How to Clean Down Jackets and Sleeping Bags

January 13, 2015

How to Clean Down Jackets and Sleeping Bags

Photograph by iStock.

Dirt, sweat, and body grime cause goose down to clump together, reducing the puffiness and warmth of your down gear. So puff it back up with the following tips on how to clean down jackets and sleeping bags:

  • Handwash in the bathtub using a mild powdered detergent or down-specific cleaner (available from Nikwax, Granger’s, and others).
  • Never use a top-loading washing machine. The agitator can damage the delicate internal baffles; agitator-free, front-loading washing machines are safe.
  • If your gear has a water-resistant outer fabric, turn it inside out to help moisture escape. 
  • After thoroughly rinsing and squeeze-drying, run your gear through a spin cycle in the washing machine to force out maximum moisture.
  • >Dry on low heat in your dryer; add tennis balls to break up the down clumps and speed up the long drying process. Never dry clean down; the chemical process strips it of the oils essential for its puff.

This column originally appeared in the print edition of AMC Outdoors along with the column Get a Bead On: Restore your gear’s water repellency.

Equipped is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.


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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.