How to wash your down products
Having spent years talking to people about down products, whether that’s a jacket, sleeping bag or even a pair of slippers, very few have had the confidence to go ahead and wash the product on their own, especially when they have just spent an arm and a leg on it. This small guide is here to explain that it’s not as daunting and utterly terrifying as it first appears.
Step one: Before you even get near that washing machine, wipe off any excess mud or dirt that may be lingering on the surface of the jacket, as this will clog up the washing machine, eventually rendering it useless.
We recommend the use of Nikwax Down Wash Direct for down products as it’s one hundred percent environmentally friendly and will wash and re-proof the garment without the use of bleach or any other nasty chemicals. What standard detergents can (and often do) is remove the water repellent coating on the fabric of the jacket, whilst also damaging the delicate array of feathers inside.
Step two: We’ll assume in this instance that you’ve been washing other products prior to your down jacket and have used a bleach based detergent. Therefore it’s a good idea to run the washing machine for half an hour or so without anything inside to rinse it clean before adding the Nikwax or putting the jacket in. Also, don’t forget to remove the detergent drawer to give it a wash inside, outside and behind, as detergent can clog up and still enter the washing machine if not cleaned out thoroughly. This ensures that any remnants of detergent are removed and that the Nikwax products will work effectively.
Step three: Set the washing machine to a cold wash (check the garments care label, most tend to be around 30°) and as delicate as possible. Most washing machines have a “wool” cycle which is ideal.
Step four: If using Nikwax Down Wash Direct, place 100ml in either the tray or directly into the washing machine inside a small pot/ball. If you choose to use another washing product, place the appropriate amount in the machine in the same way.
Step five: Set the washing machine to run on a slow cycle, allowing plenty of time for the jacket to soak up the cleaning/re-proofing product. Most washing machines will have a pre-set time for different washing cycles.
When the cycle has finished be prepared for a shock, your precious bit of kit will come out looking like a soggy ball of material. But don’t worry, you haven’t ruined it, it’s just that all that fluffy down insulation has become water logged and has clumped together. The trick is to now get all that down nice and dry to reinstate its superb insulating properties. Simply hanging it up in a warm place will not work that well. For one thing it will take days to properly dry and you will have to constantly break up the clumps to get it thoroughly dry. The best way is to use a tumble drier, either a domestic one for smaller items or a commercial drier for sleeping bags.
Step six: Pop the garment into the drier and make sure to select a low heat; a high heat runs the risk of melting seams and fabrics within the garment. It sounds weird, but shove a few tennis balls into the drier with the garment. The tennis balls will bounce around and help to break up the clumps of down, it’s also a good idea to take out the garment and pull apart the clumps of down throughout the drying cycle to ensure each piece of down gets a chance to dry.
Step seven: When the cycle has finished and you are sure that you have got the garment as dry as possible, hang it up in a warm dry place, an airing cupboard is ideal, for 24 hours. This drives out the last of any dampness and allows the down to loft fully. Take it out and give it a good shake and, hey presto, it’ll be as good as new.
Don’t fear if you don’t have a tumble drier. Although tumble drying is the best way and by far the easiest; it’s still possible to dry it by hand. Simply leave it to dry in a warm room and wait for the down to fully dry. From experience, lying the garment down flat tends to work the best as the down is spread out evenly and not forced to the bottom by gravity. In terms of lofting the jacket back up, the best way is the classic way of shaking it about until you notice the down lofts like it did before. Tip – don’t leave the garment on the washing line to drip dry all night, this will allow the down to clump together and will make it increasingly difficult to loft it back up after. When you’ve got it as dry as you can follow step seven above to finish off the drying process.