How to wash your down jacket at home

(Puffer: Aritzia)

A good down jacket is the key to getting through the harsh Canadian winters. These hard-wearing coats don’t come cheap, but the right one will keep you warm year after year if properly cared for, and that means figuring out how to keep it clean. We asked two laundry pros to share their tips on how to wash, deodorize and store a down jacket to make it last.

yes you can wash it at home

Melissa Maker’s decade-old parka is still as warm and easy to wear as ever. The founder of Clean My Space, a Toronto-based housekeeping service and online cleaning advice platform, has been washing her pumps at home for years.

Contrary to popular belief, parkas do not go well with the dry cleaners. Because they’re filled with down or down alternatives (like polyester fabric), heavy dry-cleaning fluid can ruin their warm, fluffy feel, says Patric Richardson, a laundry and clothing expert based in Minnesota and author of The Love of Laundry: Finding Joy in a Common Chore.

When washing at home, it’s best to use a front-loading washing machine without an agitator (the cone-shaped shaft usually found in the center of a top-loading machine), because these can be rough on clothes and clothes can wrap around them. . If your machine has an agitator, Maker suggests adding something else to the charge, like a blanket, to balance out the cycle.

Prepare your pump for the machine

Before you put your coat in the wash, empty the pockets, fasten all Velcro fasteners and make sure the jacket is fully zipped to prevent it from snagging inside the machine during the cycle. (You don’t need to use a mesh laundry bag when washing a down jacket; few people have one big enough.) Next, remove any fur or faux fur trimmings the coat might have, because these can be cleaned separately. “If it’s real fur, you can take it to a dry cleaner or a furrier. If it’s faux fur, you can machine wash it separately on a delicate setting,” says Maker. You’ll also want to treat any makeup, oil, or dirt stains before throwing the jacket in the wash (but more on that later).

Finally, always check the care label before washing for advice from the manufacturer on how to clean the garment.

Gentle washing is key

Once it’s ready for the machine, throw in your jacket on its own (or with a blanket, if needed for balance). To wash his parka, Maker prefers to use a mild, unscented detergent and cold water, as it’s the gentlest on clothes. “Most, if not all, detergents are now formulated to kick ass and take names in cold water,” she says.

Want to make sure your coat stays as fluffy as possible? Richardson recommends washing down – just be sure to use it with warm (but not hot) water, as cold water won’t activate it. (If your jacket’s care label calls for “specialty detergent,” it says that means down washing.) Use only a small amount of detergent – Richardson adds about half a tablespoon to a load – and avoid bleach or fabric softener.

The manufacturer suggests choosing a gentle wash setting. Since down jackets are absorbent, you may need to add an extra spin cycle to help remove excess moisture before removing them. “You want your jacket to be as dry as possible right out of the washing machine,” she says. “If the jacket stays damp or wet, mold can build up and cause odors.”

Let go of the heat when you dry

After washing, Richardson suggests hanging your jacket to dry completely before putting it in the dryer to fluff it up. Heat wears fabric faster and is not good for jackets with water repellent finishes, so be sure to select a low heat or no heat setting, whether air dry, ultra-low or delicate. To help fluff up your jacket, add tennis balls tied in a sock or machine-drying balls. “They’ll bounce back and help remove any extra moisture,” says Maker, adding that it can take an hour or two to cycle.

Before packing it away, you want to make sure there is no lingering moisture in the jacket. To check this, Maker says to hold it to your mouth and inhale quickly to see if there’s any moisture in the air. “If you feel there is moisture, you should change to another spin cycle.”

Spot cleaning is your friend

Frequent machine cycles can damage your jacket’s water-repellent coating, so washing it once a season is more than enough. If it looks dirty, Richardson and Maker recommend washing it at the end of the season rather than the start of the next. “If it’s down and you don’t wash it, you could attract moths,” Richardson says. When you wear it regularly, spot cleaning your jacket is the answer. (Also do this before washing at the end of the season.) Water-repellent parkas are relatively easy to clean. Rubbing the stain with a washcloth and water should do the trick, but Richardson says you can also add a small dab of soap.

The most difficult areas to clean are the wrists or collars, where moisturizer or makeup stains appear. Richardson suggests spraying with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar, then rubbing with a damp towel. “You don’t want to rub it hard, but you want to rub it hard enough to lift [the stain] off,” he explains. “If you dab straight up and down, there’s no friction for the stain to come off.”

Get rid of bad odors

Deodorizing your sponge as needed will keep it smelling fresh without the risk of wearing it out in the wash. When it comes to store-bought products, Maker likes unscented fabric sprays, like Febreze Fabric Refresher. Alternatively, to give the jacket a quick refresh, she recommends doing it once with your garment steamer. It won’t damage the jacket, she notes, because it won’t be exposed to repeated heat.

For homemade air fresheners, Richardson swears by vodka. “It’s antibacterial, so it’ll take the smell out of anything,” he says, adding that the distilled alcohol doubles as a stain remover. Use a spray bottle to distribute the alcohol evenly and allow to air dry.

If the weather is nice, Maker recommends letting your coat hang outside for about an hour to air it out before putting it away. “UV light is an amazing deodorizer,” she adds.

Avoid plastic storage bags

When storing your jacket for the summer, make sure it’s completely dry and has room to breathe. “I’m usually a fan of large containers or space-saving bags, but not these,” says Maker. “If you wrinkle a down jacket, it can damage the feathers.” Instead, she suggests enclosing your jacket in a cloth garment bag and hanging it up so air can circulate. If you don’t have a cloth garment bag on hand, Richardson says a clean sheet will do.

Make it last by washing it sparingly

The bottom line? “Don’t obsess over washing your parka,” says Maker. Clean and deodorize as needed, and wash at the end of the season before storing.

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