How To Wash A Down Jacket 2 Ways: In The Machine & By Hand

person wearing blue down jacket in the woods

Has your down jacket seen better days?

Not to worry, giving it a wash is a piece of pie.

There are two ways you can go about it: in the washing machine or by hand.

I’m going to show you how to wash a down jacket using both methods step by step, to help you get your jacket looking and feeling brand new again. I’ll also tell you all about how to dry your down jacket once you’re done washing it.

So, let’s jump straight into it, shall we?

How To Wash A Down Jacket In The Washing Machine

woman washing an orange down jacket in the washing machine

It’s perfectly safe to wash your down jacket in the washing machine, just as long as the label doesn’t explicitly state otherwise. If it does, then you should stick to hand washing to be on the safe side.

If you’re washing your jacket in the machine, you should always do it in a front loading machine.

Why a front loading washing machine?

Well, you see, top loading washing machines have either agitators or impellers, both of which can damage the feathers in your down jacket.

So, if you haven’t got access to a front loading machine, either look for a nearby laundromat, or wash your jacket the good ol’ fashioned way – by hand.

You should also keep in mind that the larger the washing machine, the lower your chances are of damaging your jacket.

To wash your down jacket in the washing machine, here’s what you’ll need:

  • A front loading washing machine
  • Down specific detergent
  • Several tennis balls

Step 1: Load Your Machine

Put your down jacket in your front loading washing machine, and throw a few tennis balls in there, too.

Four tennis balls should do the trick, but feel free to throw in a couple more if you like. It can’t hurt.

Why add tennis balls?

They’ll keep the down in your jacket fluffy and prevent it from clumping. You can use something else if you don’t have tennis balls, but don’t use anything heavier than a tennis ball. Heavier balls and items can damage the down insulation in your jacket, so stick to steer clear.

Step 2: Add Some Soap

Add a dash of soap that’s specifically made for down. You really don’t need much, so don’t overdo it.

If you use regular detergent, you’re likely to damage the down. The chemicals in regular detergent are too harsh, and they can strip down the natural oils that coat the feathers in your down jacket.

But that isn’t all that can go wrong.

Using regular detergent can damage the outer fabric, too, destroying the water repellent coating that keeps your down dry in a drizzle.

So, make sure you always use a down specific cleaner. Nikwax Down Wash Direct is a good option that won’t damage the insulation or the fabric on your jacket.

Step 3: Run The Cycle

Choose the gentlest cycle on your washing machine, at the lowest possible temperature.

The cycle for wool or silk would be your safest bet.

Make sure to turn the spin cycle off. It’ll put your down insulation at risk of clumping, so it’s best to give it a miss.

If there’s an extra rinse option on your machine, go for it. You’ll need to rinse your jacket as well as possible. Which brings us to our next point.

Step 4: Run An Extra Rinse Cycle

Once the cycle is done, run an extra rinse cycle just to be sure you’ve gotten all the soap out. Even if you did the extra rinse cycle in the previous step, do another one for good measure.

Again, make sure that you leave the spin cycle out.

And that’s it!

Easy peasy, right?

You can read about what the best way to dry your down jacket is a little bit further down.

How To Wash A Down Jacket By Hand

lots of colorful down jackets hanging on a rack

If you want to, you can always opt to wash your down jacket by hand instead.

Hand washing is always a gentler option than machine washing, and your jacket is much less likely to sustain any damage in the process.

Here’s what you’ll need to wash your down jacket by hand:

  • A bucket, sink or tub
  • Down specific detergent
  • A source of running water

Step 1: Fill A Bucket With Water & Soap

For this step you can use a bucket, your sink, a bathtub – anything that’s large enough to soak your jacket in.

Fill it with enough cold or lukewarm water to submerge your jacket completely, and add a little bit of soap. Again, a tiny bit is enough. You don’t want to add so much soap that you can’t rinse it all out later.

And, of course, make sure that the soap you’re using is designed specifically for down. Like I said, using regular detergent is a bad idea as it can damage your jacket’s insulation and fabric.

Step 2: Soak Your Jacket

Submerge your jacket in the water.

Give it a good swoosh around and leave it in there to soak for a good hour or so.

If there are any stains or problematic areas, you can take a sponge and try to clean those spots. Just be careful not to use anything too abrasive so that you don’t damage the fabric. If you’re using a sponge with an abrasive side, don’t use that side to scrub your jacket.

Step 3: Rinse Thoroughly

Next, it’s time to rinse your jacket off.

Drain your bucket/sink/tub and run the jacket under cold water until all of the soap has washed out and you don’t see any more suds.

Lightly squeeze out excess water, but don’t wring the jacket out under any circumstances.

That’s all there is to it. It doesn’t get much easier than that, now does it?

And now that you’re done, all that’s left to do is dry your jacket.

Here’s how.

How To Dry A Down Jacket After You’ve Washed It

down jacket folded up

When it comes to drying your down jacket, you’ve got two methods:

  • You can hang it out to air dry
  • Or, you can dry it in the tumble dryer

While you can choose between either one of these options on their own, I find that the best thing to do is to combine them.

When you finish washing your jacket, lay it out flat on a rack and fluff up the down as much as you can. Then, hang your jacket out to air dry for around 24-48 hours. Every now and then, fluff up the down to make sure it doesn’t clump together.

Don’t wring it to drain the excess water, no matter how soaking wet it is. Just hang it up and let it drip dry.

Once it’s nearly dry, throw it in the dryer with a few tennis balls on low heat. Keep an eye on it and check regularly to make sure it isn’t clumping. Fluff it up every time you take it out to check on it.

Be super careful that you don’t wear your jacket or store it away before it’s dried completely. If you do, it’ll start to smell, and you’ll have a hard time getting it clean again.


person wearing blue down jacket and white hat with pompom

Still got more questions?

Well, hopefully we’ll be able to answer them in this section.

Here are some of the questions that people asked most often, answered.

How often do I need to wash my down jacket?

The simple answer to this question is the less often, the better. Down jackets shouldn’t be washed too often, because this will significantly reduce their lifespan.

Now, how often you wash your jacket is going to depend on how often you wear it, and how quickly you get it dirty. Some people won’t need to wash it very often at all, while others might need to wash it as often as once a month.

Can’t I just take my down jacket to the dry cleaners?

In short, no. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.

The chemicals used in dry cleaning are harsh and can do irreparable damage to your down jacket.

That being said, there are some exceptions and certain down jackets can be dry cleaned without any issues. If yours is one of them, it’ll be written explicitly on the label.

So, always make sure to check the label before you wash your down jacket, no matter which cleaning method you decide to go for.

Can I use fabric softener when I’m washing my down jacket?

No, you definitely shouldn’t.

Just like most detergents, fabric softener is too harsh for your down jacket, so give it a miss. The down cleaner you use is more than enough, and you shouldn’t add anything else.

Wrapping It Up

And now you know how to wash a down jacket.

As you can see, it’s a fairly easy process.

Whether you choose to wash your jacket by hand or in the washing machine, you shouldn’t run into any problems as long as you follow these simple steps.

To find out how to wash some of your other outdoor gear, check out some of our other useful guides. Like, for example, this comprehensive guide I wrote on how to wash a sleeping bag.