Puffy Washing 101
We love our Puffys. They keep us warm on rest breaks, double as perfect pillows, and keep us cozy on those post-aprés walks home. But let's face it, sometimes they get real stinky. In fact, if you're a mountaineer, there’s a good chance you use your puffy specifically to keep yourself sweaty and warm during high-altitude breaks! With all that grime and stink, you’ll have to show your down jackets (and sleeping bags) some love every once in a while.
Here at Whittaker Mountaineering, we wash literally hundreds of down jackets and sleeping bags every summer through our rental program: read on to learn our secrets!
Do’s and Don’ts of Washing Down
The horror stories of incorrectly washed down are everywhere and usually end with your puffy being ineffective, a clumped together mass. So here’s how to avoid that tragedy and wash your jacket correctly!
All the following information can be applied to down sleeping bags as well. Synthetic bags and jackets use the same process.
First, prep your jacket! Remove any items from your jacket pockets, then zip them back up. In fact, make sure all your zippers are zipped, as an unzipped zipper can get caught and tear the fabric (think we can say zip one more time?). We also recommend turning your jacket inside out, to make extra sure nothing gets caught.
Next, get yourself a down-specific detergent. We recommend using NikWax Down Wash Direct to ensure your insulation doesn’t clump or compress. It also restores water repellency if your jacket happens to have that! Regular detergents can strip the natural oils in down, and are harder to rinse out during the wash process. Also, be sure to not use bleach or fabric softener! Once you’ve got your down detergent, throw your jackets into a front-loading washing machine. A top-loading machine will work ok for down jackets (although it’s not ideal) but you should never use a top-loading machine for sleeping bags!
Now to the washing process! You’ll want to wash your jacket on the permanent press or gentle cycle and use cold water. If your jacket is really dirty, you can pause the machine mid-cycle to let it soak for an hour.
Next, the balls. To ensure your jacket remains puffy, you’ll need 3-6 tennis balls depending on the size of your load. Throw those in, then your jacket, and turn it on a low-heat cycle. Even after the cycle is finished, leave your jacket in for another 15 minutes or so until it cools down.
That’s it! You’re officially a pro at washing down jackets.
Till next time,
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