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Tricks and tips for storing a down coat

Written By: Maddie Liseblad

It’s Spring and that time of the year when many focus on de-cluttering and dusting their homes. However, Spring is not only the time for cleaning the house, it’s also the time for putting away heavy winter gear to make room for lighter and brighter Spring and Summer clothing. Unfortunately, putting away winter gear is not merely as easy as tossing that ultra heavy sweater into the back of the closet, especially not if you have a good quality down jacket you want to protect for future seasons.  Down is a great material that will keep well for essentially a life time, if it’s well cared for.

Clean the jacket

The first step in storing a down coat is to clean it properly.  Complete steps to cleaning a down coat can be found here. It’s imperative to clean the coat before storing because the longer soil remains on the jacket, the harder it will become to remove. In addition, insects and various bugs tend to be attracted to clothing that may contain food particles and body oils. So by cleaning the down coat, it has a better chance of remaining stain and bug free.

Dry, dry, dry

Once the jacket has been cleaned, it’s important to make sure it is completely dry. Keep in mind down has a tendency to absorb water and may feel dry even though it really isn’t. And wet down is a recipe for disaster in the form of mildew.

Don’t hang up, lay down

A down coat should never be hung up on a peg or a clothes hanger to be stored long term. If it is hung up for a long period of time, the down will have a tendency to settle into the bottom of the jacket’s various compartments.

The recommended way to store a down jacket is to fold it and let it lay flat. And one of the most important rules for extending the life of your down coat is to not store it compressed.  While down can generally be compressed to a very small size, and thus allow for storage of a lot of items in a small area, it is not advisable. Down has a tendency to keep better if it is allowed to stay puffed up as much as possible. If down is compressed for a long time, it may not readily expand to its full potential again. So avoid space-saving vacuum-packaging solutions.

Storage

Avoid storing anything in plastic bags as they can trap moisture and thus cause mildew. This is especially important for down jackets.  It is much better to store it in a breathable cotton bag as it will allow the jacket to breathe while keeping it dust-free.  If a cotton bag isn’t available, a solution is to wrap the jacket in a brand new cotton sheet that has been washed. Do not to use old cotton sheets, even if they have been washed, as used sheets often contain body oils even after washing.  

Once the jacket has been folded and packaged for storage, it should be placed in a clean, dry place. A location that has a moderate temperature and humidity is preferred. Avoid extremes such as a warm attic or a damp basement.

 

A step-by-step-guide to washing a down coat

Written By: MLiseblad

When it comes to getting a down coat cleaned, there are essentially two choices: take it to the dry cleaners or wash it at home. Many people will be intimidated by the thought of washing the coat themselves, but they shouldn’t be. Cleaning a down coat at home may take a little longer than washing regular clothes, but it is truly easy to do and more cost-effective than dry cleaning. If a person gets in the habit of washing at home, they will not only have a clean jacket on a regular basis, but the process of washing it actually rejuvenates the insulation and thus allows the coat to keep heat better.

To wash a down jacket, these four things are needed:

  1. Detergent – There are special down wash detergents available. However, a good, cold water wash type detergent or even regular detergent can work too. Some down wash detergent brands say they are better to use from an insulation and weather-durability standpoint. Some claim regular detergents leave residue and may even strip some of the natural oils from the down.
  2. A washing machine – a front loading washing machine is better for this purpose as it doesn’t contain the rod in the middle like a top loading washing machine does. That rod can damage the down coat. If a front loading machine isn’t available at home, washing the coat at a laundromat may be a good solution.
  3. A dryer – make sure the dryer can be set to a low heat as down jackets are sensitive to heat.
  4. Tennis balls – use three clean tennis balls or some other similar type of ball. They will help break up the clumps of wet down. If tennis balls aren’t avaialble, clean socks can be used by making them into “sock balls.”

Here are the steps for washing a down jacket:

  1. Before washing the jacket, it’s a good idea to try to brush off any loose dirt. Close all zippers and Velcro straps. Turning the jacket inside-out is also recommended.
  2. Put the jacket in the washing machine. Add detergent and put the washing machine on a cold wash (or low heat), delicate, or wool cycle. It’s not a good idea to add softeners. Softeners stay on the jacket and can damage the down’s insulation capabilities and possibly strip the fabric of its water-resistant coating.
  3. Once the jacket has been washed, put it in the dryer. A down jacket should never be air dried as there is a greater risk of the feathers clumping together then. Make sure the dryer is set to low heat. Do not use high heat, as it may melt the seams and the outer shell fabric. Make sure to review the garment label for details.
  4. Add tennis balls or something similar to the dryer and start it. Some people remove the jacket from the dryer every 15-30 minutes or so and fluff it. This is to help prevent clumps of down from forming.

While the drying process may seem slow, it’s the most important part. Keep in mind that it may take as long as 2-3 hours to dry a lightweight down coat. Do not get tempted to increase the heat as this can damage a nice down coat. It’s easy to recognize that the down coat has fully dried as it will then be light, fluffy, and free of clumps.

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