How to Wash a Puffer Jacket
Knowing how to properly care for your puffer jacket will help it perform well for years to come. But puffy coats have technical features and materials that differ from your average jacket, so you need to know what you’re doing.
We reached out to Andy Morningstar, a product care specialist for Columbia Sportswear, to get some advice on how to wash a down jacket without damaging it.
“Proper care isn’t just washing it from time to time, but also how you wash it, store it, and protect it,” she explains. “A good jacket is an investment. Maintain its quality and it will last you many seasons.”
Why is jacket care so important?
“The loft or fluffiness of down or synthetic insulation is how your jacket traps in air and retains heat,” Morningstar says. “Letting your jacket go too long between washes can cause the inner fill to clump up, which reduces the loft.”
Additionally, she explains, dirt, mud, dust, sweat, or other foreign substances left on the shell or soaked into the insulation can accelerate the breakdown of any protective durable water repellent (DWR) materials.
This could also clog up the “pores,” causing your jacket to become less breathable, and add more general wear and tear, shortening its lifespan overall.
With that in mind, it’s important to only wash a puffer jacket when necessary because detergents and frequent machine washing can wear down the insulation and DWR.
Also be sure your puffer jacket isn’t compressed when you store it—like jammed in the back of a closet for several months. Long-term compression will result in clumping and loss of loft, gradually creating pockets without insulation that will let the cold seep through.
For more tips on how to keep all your outdoor gear in top shape check out our guides on ways to make your outdoor gear last longer, and how to wash and dry fleece.
How to wash a puffer jacket
- Before washing, close all zippers and flaps, brush off any loose dirt or grime and turn the jacket inside out.
- Using a front-loading washing machine, wash your jacket on a gentle/delicate cycle using cold water and a mild detergent.
- Do not use any products containing bleach or fabric softener.
- Dry on low to no heat with two or three clean tennis balls to help redistribute the insulation.
Puffer jacket care FAQs
Should I use a special kind of detergent to wash my puffer jacket?
“A down-specific cleanser is really going to help you maintain your jacket (we recommend Gear Aid), but a mild detergent—preferably nontoxic and biodegradable—will work too,” Morningstar says.
Make sure to avoid anything containing bleach or fabric softeners, and look for something suited for delicate fabrics.
Why is the kind of washing machine important?
How do you hand-wash a puffer jacket?
Morningstar recommends “soaking the jacket for approximately 30–60 minutes in lightly warm (not hot) to cold water in a sink or tub, then gently wash the jacket using your down-friendly mild detergent.”
Make sure you rinse your jacket well with cold water and gently squeeze out any excess water, being very careful to not wring or twist as you squeeze to avoid clumping the down insulation.
And you can always spot-wash by hand as needed.
Will a puffer jacket shrink if you wash it?
“This will depend on the materials the jacket is made of, but washing in hot water or drying with high heat could not only shrink your jacket, but could potentially damage it too,” Morningstar says.
So be sure to dry your puffer jacket on the lowest heat setting to help avoid damage or shrinking. “Check the garment every 15–20 minutes to pull apart clumps,” she says. “This process will help ensure that feathers are distributed evenly and the garment is completely dry, which will prevent mold. This process may take a while, but you need to avoid high heat that can damage the jacket shell or down.”
Do you need to wash synthetic down and natural down jackets differently?
“Even though real down and synthetic insulation are completely different, their care instructions are mostly the same,” Morningstar says. “You do want to try to avoid compressing a synthetic jacket as much as possible though. Synthetic is more susceptible to cold spots caused by compression.”