How to wash a down jacket to keep it fluffy and warm

Experts explain how to wash a down jacket without damaging the precious feather filling

Light green down jacket on gray background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Break out the outerwear this winter and learn how to wash a down jacket to get it looking as good as new. 

With lots of continuous wear, a down jacket can build up odors, stains, and residue. You may think it's difficult to wash this bulky item at home, but no need to run to the dry cleaners. 

We asked the experts how to wash a down jacket in an ordinary washing machine to save you time and money. See their best tips on how to do laundry properly so you don't damage the fluffy down filling.

How to wash a down jacket

Outerwear is often neglected when it comes to washing clothes — a pretty common laundry mistake. If you're wearing a warm coat every day during the colder months, it will no doubt build up with nasty odors and stains (thinking of that spilled latte on your morning commute). 

So gather all your laundry room essentials and get cracking with your cleaning routine.

Close up of green puffer jacket sleeve

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: Check the care label

The care label is always the first thing you should check before attempting to wash a down jacket. James Joun, laundry expert and co-founder of Rinse, says, “You should always check the care label before doing the laundry. Different materials will call for different washing methods and some are hand-wash only."

Check the label on the inside for the laundry symbol meanings as these will tell you if your jacket is dry clean only and how to treat it.

James Joun
James Joun

James Joun is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Rinse. He is a second-generation dry cleaner and has over 20 years of industry experience having first worked at his parents' store. 

Step 2: Prep jacket and treat stains

No doubt you'll want to get rid of any stains before tossing your jacket into the wash. Getting rid of food stains can be pretty easy if you have the right supplies. We like this highly-rated Miss Mouth's stain treater available on Amazon for getting rid of tough messes.

You'll also want to make sure your jacket is prepped and zipped up. "Before placing the down jacket in the washing machine, ensure all zippers and fastenings are securely closed. This prevents any snagging or potential damage during the wash cycle," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid.

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services. 

Step 3: Wash with cold water

Avoid heat when it comes to washing a down jacket as this may damage the feathers. You can use a detergent that is specially designed for down jackets, like this Nikwax Down Wash available on Amazon. This won't strip the oils from the natural feathers, which keeps them warm and fluffy.

"Opt for a mild, color-free detergent to prevent any potential damage to the fabric or the jacket's filling. Avoid using fabric softeners, as they can impact the jacket's ability to insulate," says Angela.

Make sure to use a front-loading washing machine as a top-loader with an agitator can be too harsh.

Step 4: Dry on low heat with dryer balls

Retain the shape and volume of your down jacket by drying it on a low setting. A great laundry hack is to use dryer balls to fluff up your jacket in a tumble dryer. We like these wool dryer balls available on Amazon with over 75k reviews, but tennis balls will work too.

Just make sure the heat isn't too high. James adds, "You can toss a down jacket in the dryer but it should be on a low setting. Anything too hot can risk damaging the feathers."

If you don't have a machine, you can still dry clothes without a dryer. Just set up your down jacket on a rack like this folding Amazon Basics rack and air dry.

Before you store clothes in a small bedroom for winter, you may want to give your down jacket a wash so it's fresh and clean next season. "Store your puffer jacket in a cool, dry place when not in use. Avoid compressing it for extended periods, as this can affect its loft and insulating properties," says Angela.

With the best clothes storage containers in hand, you can keep your bulky jacket out of sight, out of mind until you need it again.

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.