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How To Wash A Down Jacket Or Sleeping Bag
There's nothing like the protection you get from down-filled outdoor clothing and sleeping bags when it comes to fighting off the cold. To ensure they keep as warm as they should, regular washing and proper care of your down-filled items not only maintains hygiene but plays an important role in preserving their loft (puffiness) and warmth-to-weight ratio.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting down, always follow the manufacturer's care instructions. Products that contain down need to be washed carefully, so ignoring the care instructions that are specific to each item means the feathers can clump together ruining your jackets and sleeping bags. Wash your jackets on a gentle wash with the water temperature at 30 degrees in a front-loading machine or a top-loader without an agitator.
As well as following the care instructions, here are some general tips that are good to bear in mind when washing and disinfecting down.
Always use a down-specific detergent, as this type of detergent will fully restore the loft of the jacket. While a gentle off-the-supermarket-shelf washing liquid can be used, down-specific detergents go a long way to delivering the best results.
Never use fabric softener, and never get your down products dry-cleaned!
Down jackets can be washed using a gentle or delicates cycle on your washing machine with the water temperature around 30 degrees. A front-loading machine is a better washing option, as the agitator in a top-loader can be too rough and will cause clumping. A top-loader that doesn't have an agitator can be used if handwashing isn't an option for you.
Skip the spin-dry/rinse part of the cycle. Down appreciates the opportunity to drip-dry or enjoy a gentle roll in the tumble dryer.
Soak the jacket or sleeping bag for 60 minutes in a sink, again using down-specific detergent. Rinse the jacket by lightly squeezing out the water. Don't wring the jacket, as this will likely lead to clumping.
Unless the care instructions specify not to, we recommend tumble-drying on low for approximately an hour or until your gear feels dry. Additionally, make sure you add down wash balls or clean tennis balls. The balls will help dry the down but then puff it up again reducing the likelihood of clumping.
If you don't have a dryer (or if the weather is working in your favour), you can let your down products drip-dry over 12 to 48 hours. You can do this by carefully taking the gear from your washing machine and laying it flat. You'll need to shake or 'fluff' your down gear every half an hour or so until it's fully dry to prevent the feathers from clumping.
Note: we might be talking a lot about clumping but, if the feathers do dry in a clump, they will remain that way and won't insulate you against the cold properly. Regularly fluff your products, check for clumps and ensure they're completely dry before using or storing them.
Taking the time to properly clean and disinfect your down-filled outdoor gear means they will do the job they're designed to do properly, and will do so for many years to come.