Known for being great insulators, down jackets have been widely used for many years by those looking for a warm adventure solution. From the high Himalayas to the exposed polar regions they’ve been a consistent top performer. However, down jackets will lose their ability to insulate if they become wet or dirty. Both dirt and body oils negatively affect performance, so it’s imperative to ensure you keep yours as clean as possible.

How to wash your down jacket

Almost every down jacket can be machine washed in a front-loading washing machine. However, each will be different, so it’s important to read the instructions for your own particular jacket before washing.

Once washed and dried correctly, a down jacket will return to that top-performing garment that every adventurer simply must have. Here we run through the process of washing and drying your down jacket.

1. Dislodge the loose dirt from your down jacket

A down jacket isn’t something that you generally wash very often. But they can get surprisingly dirty depending on where you’ve been. Before you begin washing your down jacket you’ll want to try and remove any caked-on dirt and mud.

Before inserting it into the washing machine, you’ll want to do up the zips and turn the down jacket inside out. This prevents it from fading, which is especially important for darker coloured down jackets.

2. Clean out any residue from the detergent compartment

Down jackets should be washed with a detergent-free cleaner. The detergent compartment of your washing machine should therefore be cleaned out before attempting to wash your jacket. Household detergents and softeners can damage the down and feathers of your jacket and may also negatively impact the water-resistant properties of the down jacket.

After years of use, detergent and softener may be caked onto the walls of the compartment and thus make contact with your jacket during the wash. You may find it useful to run your washing machine through an empty hot wash to clear out the residues.

3. What settings to use when washing a down jacket

You’ll want to read the instructions on the label for this one. Depending on the material, some manufacturers will recommend a cold wash, while others will recommend a hot wash. For delicate materials such as those used in down jackets, it’s important to follow the recommended instructions.

It’s always advisable to use a front-loading washing machine. Top-loading washing machines are best avoided as the centre agitator can result in damage to your down jacket.

4. Rinse thoroughly after washing

Use the detergent-free cleaner that's recommended for use with your down jacket and begin the wash cycle. Once the wash is complete, it’s advisable to run it through several rinse cycles to ensure no cleaner residues remain inside the fabric of the down jacket. Use the slowest spin speed and the maximum length of time available for this.

5. How to dry a down jacket

A down jacket clumps after washing. The insulating power of a down jacket depends very much on the feathers being puffy rather than clumped together inside. The drying process is key in preserving the unique insulating ability.

The label will provide clear instructions on how to dry your particular jacket and should be followed to a T. However, several things apply to all down jackets. Air-drying a down jacket will result in not only a long wait, but also in clumping. It’s this clumping which will later negatively affect the jacket’s insulating properties. A down jacket should always be dried in a tumble dryer at low heat. Refrain from using a higher heat setting to speed up the process as you’ll risk damaging the shell fabric.

To help ensure that puffy look and prevent the feathers from clumping you can add dryer balls or a couple of tennis balls. The constant bouncing of the balls during the drying process will help break those clumps and ensure that once dry, you’re fluffed up jacket will perform just like new.

6. How to store a down jacket

Always ensure your jacket is 100% dry before storing it. Once dry you’ll want to ensure you don’t compress your down jacket when stored. Always opt for a hanger rather than stuffing your jacket in a sack. If compressed over a period of time, the feathers lose their ability to puff up and they trap the air less efficiently, thus lowering the ability of the jacket to insulate.

At Decathlon we stock a wide range of down jackets to keep you warm and protected on your next adventure. And with the above instructions, you’ll be sure to maintain that snug warmth for years to come no matter where you go!