How to Clean a Down Jacket

Four Methods:Pre-Cleaning the JacketMachine Washing the JacketWashing the Jacket by HandDrying the Jacket

A down jacket is one that’s filled with the down feathers of birds, usually ducks and geese. It’s often used to fill thermal clothing, bedding, and sleeping bags, because down-filled materials are warm and lightweight. Cleaning a down jacket can be a challenge, because the feathers don’t stand up well against harsh detergents, and the garment must be dried fully in order to regain its insulating properties. However, to get the most of your down jacket, you should wash it regularly, but no more than twice a year.

Method 1
Pre-Cleaning the Jacket

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    Read the care label. This will tell you if there are any special instructions you should follow regarding the care of your jacket, including washing instructions.[1]
    • The care label could tell you to hand-wash the jacket, to machine wash it on a special cycle, or to take the jacket to a professional down cleaner.
    • If your jacket only needs a minor cleaning, the pre-cleaning alone might be sufficient, and you might not need to fully wash or hand wash.
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    Fasten all clasps and fasteners. Down-filled materials can rip easily when wet,[2] so it’s important to take care of anything that could catch or pull during the washing process.
    • Do up zippers
    • Button buttons
    • Close hook and loop fasteners
    • Secure flaps
    • Remove items from the pockets and secure the pockets
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    Remove excess dirt and mud. With a clean, dry cloth, wipe away any dirt, debris or loose mud from the jacket. This will make the cleaning process a little easier, because you won’t be dealing with large clumps of mud or dust.[3]
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    Spot clean tough stains. To clean and spot clean a down jacket, use a pure soap or a special down soap that won’t strip the feathers of oil and make them brittle.[4] Pour a small amount of soap on affected areas, such as stains, tough-to-clean grime, and patches of oil or sweat. Let it soak for about 15 minutes.[5] Good soaps to use include:
    • Nikwax Down Wash
    • Granger’s Down Wash
    • ReviveX Down Cleaner
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    Soak the jacket in warm water. Fill a bath tub, wash basin, or sink with warm water. Place the jacket into the water and gently agitate it with your hands. Let the jacket soak for 10 to 15 minutes.[6]
    • Soaking the jacket before washing helps to remove excess dirt, debris, and soap from the spot cleaning.
    • After soaking, move the jacket away from the drain and empty the tub. Gently squeeze the excess water from the jacket.

Method 2
Machine Washing the Jacket

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    Clean out the detergent compartment before adding soap. Even the residue from regular soaps and detergents can damage down feathers. Before using the machine to wash your jacket, wipe the dispenser with a cloth to remove leftover detergent.[7]
    • When the dispenser is clean, add the amount of down-safe soap as recommended by your soap manufacturer or washing machine.
    • To clean your down jacket, use the same down-safe soap that you used for spot cleaning.
    • When down feathers are stripped of their oil, they can lose their loft, or fullness, which is related to their ability to insulate.[8]
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    Place the jacket in the washer and set the cycle. Wash the jacket alone, to prevent the material from catching or pilling. Before pressing start, set the machine to cold wash, delicate, hand wash, or wools, and a small load size.[9]
    • Only use a front-loading washing machine or a high-efficiency top-loader that doesn’t have the center agitator. The agitator can rip the material and destroy the jacket.[10]
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    Run a second rinse cycle. When the washing machine has finished its washing cycle, run it through a second rinse cycle to fully remove any remaining detergent.[11]

Method 3
Washing the Jacket by Hand

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    Fill a large sink with soap and water. For down jackets that recommend handwashing, or if you don’t feel comfortable washing yours in the machine, you can also wash them by hand. Fill a sink with cold water and the recommended portion of down-safe soap.
    • You can use a large sink, laundry tub, or bath tub to wash your down jacket.
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    Soak the jacket. Press the jacket down into the water to get it saturated with soapy water. Using your hands, gently agitate the jacket back and forth in the water to release dirt. Then, let it soak for 15 minutes.
    • When your jacket is wet and heavy, avoid picking it up to prevent damage.[12]
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    Rinse the jacket. After 15 minutes, push the jacket away from the drain and drain the soapy water from the tub. Without picking the jacket up, rinse the jacket and tub with clean water.
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    Soak again. Refill the tub with clean water and soak the jacket for five to 10 minutes. Then, push the jacket away from the drain again and let the water out.
    • Pour some additional water over the jacket to remove the last of the soap.[13]
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    Squeeze out excess water. Use your hands to squeeze the jacket and remove excess water before picking it up to dry it.

Method 4
Drying the Jacket

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    Run the jacket through multiple spin cycles. The drying process for a down jacket takes quite a long time, but you can help it along by removing as much moisture as possible from the coat.
    • Run the jacket through two or three additional spin cycles after the second rinse is complete. If possible, increase the speed of the spin with each cycle.[14]
    • Squeeze the jacket by hand to remove excess moisture if you don’t have a washing machine. Don’t wring the jacket, as this could damage the feathers. Then, lay the jacket to hang on a radiator or hang it to dry.
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    Tumble dry on low. After the spin cycles, place your jacket into the dryer along with two or three clean tennis balls. As the tennis balls bounce around in the dryer with the jacket, they will fluff the feathers inside. This fluffing will prevent the feathers from clumping together, and help return their loft.[15]
    • Be warned that the drying process can take up to three hours, but do not increase the heat above low. Higher heat can damage or melt parts of the jacket.[16]
    • Tumble drying is the recommended method for drying down jackets, because air drying can take so long, and eventually the jacket can start to smell. However, if you don’t have a dryer, dry the jacket over a radiator if possible, or hang it to air dry.
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    Fluff the jacket as it dries. As the jacket dries, remove it from the dryer every 30 minutes to shake the jacket vigorously and break up feather clumps. You know the jacket is dry when the feathers stop clumping together,[17] and when it feels light and fluffy again.
    • Even if you're radiator or air drying your jacket, be sure to shake it out every half hour to break up clumps.
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    Hang the jacket to air. When the jacket is fully dry, give it a final shake. Hang it somewhere to air out for a couple hours before wearing or storing the jacket.[18]
    • Never compress a wet down jacket, as this can destroy some of its ability to insulate properly.[19]


  • Do not iron a down jacket, as the heat can damage the feathers and melt the shell.

Article Info

Categories: Laundry