How to Wash a Down Jacket

How to wash a down jacket

I was getting out my cold weather gear a couple of weeks ago and realized that there was a time when I had no idea how to wash a down jacket. I would actually pay through the nose to get my down jackets cleaned at the dry cleaner and once got a jacket back with a broken zipper! So I thought I’d walk you through the process and show you just how effective home laundering in your washing machine can be for down garments.

Now, in an ideal world I would wash my down jackets before putting them away for the season. But in reality I am always so eager to make space in our tiny coat closet for summer wear that I end up sticking everything in the spare room closet, washed or not. But thanks to that I have a great example to work with.

Dirty down jacket

That’s… pretty dirty

I always wondered why anyone would buy a white down jacket – how impractical, right? But then I saw this one on clearance at Land’s End for less than $30 and decided that even if it lasts me one season it would be worth it. And here we are 3 years later. This is a knee length down jacket that I lovingly call the “giant white caterpillar”. I mostly wear this down jacket on super cold weather dog walks, so it tends to get quite dirty (as you can see).

Disclaimer here is that before washing you should check the tag to make sure the garment allows machine washing (I have washed “dry clean only” down jackets with good results, but I’m a laundry risk taker and was prepared for possible damage), and that front loading washers are preferable for this since they are gentler on clothes and have higher spin speeds. If you have a top loader I’d recommend going to a friend or a laundromat, otherwise proceed at your own risk!

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Here’s what you will need for washing a down jacket (or any other down garment, including comforters) at home:

Washing a down jacket

Here are all the supplies you’ll need to wash a down jacket at home

If you have any bad stains, you can pretreat those with a toothbrush, warm water and mild stain remover or just using the liquid down detergent and let sit for about 30 minutes before washing. I also detach the hood and place it in a laundry bag to keep the metal parts from making noise.

Ready to wash

Stains pretreated, hood detached and in a laundry bag – ready for washing

The jacket then goes into the washer – I will sometimes add a couple of hand towels to help beat the air out of the down “pockets” and provide more washing power.

Loading the washer

You can add some hand towels to the load to help with the wash

The Miele Down Wash requires only a half cap for a Euro-sized HE load. Please do NOT use your regular detergent – the enzymes in it are harmful to the down and feathers, and it lacks the ingredients in specialized down detergents that condition down.

Down detergent

A half capful of the Miele Down Wash goes into the main wash compartment

I normally wash all down garments on the Pillows cycle of my Miele W3038 – it does a high RPM spin first to settle the down garments and make them more water permeable. I also sometimes run a Beach Towels cycle with no detergent first. The Beach Towels is a quick cycle with high agitation and spin speeds that can prepare the down garment for washing by getting all the air out and saturating the down with water.
In a regular front loading washer I’d probably start with a Delicates cycle and go from there (you might need to run an extra spin cycle afterwards).

Washer Settings

Settings: Pillows cycle, Very Warm (50C/120F), High Spin

I chose Very Warm (50C/120F) for the temperature, although I have washed this jacket on Hot (60C/140F) in the past. You might want to stick with Warm if this is your first try!
At first the down jacket will poof up and appear to float on top of the water. This is why a specialized cycle is great – it has pretty aggressive agitation that beats the air out. If you don’t have that option, throw in a couple of hand towels (make sure the colors won’t bleed). Once the down jacket gets wet and the air comes out you can leave that to soak for a while.

Washing a down jacket

Once the water and detergent solution permeate the fabric this is what it will look like; at this point you can turn off the machine and leave it to soak if you prefer.

Your previously poofy down jacket will come out of the washer smelling of bird and looking very, very sad: all the down will be in lumps and you will probably think that it is ruined forever. But this is where the dryer comes in! Throw it in there with some dryer balls and keep running low heat cycles till there are no more clumps of down left (I use the 45 minute timed cycle in the Miele T8023C). After that air dry overnight and throw in the dryer for a No Heat tumble the next morning.

Dryer

Load into dryer with dryer balls and run as many cycles as needed till there are no more clumps of down left

So remember where we started? The gross yellow stains that had been sitting in a closet for over 6 months, sinking in?

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Dirty jacket

Here’s what we have after the wash:

So now that you’ve seen how to wash a down jacket at home maybe you’ll be able to save some money on dry cleaning! Seriously, it’s super easy to do and the most annoying/time intensive part is the drying. After washing and drying the jacket is nice and fluffy, and as you can see all the stains are now gone.

Best of all, the same principle applies not only to washing down jackets, but to all washable down items: down vests, down comforters, down pillows and so on and so forth. So find an old down garment in your donation pile, buy some down wash and experiment!

THE Miele Down Wash WAS PURCHASED BY ME FOR PERSONAL USE. THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS THAT WILL GIVE ME A SMALL COMMISSION ON ANY PURCHASES MADE THROUGH THE LINKS.

 

15 thoughts on “How to Wash a Down Jacket

  1. assad says:

    Thanks for this very informative article. I have both the W3038 and the Miele Down detergent and was wondering what would you do differently when washing a down comforter in the Miele? Our’s is fairly soiled as our pets take over any available “fluffy” spot in the house.
    Thanks!

    • Olga says:

      Hi Assad,

      Congrats on the purchase! 🙂 I hope you will love your W3038 as much as I do, and I also hope it will bring you many years of trouble-free service.

      If there is a lot of pet hair I would run a Beach Towels cycle first to loosen some of that up – I have an exceptionally “sheddy” Corgi, and do that with most dog items like throws and dog bed covers.

      Other than that, depending on how clean you want it to get (and how much you value your comforter) I can see adding some oxygen bleach to the wash. It is typically not recommended, since regular use will harm the down and feathers, but it’s one of those situations where you have to decide what bothers you more: the stains or the comforter’s longevity… I used sodium percarbonate the first time I washed that white down jacket because it was completely nasty, but probably wouldn’t have risked it if I were washing a Canada Goose or something crazy valuable like that.

      My only other concern would be the dryer – I’ve washed a Twin down alternative comforter in the Miele set before, and I thought that size was a pretty tight fit for the Miele dryer… If you have a Queen you’ll have to let me know how that goes!

      • assad says:

        Thanks for your response. When I first read your post I was scratching my head because when having the pillow cycle active it does not allow for a prewash (where I normally put oxygen bleach) …. then I realized you meant put it in the main wash compartment, with the Miele down liquid – is that correct?
        As for the dryer, I decided not to get the Miele dryer and went for a 24inch GE one that was vented. It took forever (2 hours) to dry the Queen comforter and that is with Nllie balls and me pull out the comforter and destuffing it 2 times. Not terribly impressed with the dryer sadly – the washer on the other hand is delightful!

        • Olga says:

          No worries Assad! When using a liquid detergent I usually put the oxygen bleach powder in the drum with the clothes. If you put it in the liquid detergent dispenser along with the detergent it might clump and not dissolve properly.

          As for the dryer, I think you will come to love the speed of the vented option! We just got back from an airbnb rental that had an inexpensive Samsung set and the vented dryer went through a load of towels almost twice as fast as my Miele condenser… So that comforter would have taken you all day most likely!
          What about the pet stains – did those come out?

          • assad says:

            Thanks for the tip on the oxygen bleach procedure. The vented Dryer does indeed dry faster than the ventless. I just think the sensor dry and options for multiple different loads (sweaters, down jackets, sneakers etc is lacking). But alas it was cheaper and I got “faster”.

            What about the pet stains – did those come out?
            They came out without the oxygen bleach surprisingly! Beach towel mode followed by 1/2 cup Miele down with the pillows cycle!

            I had a couple followup questions.
            1) How do you do a profile wash (or mimic one) in the W3038? When would you use it? I have some table napkins that get fairly stained from all the Indian and French food we cook 🙂
            2) For Active wear (Gym) clothes that are heavily soiled and sometimes have cooking stains on them, what cycle would you use on them?

            Thanks!

          • Olga says:

            I’ve actually also been very pleasantly surprised with the stain removal of the Miele down wash! The jacket in the photos was washed without any additives, and 90% of the stains were completely gone with the remaining 10% significantly faded.

            For a profile wash you can either do a 30 minute prewash (Heavy Soil) – that one starts out cold and gradually heats up, or if you don’t want a prewash you can do Custom/Wrinkle Free and set the temp to Cold or No Heat. Once the machine fills (so after about 5 mins) change the water temperature to Hot – you have to be quick since the washer only gives you 5-6 minutes to make any changes. If you’re going from No Heat to Hot I’d recommend adding Extended to make sure there’s enough time for the heater to work its magic.
            I think napkins and table cloths are classic profile wash material! As are any clothes with protein stains, since hot water can set those. I actually use Heavy Soil for the vast majority of my loads, just because I’m much too lazy to be bothered with pretreating anything and I want to make sure all stains will come out. 🙂

            Synthetics are tricky. The labels will tell you to wash in cold only, however in my experience that is just not enough if you’re dealing with heavily used wicking fabrics. I personally primarily use Dress Shirts/Warm or Very Warm and sometimes Heavy Soil for athletic gear, but we don’t have anything that’s too expensive that I’d baby… If there’s lycra in the fabric I wouldn’t go above Warm. Depending on the fabric you might want to use some garment bags, and don’t wash the synthetics with anything else – you don’t want stiff cotton rubbing against them. Also, a bit of Borax helps with keeping smells at bay.
            If you’re interested, I wrote a post about keeping exercise clothes non-smelly here.

          • Olga says:

            Also, I’m so happy to see that you’re enjoying your W3038! 🙂 It’s such a great machine and I honestly love mine more and more every day. 🙂

  2. assad says:

    “I’m so happy to see that you’re enjoying your W3038! ”
    Yeah – a bit OCD right now so that I can get everything dialed in down to a routine.

    Thanks for the info on the sports wash. I am running “Dress shirts” with a prewash right now and with Perwoll active and sport liquid detergent. We will see how it comes out, especially since one of them has an oil stain on it (I pretreated the spot with some of the same Perwoll detergent and let it sit).

    Regarding the profile wash, is my understanding correct that if I use Custom/Wrinkle in a warm/hot temp, do the Heavy soil option and don’t have Extended turned out that it is automatically a profile wash? I thought that after the first rinse (Heavy soil mode), the machine drains the water and then pours in the hot water. I thought profile washes are defined by gradually bringing the water up to temperature.

    As for the table cloths/napkins – When you run extended on the cycle, do you put anything in the prewash detergent drawer?

    Thanks much for all your help!

    • Olga says:

      Ah no worries – I’ll talk washers all day with anyone who is willing to listen. 🙂 Once again, I’m glad others out there are having as much fun with their Mieles as I am.

      To clarify, if you press Heavy Soil that adds a 30 minute prewash (and you want to add detergent to both the prewash and main wash dispensers). This prewash starts out with a cold fill and then gradually over 30 minutes heats the water to your desired temperature, so effectively you get a 30 minute profile wash that gets drained and then followed by a main wash that fills warm or hot, depending on your selection. But the protein stains will have been treated with cold water in the prewash/Heavy Soil phase, so you don’t have to worry about them setting.

      Your other option is to skip the prewash (so you do not select Heavy Soil in that case and only add detergent to the main wash dispenser) and turn your whole main wash into a profile wash, relying on the heater warming up the water over the course of the main wash cycle. You do this by starting the load on Custom or Wrinkle Free with the temperature set to No Heat or Cold and after 5 minutes (once the washer fills) you change the temperature to Warm/Very Warm/Hot. The machine will have already filled with cold water, and changing the temp after that will force the built-in heater to gradually warm the cold water up. However you only have 5 minutes to do this, since after that the temperature selection locks in and you can’t change it without cancelling the cycle.
      But if you’re going from frigid winter tap water temps to Hot, you might need to add some time to make sure the heater can get to the desired temperature, which is where Extended comes in. If you press the Extended button, that adds 30 minutes to the main wash, but does not affect the prewash.

      I hope this explains things a little better, but let me know if anything is still unclear!

      And let me know how your exercise clothes come out. I have some waiting at home after our trip.

  3. assad says:

    Sorry for the delayed response. Work got in the way of laundry! So I did finish up the exercise clothes. I pretreated the oil stain using Perwoll on one of the garments and left the others without pretreating. I did Dress Shirts/Warm and added Heavy Soil. I only put a 1/4 cup Perwoll in the main wash drawer (This is before I understood your last response – which now clarifies things for me!). I had massive amounts of sud in the last rinse and ran the extra rinse after from the master care cycle. The pretreated top came out clean and great smelling … no oil stain! However a couple of my shorts from the super sweaty workouts came out with a couple stains still on them and with a smell that bothers me. I am going to try again, this time splitting the 1/4 Perwoll up between both the main and prewash soap compartments. If that does not work, I will follow your “big guns” routine from your other article! What are you currently using as detergent for GYM shorts etc?

    And thanks again for the clarification on the wash cycles for prewash and how to really get a profile wash. Your last response finally got the dots connected for me!

    • Olga says:

      Hi again Assad!

      No worries, thanks for the update.
      Could you do me a favor? I haven’t used the Perwoll Sport, but I’m curious: the Perwoll for darks is marked on the back as a “light duty detergent” (you can see it in this photo at the bottom above the 1.5L) – what does the Perwoll Sport say? I took a look at the ingredients lists and they seem quite similar, so I’m assuming the Sport is a “light duty” as well.

      If you let me know which detergents you currently have on hand, we can brainstorm what to try for those tougher gym clothes. I think my laundry situation is a little different – we don’t tend to get oily stains on that type of clothing, so scent is my main concern. I personally just use a strong powder (German Persil or Ariel) with a touch of Borax or liquid (Tide) and no prewash, but in your case I think I’d do things differently. Probably start out with a liquid for the prewash (to make sure those oil stains get removed) and use a powder for the main wash. If smells are still a concern I’d add a couple Tbsp of Borax to the main wash (it’s like $3 for a giant box at most supermarkets – well worth the investment!), but it sounds to me like you might have soft water in which case Borax might increase suds levels and you wouldn’t want to use it with liquid detergents or sudsy powders.

      • assad says:

        Hi Olga,
        The text on the bottle above the 1.5L says Feinwaschmittel so I don’t think its light duty.
        As for the stuff on my laundry shelf:
        Biokleen Bac-Out Stain+Odor Remover
        Miele Ultra white powder
        Mile Down
        Oxyclean
        Cheers color HE powder
        Perwoll Delicates/Wool
        Perwoll Activ

        As for us having soft water – just to give you an idea: 2 tbsp of Miele Ultra White on a medium size load causes lots of sudsing when sensitive is turned on and its on the last rinse.
        Thanks for all your help.

        • Olga says:

          So that lovely German word actually means “detergent for delicates” or “mild detergent”, so it looks like the whole Perwoll lineup is similar in that way. Did the prewash+main wash with Perwoll Sport do the trick?

          Hmmm, if you get sudsing from the Miele powder you must have some seriously soft water… The good news is that you’ll be able to use much less detergent than the rest of us! The not-so-good news is that suds can be an issue.

          So in my machine I’d probably do a prewash with your Perwoll for sports clothes, and follow that up with a main wash with Cheer powder. Do you think that will give you too much suds? I know some people have complained about Cheer doing that. We have medium-hard water here, so suds really aren’t a huge issue.

  4. assad says:

    So I tried the prewash with the Perwoll (1/4 cup) for sports clothes, and followed that up with a main wash with Cheer powder (1 TBSP) and that did the trick. Minimal sudsing and things came out clean and smelling fresh. Thanks so much for your help!

    • Olga says:

      Thanks so much for giving me an update, Assad. So happy you were able to find the right balance and can now enjoy clean clothes. 🙂 And you are now one step closer to getting your personal laundry routine finalized! Please stay in touch – I’d love to hear about your future laundry adventures.

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