How to wash a puffer jacket without taking it to the dry cleaners

Our laundry experts explain how to wash a puffer jacket at home and retain its puffy shape

Olive green, cream, and navy puffer jacket on neutral background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bundle up for the winter and learn how to wash a puffer jacket to keep your outerwear looking and feeling fresh. It's easy to forget about washing a big, heavy coat but it's an important job.

You may get sweaty if you're feeling too warm when you're wrapped up, and your puffer coat can accumulate dirt and grime from being outdoors. Once you realize how dirty your coat is actually getting, trust us, you'll want to wash it. 

While you may be thinking you have to run it to the dry cleaners, which can be inconvenient and pricey, it's actually easier to wash at home than you may assume if you know how to do laundry the right way.

How to wash a puffer jacket

If you're getting all your heavy-duty winter gear out for the season, ask yourself: 'When was the last time I washed any of this?' If you can't remember, then it's time to chuck that puffer coat in the laundry. 

First things first, you want to make sure you have all the laundry room essentials, you're going to need such as a mild laundry detergent and stain removers (we like this Miss Mouth's stain treater available on Amazon). Then it's time to load up the washing machine and freshen up for winter.

Woman wearing navy blue puffer jacket

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: check the care label

Before you even get started, make sure to check the label on the inside of your coat for all the washing information you're going to need. The laundry symbols listed on the tag will tell you if you can toss it in the washing machine, if it can be exposed to heat, and how to dry your coat. 

They may seem cryptic but once you figure out what those little symbols mean, you'll learn a lot about the makeup of your jacket.

Step 2: prep your jacket

Next, you want to make sure your jacket it ready for the washing machine. This means checking the pockets for any items you have stored away (ever accidentally washed your favorite lipstick by mistake? Not fun!). Then check for anything that may damage your coat in the wash like zippers. 

"Before placing the puffer 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 on a low-heat, gentle cycle

It's always best to choose a gentle cycle on items that could potentially be damaged in the wash. You definitely want to avoid any tears or damaging the inner filling so your jacket stays as warm as possible. 

"Choose cold water. You don’t want excessive heat into your puffer jacket because this messes up fibers by expanding them and filling them with heat," says Alex Cortez, manager at Denton Maids.

You'll also want to use a mild such as Tide Free & Gentle detergent, available on Amazon to avoid harsh chemicals — a common laundry mistake. "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.

Alex Cortez

 Alex Cortez is the manager of Denton Maids, a cleaning service located in Denton, Texas. 

Step 4: dry on low heat with dryer balls

You'll want to restore the puff in your puffer jacket (a pretty important and enjoyable quality) so we recommend a gentle cycle in the dryer to keep that lining light and airy. 

Add some dryer balls (tennis balls will do the job in a pinch) to make sure it's getting evenly fluffed. We like these wool dryer balls available on Amazon with over 75k reviews.

"If using a tumble dryer, set it on the lowest heat setting and include a couple of clean tennis balls or dryer balls to help fluff up the filling," says Angela. 

And don't skimp on the dryer balls — the more the merrier. "For drying, you will need several dryer balls, (the entire set of four or six if you have them), change the settings in your dryer to low heat or no heat, and leave it for a while," says Alex.

Close up of green puffer jacket sleeve

(Image credit: Getty Images)


Can I air dry a puffer jacket?

If you want to play it safe you can definitely air dry your puffer jacket on a drying rack like this Amazon Basics rack. It's a great way to dry clothes without a dryer, plus it will save on energy bills, too.

Once it's dry you'll need to shake it out and redistribute the stuffing to bring back the volume in the material.

Does it matter which washing machine I use?

You can wash a puffer jacket in just about any washing machine but a front-loading machine works best. "You would ideally use a front load washing machine. Avoid using top-loads because the agitator (the piece in the middle) can tear delicate
clothing," says Alex.

It's a pretty common laundry myth that outwear can only be washed at the dry cleaners but washing a puffer jacket at home can be pretty simple with a few expert tips. 

It's a good idea to wash your coats and accessories like scarves and gloves when you pull your winter clothes out and again before putting them away for the summer so they don't accumulate odors while in storage.

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, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style 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.