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How to wash a down jacket safely at home

A quality down jacket should last you for years, as long as you treat it with the care and respect it deserves.

Updated

A down jacket on a bed

Wondering how to wash your down jacket without damaging it? You’ll be happy to hear that most are machine washable, so there’s no need for a trip to the dry cleaners.

Washing your coat can even help to fluff up the down, so your jacket should be warmer and more comfortable in a matter of hours – ready for your next outdoor adventure.

How to wash a down jacket in 5 easy steps

Before you start, you’ll need to check the care label of your jacket. It’ll tell you whether the coat can be machine washed, what temperature to wash it at and whether it can be tumble-dried. Safe to proceed? Let’s crack on then.

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

A toothbrush being used to remove loose dirt from a down jacket.

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1. Remove loose dirt

If you mainly wear your jacket for keeping warm while you’re pottering around the shops, it’s probably not too dirty.

If, however, you wear it for hiking, horse riding, camping or clambering up mountains, it’s most likely looking a tad grubby. Brush off any loose dirt using a soft bristled brush (an old toothbrush is perfect). If your jacket is stained, you may want to use a stain remover before washing it.  

A down jacket turned inside out before being put in the washing machine.

2. Prepare your jacket

Keys, coins, sweets and other frequently pocketed items can damage your jacket and your washing machine. Most of us know all too well the irritation of a stray tissue ending up in the wash, so do empty out your jacket’s pockets before you wash it.

Fasten any buttons, poppers or zips to stop them catching on the washing machine drum or snagging the fabric of the jacket. And, if possible, turn the jacket inside out.

3. Add detergent to your washing machine

It’s best to use a specialist detergent for down jackets. If you don’t have one handy, use a small amount of non-bio. Biological detergent can damage the down, so it’s a definite no-no.

Don’t add fabric conditioner, as it’s usually not suitable for down jackets. In fact, if you normally use bio or conditioner, you may want to clean out the detergent drawer and put the machine on a hot wash, empty, before you wash your jacket. This will help to get rid of any traces of bio detergent or conditioner.

A washing machine set to 30º

4. Wash your jacket

Down jackets should be washed on a cool setting (30 degrees) and a low spin, so select the delicate or wool cycle. It’s also a good idea to give it an extra rinse, to make sure no detergent is left in the down.

Depending on your machine, you may be able to select this option in advance.

We recommend washing your jacket on its own, as it’s likely to get quite heavy and will probably fill most of the machine anyway. When the machine has finished, you may find that the jacket is still soaking wet. If so, you can set it to spin again, at a slightly higher speed, but don’t be tempted to go above 800.

Most down jackets can be washed in a machine. If the care label says to hand wash your jacket, soak it in the sink with a specialist detergent for around an hour.

Then, use your hands to massage the fabric to get any grime out. You may need to rinse it a few times to get all the detergent out. Finish by squeezing it gently to get as much water out as you can.  

A washed down jacket is laid out flat to try on a clothes horse.

5. Dry your jacket

Your jacket may still feel very wet, so you might want to lay it flat over an airer in the bath to drip for a couple of hours.

While you can squeeze some of the water out, don’t be tempted to wring the jacket as this could damage it.

Most down jackets are best off dried on a low setting in a tumble dryer as it helps to fluff up the down.

Ideally, use dryer balls, as they’ll help to stop the down from sticking together and making your jacket lumpy. If you don’t have dryer balls, you could try using tennis balls.

It’s also worth pausing the dryer a few times to take the jacket out and give it a good shake. Again, this will help to prevent lumps and will also help the jacket to dry evenly.

If you don’t have a tumble dryer, or your jacket’s care label says not to tumble dry, dry it on a radiator. Once it’s dry, give it a good shake to fluff up the down (be warned, you may need to shake it pretty vigorously for quite a while to agitate the down and break up any clumps).

Make sure your jacket is 100 per cent dry before you put it away, as wet down could attract mould or start to smell.

Washing a down jacket: your questions answered

Will washing my down jacket damage it?

Most jackets can be washed safely, but do always check the care label just in case. Generally, washing helps to re-fluff the down, so it helps to keep your jacket in top condition.

If your jacket is water-resistant, repeated washing can affect the special coating, so only wash it when you need to (because it’s dirty or the down has flattened or gone lumpy).

What if I need to reproof my jacket?

Jackets can lose their waterproof coating over time. Most can be reproofed in a washing machine using a specialist product.

Some specialist detergents wash and reproof your jacket at the same time. Others need to be used once the jacket is clean. In either case, stick to a low temperature and low spin cycle and follow the steps above. You can also find more guidance on washing a waterproof jacket here.

Surely it would be better to let my jacket drip dry?

You can allow your jacket to drip dry, but this can take a long time, which could lead to it smelling musty (even with a tumble dryer, it can take up to three hours for your down jacket to be fully dry and ready to wear).

Drying in a tumble dryer also helps to fluff up the down so your jacket will have fewer clumps and be warmer.

Should I dry clean my down jacket?

Most down jackets can be safely washed at home. In fact, some aren’t suitable for dry cleaning as the chemicals can actually damage the water-resistant coating.

Can I hand wash my down jacket?

If you’re wondering how to wash your down jacket without using a washing machine, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s relatively easy (check out step 4 of our step-by-step guide, above). Remember to use cool water (30 degrees or less) and a specialist detergent or non-bio.

What should I do if my jacket is stained?

It’s best to tackle stains as quickly as possible, using the right stain removal technique for that particular stain. Check out our stain removal guide for top tips.

Doing battle with an old stain? You’ll find advice here on dealing with everything from old ink stains to dried on curry.  

Originally published