Purchasing a down jacket is rite of passage for us outdoor types. It’s the quintessential uniform for all mountain towns, a basecamp buddy, a belay bestie, and a go-to layer for all chilly situations.

Buying a down jacket represents achieving the “next stage” of outdoorsiness. Anyone who spends time sleeping, skiing, hiking, or otherwise adventuring outside understands that a down coat (or bag, or booties, or gloves, or, yes, even hats) can mean the difference between basic survival and enjoyment. Down offers an unbeatable warmth to weight ratio. It’s perhaps the best insulator out there. Did we mention it’s cozy?

It also requires care and attention to extend its lifespan.

Here’s the good news: Washing your down jacket is easy, affordable and guarantees a long lifespan for your gear.

What’s the best way to take care of your down gear?

Wash: Gear performs better when closest to its original, pristine state. Case in point: the birdbath. Birds know that their down will best protect them when it is clean. Down, specifically, requires a gentle, detergent-free cleaner. We recommend our very own, Nikwax Down Wash.Direct, which is specially formulated to launder down feathers without weighing down the loft (also see Down Proof, below).

Waterproof: Down is only effective when dry. Periodically apply Nikwax Down Proof, which both revives the outer fabric’s DWR, AND adds water repellency to the down itself, without adversely affecting the insulating properties. Simply run a second cycle with your Down Jacket with the Down Proof before drying. 

Rinse & Spin: So long as there isn’t a center-mount agitator, a special washing machine isn’t required for down gear. If the washer is large enough to handle the load, it’s good to go. The hard and fast rule is rinse, spin, then spin again. Get as much water out before drying as possible.

Dry: Relax to the rhythmic sound of a tennis ball tumbling through the dry cycle. The down will be clumpy from its time in the washer, and drying it completely is critical. Tossing a clean tennis ball (or two) in the dryer provides a gentle “smack” to break up the clumps. Fair warning: this is not a short process and you will likely have moments of clumpy terror when you check on the progress. Keep resetting the timer until your beloveds are lump-free and fully dry.

Results: When you pull your newly revived jacket out of the dryer, not only will it be gleaming with cleanliness, it will also be puffier then when you began the day. By gently cleansing the delicate feathers, Nikwax Down Wash.Direct revives loft and reinvigorates the down’s ability to trap air once again. Voilà!

Store: Hang it all out there. Just say no to storing down gear in tight stuff sacks. Over time, perpetually “squished” down feathers will become more resistant to re-lofting to their original air-trapping excellence. Store down apparel and sleeping bags hanging freely with plenty of space or hanging in large, breathable bags.

Additional resources: Always read and follow the label instructions for temperature and other considerations. Here’s a handy guide to care labels:

28 thoughts on “How to Wash and Waterproof a Down Jacket”

  1. I have a down jacket and down vest that need to be cleaned. The jackets got dirt stains on the sleeves from who knows what. It’s got a cordora outter layer. Will Down Wash Direct clean the outside of my jacket too? Or should I use Nikwax Tech Wash first? The jacket has a DWR coating from the factory, but I’ve never washed it… safe to assume the dwr will survive at least one wash cycle of Down Wash Direct, correct?

    1. Hey Neil!

      If your jacket has never been washed, then yes, Down Wash Direct (DWD) will most likely be able to remove that dirt on the first cycle of washing. It’s designed to clean the down fill and the outer fabric. The DWD will also reinvigorate the DWR layer from the factory that sits on the outer fabric and the DWR/repellency of the down inside the jacket. DWR is helped by DWD, not hurt by it.

      You can read more about the uses and benefits of DWD, here: http://www.nikwax.com/en-us/products/productdetail.php?productid=1015&itemid=-1&fabricid=-1

      Happy to help! – Brennon

  2. After realising my mistake and getting soggy and wet after washing my down coat in regular detergent and fabric softener a number of times I’ve purchased DWD and they are currently in the washer. Am I right in assuming that I will need to use the DOWN PROOF after to reintroduce water repellency? AND can I use DOWN PROOF to reproof a ski jacket that has suffered the same washing fate? Thanks!

    1. Hey Katy! Correct. The DWD will cleanse the jacket of all the residue left behind by the standard detergent and the fabric softener… I would even do 2 cycles of DWD, back to back, just to be safe. Then right after, you will want to run a cycle of Down Proof to reapply the water-repellency that you’ve lost over time and due to the standard detergent and fabric softener. Down Proof will add some water-repellency to your ski jacket, but since it is specifically designed for down jackets, you won’t see nearly as good of results as you would with our ski jacket-oriented waterproofing product, TX.Direct. As long as your ski jacket is a hardshell jacket, then you’re good with TX.Direct. If it is a softshell, then you want Softshell Proof.

      Hope that helps!


  3. Hey nikwax I want to wash a couple of good (phd) down jackets. They stipulate pure soap. I have some nikwax tech wash. Can I use that?

    1. Hey Kish! Our Down Wash Direct is designed to effectively and gently clean down, while also maintaining the properties of the down. DWD is safe for washing PHD down! If you’re also needing added water repellency, feel free to do another cycle through the wash right after the DWD cycle, but this time, with Down Proof. It will add DWR (Durable WAter Repellent) back onto the jacket. Step 1 = Cleaning, Step 2 – Waterproofing. Always in that order. 🙂

      Thanks for reading and happy cleaning!
      – Brennon

  4. I hvea a down filled jacket with Gore WindStopper shell. Should I use the down procedures or the soft shell?

    1. Hey Rafael! If a garment has down fill, you’ll want to opt for that method for cleaning…so Down Wash Direct. For re-waterproofing, you could add Spray-on Softshell Proof to the outside of the jacket, once the jacket has been washed in Down Wash Direct. Hope that helps!

  5. hello, my soft down jacket has a don’t wash, dry clean only tag.
    should I ignore and still try a machine wash with Nikwax?

    1. Hey George! Do you happen to have the model of the jacket? Most “dry clean” items are very particular, so you’d be safe to dry clean it. However, the dry cleaning is often more for the sake of the shell/outer of the jacket, not the down fill inside. Since down can be cleaned with gentle down cleaners like Down Wash Direct, it would just be a matter of the fabric type, for whether or not you could wash on a gentle/hand wash cycle, or simply hand wash the jacket in a tub. Happy to continue to help, if need be. – The Nikwax Team

  6. I have a yellow Napapijri Puffa that has some awful stains on the arms and the rear. I’ve tried to wash it using Grangers Down Wash kit but it didnt clean it very well.

    Can you please advise how I can restore this to its former.

    Many thanks,

    Lee Hayes

    1. Hey Lee! We recommend spot-cleaning with Down Wash Direct. Please give our Customer Service team a call to help with this: 206-633-0063. We are happy to help!

  7. Hello! I have a Montbell Superior Down Parka that I would like to wash with Nikwax. The label says to dry clean or hand wash and line dry. Is it still possible to put this in the washing machine?

    If so, should I use the “Outdoor Care” or “Delicates” cycle on my Samsung machine? The outdoor care cycle runs longer (1hr+) while the delicates cycle only runs for about 30mins. Also, is it advisable to spin the jacket? I read other guides advising not to spin the jacket, so I’m not sure.

    It’s my first time washing a down jacket so I’d appreciate any help, thanks!

    1. Hey John! Step 1 is to always follow the manufacturer garment care label: if it says hand wash or dry clean, I would hand wash in Down Wash Direct to clean it and Down Proof to add water-repellency. Give our Customer Service team (they rock!) a quick call at 206-633-0063 to get specific tips and best practice instructions for hand washing and drying down. Thanks!

  8. Thank you so much for including this sentence in the instructions on this page: “Fair warning: this is not a short process and you will likely have moments of clumpy terror when you check on the progress.”
    I just washed my down jacket and I did indeed have moments of clumpy terror, but these instructions reassured me to keep going and I now have a clean, puffy and clump-free jacket once again. I’d like to buy whoever wrote that a beer or a coffee! 🙂

  9. Argh! Have the DWD in the dispenser and the vest in the washing machine and I am paralyzed that I don’t know if I want to use cold or warm water. Some other articles say only cold and another says only warm.

    1. Hi Cas! Check the care label on your jacket to see if it gives you any hints. If not, cold is almost always the safest bet.

  10. I have a properly waterproof down jacket (Mountain Equipment Triton) and have Tech Wash and TX Direct here already. Do I still require the Down Wash as well? I love this jacket but looking up how to wash it is giving me palpitations!

    1. Hi Simon! Yes, you would want Down Wash Direct to clean as it is formulated to be safe for down fill. Do be sure to read the care label on your jacket before washing to be certain of the water temperature allowed.

  11. Hi,
    I’ve got a Gore Tex hard shell jacket which is down filled.

    I know that using Down Wash Direct will be the right thing for treating the down, but I then want the Gore Tex hard shell to be cleaned as well and then to be waterproofed. If it was just an outer shell, I’d use Tech Wash followed by TX.Direct, but can I use that if the jacket is down filled?

    Grateful for your advice

    1. Hi Stewart! For a down-filled jacket, GORE-TEX or not, use Down Wash Direct to clean and Down Proof to re-waterproof. Try just the Down Wash Direct first, as in addition to cleaning it will revitalize the water-repellency. If after doing this the jacket still needs extra water-repellency, then you can run a second cycle with Down Proof to add in more waterproofing.

  12. Hi,

    What are the differences between all your products?

    I have a north face down jacket and in the store i was told to use ‘Nikwax Tech Wash and TX Direct’ but i see there is a down jacket specific product.

    Should i just use the down jacket specific product? What if i also want to restore the waterproofing? Although my north face puffer jacket is not technically waterproof but when it rains the droplets do roll off and i does manage to keep the inside dry.

    also what is the difference between ‘Down Proof’ and ‘Down Wash Direct’?
    If i were to buy one of them, which would be best?

    1. Hi Sarah! For down-filled items please clean with Down Wash Direct. If you need to add water-repellency, use Down Proof. Tech Wash and TX.Direct are great for rain and ski jackets and pants, while our down products are formulated specifically for down feathers which need some special care due to their delicate nature. For all our products you can tell the difference between the cleaners and the waterproofers by the cap colors. Green is for Clean, Purple is for Proof!

  13. I have started cleaning but am now worried it won’t dry without becoming a clumpy mess! Is there anything I can do to help the drying process? I can use just a spin cycle without heat and some tennis balls if that helps but haven’t got access to a tumble drier

    1. Hi James! Apologies for the belated response. If you don’t have access to a dryer you can hang dry your down item, but if you’re able, dry it flat on a drying rack for best results. To assure a nice re-lofting, make sure to massage any clumps occasionally during the drying process. Once it gets closer to dry, fluff it more aggressively, kind of like tossing pizza dough in the air or refluffing a down pillow. If you’re in a hurry you can always take it to a laundromat, or pay a friend with a dryer a visit and bring them dinner. 🙂

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