With the right care, your down jacket and sleeping bag can last for years and years. Here's how to wash, dry (the complicated bit) and care for your down jackets and sleeping bags:
Down Laundry FAQs
- Should I wash a sleeping bag?
- How often do you need to wash your down sleeping bag or jacket?
- How to wash your down jacket or sleeping bag
- How to dry your down jacket or sleeping bag
- Alpkit's down washing service
- How to care for your down equipment
Should I wash my down jacket or sleeping bag?
Definitely, yes! Down gear that's looked after performs better for longer. A little bit of effort in the short term will keep you warmer in the long term.
When your down gets mucky, it loses its fluffiness and the baffles (down chambers) flatten. It's this fluffy loft that keeps you warm, so keeping your down clean is essential to staying warm and cosy inside.
How often do you need to wash your down sleeping bag or jacket?
It depends on how often you use it. Nowadays, plenty of people wash their down gear at the end of each season in preparation for the next year. In the past, washing your down gear was an act of absolute last resort – which led to some very ripe smelling jackets and stinky sleeping bags.
You may also need to wash your down jacket or sleeping bag after it's gotten damp or seriously wet. When down gets damp, the fluffy filaments flatten and clump together. Don't worry – your down isn't ruined! But you do need to wash and dry it properly to restore its warmth-trapping loft.
How To Wash Your Down Jacket or Sleeping Bag
What do I need to wash my down jacket or sleeping bag?
A large tumble dryer is essential. You can air dry your down equipment but it's much less effective. Air drying takes a long time and you will have to constantly agitate the down as it dries to ensure that it doesn't clump.
A large capacity washing machine (10 kg) or a bath for hand washing
What should I wash my sleeping bag with?
You'll need specialist down wash products. We recommend:
How To Handwash Your Down Jacket or Sleeping Bag
Handwashing causes less stress to the fabrics and the stitching of your down gear. If you share a house with other people, make sure you negotiate an appropriate time slot though as this may take some time!
- Fill your bath with lukewarm water mixing in either liquid soap flakes or a specialist down cleaner.
- Make sure there's nothing in any pockets and place your jacket or sleeping bag into the bath and gently press it down until it's submerged.
- Agitate it a little and then go and get a cup of tea and some biscuits (we recommend chocolate hobnobs).
- After an hour or so let the water drain from the bath and refill with fresh water. Gently massage the bag to remove the soap from the down. You could use a shower head if you have one in your bath.
- Keep at it until all the soapy water is removed. Gently push down on the down bag to get as much water out as possible.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT wring or squeeze the bag, this will damage the down.
How to Machine Wash Your Down Jacket or Sleeping Bag
We recommend using a large capacity front loading washing machine (over 10kg capacity), especially for bags with over 1,000g of down – the bigger the bag the more capacity you'll need. (A standard household washing machine usually has a capacity of under 7kg).
Run a quick empty wash cycle to thoroughly clean the drawer of any detergent or fabric conditioners.
Set the machine to a gentle cycle at 30°C and fill the drawer with the recommended quantity of Nikwax® or Grangers® Down Wash (this will depend on the weight of the bag/number of jackets).
After the wash cycle is complete, rinse your jacket or sleeping bag thoroughly.
Protecting Your Down From Damp
You can protect your down from damp conditions and replenish any existing durable water repellent treatment (DWR) by treating it with Nikwax® Down Proof™ or Grangers® Down Repel.
We treat the outer fabrics of all our down jackets and sleeping bags with a PFC Free DWR to protect the down from damp. We also use DownTek™ PFC-free hydrophobic down for our Fantom jacket, and 750FP goose down sleeping bags.
- Before removing your wet bag/jacket from the washing machine, reload the dispenser with the recommended quantity of Down Proof / Down Repel.
- Let your machine work its magic whilst you have a coffee and some custard creams. Or, if you are using the bath again, roll up your sleeves and get hands-on (and ask someone else to get your custard creams).
- Rinse until the water runs clear.
How to dry your down jacket or sleeping bag
Can I tumble dry my down jacket or sleeping bag?
Yes - and we recommend that you do. Proper drying is the most important part of the whole process as it stops your down from clumping together. Your down needs to be dried thoroughly, slowly and with regular fluffing to regain its original loft. Here's how:
IMPORTANT: Your bag will be extremely heavy after washing so take care when you lift it out to avoid putting any stress on the seams.
- Set your tumble drier to the lowest heat setting (take care with launderettes as they seem to only have one single setting that's hot enough to melt through glass) and throw in your tennis balls / drying balls.
- Check your jacket / sleeping bag every half hour or so to make sure it's not getting too hot and give each baffle a gentle shake and massage to distribute the down evenly as it dries.
- Don't take your jacket or sleeping bag out too soon. It can take 3-5 hours to properly dry out heavier down items on the low setting.
- Leave your down items to air inside uncompressed for a day or so to ensure they are completely dry before packing them away.
How long does it take to air dry my down jacket or sleeping bag?
It can take as long as 48 hours to air/drip dry your down jacekt or sleeping bag. A really, really, really long time. If you want to go for it, here's how:
- Lay it open in a clean, dry, and shady area to dry.
- Massage and separate the drying down until completely dry.
- Air drying a bag can take days! If your bag is left unattended the down will clump together and it will not be nice and fluffy.
IMPORTANT: Do not just throw your bag over the washing line and leave it to drip dry overnight.
Alpkit down washing service
With the prices involved in purchasing waterproofs and down items, we know that washing them yourself can sometimes be a bit daunting. Never mind the fact that you need a bigol’ tumble drier too!
At our professional cleaning service at our Ambleside store, we will be using Nikwax® cleaning products and can wash and dry: waterproof jackets & trousers, insulated jackets, sleeping bags, expedition suits and salopettes.
“Gear that is looked after performs better and lasts longer. With our down wash and reproofing service we can restore the natural loft of your down sleeping bags, fluff up your down jackets and reproof your waterproofs.”.
Prices from £30 excluding postage. Here's all the details about sending your down jacket and sleeping bag to us for a spruce up.
How to store your down jacket or sleeping bag
Down items can lose their loft if you store them compressed for a long time or in damp conditions. And then you'd need to wash and dry them all over again which wouldn't be good for your electricity bill! Here's how to look after your down to avoid washing for as long as possible:
- Keep down items in a drybag when you pack them in your rucksack to stop them getting damp.
- Sleeping in (clean) long underwear protects your sleeping bag from skin oils, sweat and dirt. (We usually opt for a long sleeved merino base layer and long johns, and a thin hat to protect the hood)
- If it's too hot to sleep in long underwear or you don't have any clean clothes, you could use a cotton or silk sleeping bag liner instead. Then you only have to wash your liner at the end of your trip.
- Make sure your sleeping bag isn't pushed up against your tent flysheet when you go to sleep.
- Air your sleeping bag out before you pack it away or air it out whenever the weather allows.
- Don't squeeze damp down items into compression sacks.
- Air your sleeping bag or jacket throughly, away from direct sunlight. Don't hang down items over a rail.
- Spot clean any dirt, spills or oil stains.
- Store your down items uncompressed in a large cotton or mesh lofting bag. If you don't have one (all our down sleeping bags come with an organic cotton lofting bag), you can use an old pillow case instead.
- Store your down items in a clean, dry and well ventilated area.