That new down jacket or coat you invested in will likely keep you toasty warm during all your epic adventures for years to come—provided you take proper care of it. After all, the goose or duck down filling your garment are natural fibers that grow between a bird's skin and outer feathers, creating a light layer of insulation that keeps waterfowl warm whether they're swimming in a lake or flying through the air.
But to preserve the thermal insulating qualities of down, you need to protect the loft of the tiny fibers by keeping them clean, dry, and fluffy. Thankfully, the process is easy, so after spending time in the laundry room, you'll have plenty of time to walk your dog on a snowy day or head to a ski slope.
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Step 1: Wash....Infrequently
That's right—less washing is better! To minimize wear, your down garment should take a spin in the washer only once or twice a year. So, on those days when a bit of mud or latte splashes on your jacket, simply spot clean the exterior with a wet cloth or sponge. When it's time for a full-on cleaning, here's what to do.
- Read the care label inside the garment. It is important. Look inside your jacket for a tag stitched into the lower side seam. The manufacturer wants you to be happy with your purchase, so they provide you with instructions to extend the life of the garment. Your tag provides specific instructions for your jacket's fabric, fill, and protective coating, when applicable.
- Use a front-loading washing machine because it's much gentler than a top-loading machine with an agitator. If necessary, go to a self-service laundry center and use their front-loading machine.
- Wash in cold water and use a gentle detergent formulated for cleaning down. Do not add bleach or fabric softener.
- If your washer has the option of a second rinse cycle, use it to thoroughly remove the detergent.
Step 2: Dry
Machine dry on low heat with dryer balls or clean tennis balls to break up the clumps of down. Drying down is a slow process, so plan on running the jacket through two or three dry cycles, always with low heat. Wet down can have a slight odor that dissipates as it dries, and once down is thoroughly dry, the odor will be gone.
Step 3: Hang to Store
Always store a down garment on a hanger to maintain its loft. If it's folded in a drawer or storage container, it will lose some of its natural loft that was restored during the cleaning process.
Do not dry clean a down jacket or coat; however, you can have it professionally cleaned.