down jacket. Bleach and fabric softeners will damage the feathers.

What about goretex based jackets and pants? Learn how to wash goretex pants and jackets in this post.




Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts