Gear Care 101: How to Clean Your Puffy Jackets

Down jackets are a staple for anyone who gets outside, from the early morning dog walk around the block, to the 2am alpine start to attempt a summit. Puffys keep us warm and protected against the chill of the elements. However, amidst the adventures and happy hour runs, it’s easy to overlook the important aspect of maintaining their cleanliness. Spring time is a great time to give your favorite puffys a wash! Keeping your puffy clean not only helps it do it’s job, it extends its lifespan, keeping it out of the landfill to keep you warm for another season.

Why Even Clean Your Puffy?

The importance of cleanliness lies in preserving the functionality and longevity of your down jacket. Over time, accumulated dirt, sweat, and grime impairs performance and durability. Keeping your puffy clean keeps it in rotation for much longer, and helps it keep you warm. Cleaning your puffy will save you money in the long run!

Preserve the Insulation

The loft of a down jacket is it’s lifeblood, providing the warmth and coziness we want whenever there’s a chill in the air. However, dirt and oils from our bodies can clog the delicate down clusters, causing them to clump together and lose their insulating properties. You’re looking for LOFT in the down. And oil and dirt is the enemy of loft. Regular cleaning helps to restore the loft and keep your puffy warm.

Make Sure Your Puffy Stays Water Resistant

Many down jackets feature a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating on the outer fabric, which helps to protect you from moisture and keep you dry in damp conditions. This coating can become compromised over time due to dirt and grime buildup — that coffee you spilled, that sappy bush you brushed by. Cleaning your jacket removes these contaminants, allowing the DWR to function effectively.

Keep Your Puffy Smelling Nice

Let’s face it—adventures can be sweaty affairs. And while a little sweat is inevitable, it can also leave behind unpleasant odors that cling to your jacket. Regular washing (or just end of season washing) helps to lessen these odors. No one wants a smelly jacket throw into your trunk for an entire summer season.

How to Clean Your Down Jacket

Puffy Prep

Before diving into the washing process, take a moment to prepare your jacket. Close all zippers and fasten any Velcro tabs to prevent snagging. If your jacket has a hood, detach it and and wash it separately. 

Checking the care label on the garment is a great place to start. It should have specific instructions tailored to the fabric and construction of your down jacket. When in doubt, always follow the instructions on the care label. 

Pick Your Detergent

When it comes to washing down jackets, not all detergents are created equal. Opt for a down-specific cleaner, like Nikwax Down Wash Direct, which is specially formulated to clean and revitalize down insulation without stripping away its natural oils. Please don’t throw your puffy in with your regular wash!

Machine Washing

It’s best to wash your down jacket in a front-loading washing machine to avoid damaging the delicate down clusters. Set the machine to a gentle cycle with cold water and add the recommended amount of down cleaner. If you don’t have access to a front loader, you can use a top loader but place your jacket in a mesh laundry bag to avoid damage to the garment. If neither of these are options, the bathtub will work!


You want to make sure ALL detergent has been removed. Run an additional rinse cycle for optimal cleanliness.

Bonus: You can use Nikwax Down Proof at this stage if you want to add back some water repellence to your adventure companion.


There is an art to drying your puffy to prevent clumping and maintain the loft of your down jacket. Tumble dry your jacket on a low heat setting, adding a few clean tennis balls or wool dryer balls to help fluff up the down clusters. It’s best to stop the load every 20-30 minutes and break up the down clusters by hand and only dry one garment at a time. Avoid high heat settings — they can damage the fabric and insulation.


Once your jacket is clean and dry, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Avoid compressing your jacket for extended periods, this can cause the down clusters to lose their loft over time, and ruin all your hard work.

Pro Tips

Spot Cleaning
For minor stains or dirt, spot cleaning with a gentle detergent and water can be a good way to keep your puffy looking sharp in between full washes.

Air Out First
If your down jacket is only slightly dirty or doesn’t require a full wash, airing it out in a well-ventilated area (think hanging it outside in the sun) can help freshen it up without the need for washing.

Avoid Dry Cleaning
While some down jackets may have care labels recommending dry cleaning, it’s generally best to avoid this method as the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning can degrade the down insulation over time. Don’t take the easy/expensive way out — wash it at home!

Store Loosely
When storing your down jacket during the off-season (what off season?), avoid compressing it tightly for extended periods. Instead, hang it loosely in a closet or use a breathable garment bag to maintain its loft and prevent damage to the down clusters.

If your puffy heavily soiled areas or stains you can use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub a mixture of mild detergent or specialized down cleaner and water onto these specific areas before placing the jacket in the washing machine. This targeted pretreatment can help ensure that stubborn stains are hopefully removed during the washing process, resulting in a cleaner jacket overall.

Too Intimidated?

Many companies, like Rab, have washing programs, if this list sounds intimidating. Check out if the company that made your puffy offers something like this.

The Final Word

Washing your puffy once a year is a great way to extend its longevity and keep it keeping you warm for seasons to come.

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro
Ben Dawson
Adventure Journalist/Photographer :: BenThereRoxyThat | Website

Ben Dawson is a full-time #vanlifer, father, and adventure journalist/photographer based in the western United States. He has a passion for conservation and spends most of his time creating content for various brands in the outdoor space. Connect with him on Instagram at @meetme_onthe_mountain

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