Care For Your Down Feather Jacket
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Whether you’re spending winter on the trails or in the city, down jackets are essential for battling the cold. From playing fetch with your pup to gearing up for an overnight camping trip, from commuting to work to hitting the town, wearing a down jacket in frigid weather makes any activity more enjoyable.
Insulated with soft duck and geese feathers, down jackets are packable and lightweight. With an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, down is an excellent option for warm, reliable layering. The down’s loft creates tiny air pockets, which trap warm air and retain heat, to provide superb insulation. Many high-quality down jackets, such as KÜHL’s Spyfire Series, feature a high fill count and responsibly-sourced down.
Unevenly clustered feathers, dirty sleeves, and duct taped patches are hallmarks of a well-worn down jacket. With proper care, this doesn’t have to be the case. So, let's learn how to wash down jackets!
KÜHL Washing Instructions
If worn regularly, down jackets should be washed once or twice a year; wash slightly more often for everyday wear. A good rule of thumb is to wash your jacket if you notice dirt and grime build up, uneven clustered feathers, or odor. Always wash your jacket at the end of the winter season before storing.
Washing your down jacket less frequently minimizes wear and tear. If possible, spot wash your jacket instead of throwing the entire garment in the laundry. To spot wash, dilute a technical wash solution (see below) with water, spray solution on problem area, and let sit for 30 minutes. Once the solution has soaked into the fabric, apply more solution to a cloth or brush and gently work out the stain. Once the spot is clean, let the garment dry completely.
If the entire jacket requires cleaning, check the garment’s care label for specific instructions before washing. If there are no instructions, follow these steps :
- Remove any visible buildup on the material, such as dirt or mud (see tip above for removing stains).
- Remove all non-washable parts, such as hoods or liners.
- Be sure all pockets are empty and all zippers, Velcro, and snaps are fastened. Jackets should be zipped.
- Check washing machine tray to make sure there is no leftover detergent, bleach, or fabric softener.
- Only put one to two down jackets into a front-loading washing machine at a time. Do not use a top-loading machine: the garment is more likely to get caught in the machine and rip.
- Use a dedicated down detergent, such as Gear Aid ReviveX Down Cleaner or Granger's Down Wash, and follow he instructions on the bottle. Do not use a household detergent: it will ruin the loft of the jacket and strip the garment of essential oils.
- Set the cycle to warm water (not hot) on the wool or gentle cycle.
- Once the wash cycle is done, use a spin-only cycle to remove excess water. Do not add additional detergent.
- Put the jacket(s) in the dryer on low heat, on the delicate or permanent press setting. Add two to three clean tennis balls to the dryer to prevent the down from clumping.
- When the dryer cycle is half way done, take the garment out and redistribute the feathers.
- Repeat step 10 as needed until the jacket is completely dry. Be patient: it may take 2-3 hours to dry the garment completely.
Another alternative is to air dry your jacket. This is the safest but most timely method: it may take up to a week for a jacket to dry completely. To air dry a down jacket, lay it flat on a clean towel in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight. Occasionally redistribute the feathers to prevent clumping. Be sure the jacket is completely dry before packing, wearing or storing.
Remember: Washing your jacket helps preserve its loft; keeps it clean; and maintains optimal performance, but washing too often can negatively affect the garment’s performance.
Down jackets are exposed to a variety of elements and rugged experiences, leaving room for a variety of mishaps, such as tree branch snags, campfire burns, or slices from the edge of your skis. It’s almost inevitable you’ll get a tear during your garment’s lifetime. Luckily, new technology, such as KÜHL’s Disruptiv Down Technology, minimizes unfortunate tears with reinforced shoulders and a stronger, high quality nylon outer layer. This innovative construction ensures the feathers stay where they belong: inside the jacket.
When your jacket gets a hole, it starts to leak feathers and lose its loft and warmth.
If your down jacket rips, push the feathers back into the jacket instead of pulling them out. When feathers are pulled out, the hole expands and more feathers follow.
Many people repair holes with duct tape. This is a great temporary fix in the backcountry, but repair the hole permanently upon your return. Don’t use a needle and thread to repair a rip; this doesn’t work for down jackets because the needle creates new holes in the fabric.
The best way to patch a dime-sized or smaller hole is to use nylon repair tape or fabric glue to bond the edges of the hole together. Make sure the product you choose is flexible and waterproof. You can find repair tape or fabric glue at your local craft store or online.
If the hole is quarter-sized or larger, use fabric repair tape, such as the Gear Aid Tenacious Tape (approximately $7 on Amazon). The tape comes in a variety of colors and instantly stops rips from spreading.
Down jackets come with a hefty price tag, but with proper care they can last a lifetime. The number one rule of caring for your down jacket is to limit compression. Stuffing your jacket into a pack or stuff sack for a day hike or backpacking is fine, but when the trip is over, store it properly.
Long periods of compression cause the feathers to lump and lose their loft, which makes the jacket appear clumpy and flat, and leaves cold spots where there’s no insulation. Extended compression also causes the natural oils and structure of the feathers to break down faster.
It’s also important to keep down garments dry. Once down is wet, it loses its ability to insulate and becomes cold and heavy. On rainy days, swap your puffy for a durable rain jacket, such as the KÜHL Jetstream Jacket. If your down jacket gets wet, dry it completely before compressing or storing to avoid mildew. Store your jacket in a cool, dry place during the off-season.
Things to Remember
A quality down jacket is an essential part of your winter wardrobe and can turn a frigid day into the perfect opportunity for adventure. Keep your puffy performing at its best by keeping it clean, free of tears, and stored properly. Follow the care label for any item-specific instructions to keep your down jacket in tip-top shape.
By Taylor Thomas