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For your next winter hike: washing and drying a down jacket

There’s nothing better than a cosy down jacket on those bitter cold days. They even keep you nice and warm during longer hikes. Of course, such an exceptional piece of apparel requires equally exceptional care. Find out what you need to take care of when washing and drying your down jacket here.

  • A down jacket will definitely keep you warm and is breathable as a result of the down which comprises fine, fluffy duck and geese feathers. Nevertheless, down is especially delicate and can easily form clumps if the jacket is not cared for and washed properly.

    Basically, you should wash a down jacket much less than any other everyday jacket, since every wash will extract some of the natural oils found in down, and the loft and elasticity will suffer after a while. Before you put it in the washing machine, give some thought to whether it would suffice to hang out the down jacket in the open air for a while. Minor stains can be removed by rubbing the stain with some gall soap.

    Nevertheless, there are times when it is necessary to wash the down jacket. Please follow our step-by-step guide to get a good result.

  • Firstly, read carefully what the care label inside the down jacket says. Can you actually wash the jacket yourself, or do you need to take it to the dry cleaners? If the care label states that it must be cleaned professionally, this is not normally due to the down filling itself, but rather the other materials used in the jacket. Can it be put into the washing machine? Then check whether your machine has large enough capacity. Generally speaking, the machine should be able to hold at least eight kilos because down jackets need lots of room.

    Wash down jackets separately because they need to be able to move freely inside the drum so that the feathers are not squashed. Use a suitable detergent geared to washing down-filled textiles such as the one from Jack Wolfskin. This has been made especially for textiles containing down; it is environmentally friendly and more gentle than conventional detergents. Please note that fabric softener is not recommended if you decide to wash your down jacket as it penetrates the down and will cause the feathers to clump together.

  • If you have a washing machine with a special wash cycle for down-filled materials, then you can count yourself lucky! If not, follow this advice:

    • Make sure that all zips and Velcro fastenings have been done up.
    • Choose a wash cycle for delicates at 30 degrees. A programme for wool is ideal, as it combines lots of water with minimal drum rotation.
    • The jacket will soak up the water during the wash cycle. That is the reason why it is imperative to include a spin – but only a gentle one! A spin of 800 revs per minute is enough. A higher spin may cause the feathers to break.
    • Repeat the spin several times so that the jacket loses the water it has soaked up during washing.
    • Then reset the machine for an additional rinse with clear water so that no detergent is left in the jacket.

    An extra tip: pop two clean tennis balls into the drum. They will help to circulate air flow in your garments and prevent the down feathers from clumping together.

  • After washing a down jacket, you need to ensure that the loft in a down jacket is built back up as the jacket dries. It is best to dry the down jacket in a tumble dryer. You don’t have a tumble dryer? Have you thought about asking a friend or relative if you can use their tumble dryer to dry your down jacket? Alternatively, ever thought about taking the down jacket to the nearest laundrette or dry cleaners? Please remember: the professional tumble dryer should also have a capacity to hold at least eight litres.

    • Put the down jacket carefully into the tumble dryer.
    • Put in the tennis balls once again. They will help to loosen and fluff up the down inside the jacket.
    • Dry the jacket at a temperature between 30 and 60 degrees
    • Interrupt the cycle once every ten minutes and shake up the down filling inside the jacket.
    • The tumble dryer should run for between two and four hours.
    • Check the jacket after this period to see if the jacket is still damp anywhere and shake it up a bit.
    • If you sense that the jacket is still damp, leave it in the tumble dryer for longer.
    • Afterwards, hang the down jacket out in the open air for a while before folding it up and putting it away in the wardrobe.

    You don’t have the possibility of drying your down jacket in a tumble dryer? Then you are going to have to resort to drying it on a clothes airer. After taking the down jacket out of the washing machine, place it flat on the clothes horse. It is important that you shake your down jacket at regular intervals (e.g. every two hours) on the first day of drying so that the feathers don’t clump together and the jacket become waterlogged. By shaking the jacket at regular intervals, you stop the feathers from clumping together. Please remember it will take a couple of days for the jacket to dry completely using this method.

    But it will then be completely fresh and clean - and you’ll be ready for your next winter’s walk!

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