Easy tips for washing down filled items

Washing down items isn't difficult. In fact, you only use what you normally use to do laundry: your washing machine and some detergent. It's all in the technique. If your washing machine is large enough, put as many down items as it will hold: jackets, vests, pillows even sleeping bags.

Easy tips for washing down filled items

1. Test it first

  • If you want to be sure the down item will come out looking at least as good as it went in, do a test.
  • Mix 1/4 cup (50 ml) of water with 2 tbls (30 ml) of powdered laundry detergent.
  • Put a few drops on an inconspicuous spot of the fabric, such as on the lining, the hem or an inside seam.
  • Don't rinse. Wait until it's dry. Then you can see whether the dyes have been affected. It's the colour of the item that you need to worry about; the down itself will be fine.

2. To wash a down item

  • Check that there are no holes in it before you even turn on the water — that little place where you nicked your jacket with your ski pole can flood your washing machine with tiny feathers.
  • When you're sure items are secure, add to an empty washing machine the amount of detergent instructed on the box; then fill the drum halfway with water. (Cold water is best. Try warm water if the outside of the garment really requires more cleaning muscle. However, never use hot.)
  • Add and submerge the down items. They'll soak up the water.
  • Place towels on top of the down items to keep them submerged and then finish filling with water.
  • Run the washer through a cycle, using regular agitation.
  • Stop the washer at least once during the cycle to press air out of the down, as this will keep the items submerged.
  • And use only the regular spin cycle. A high-speed spin will unfortunately send all the feathers down to one end of the garment, unless it's quilted or baffled.

3. To dry a down item

  • It's fine to use a dryer, but be sure to do it at the low temperature setting to avoid any problems.
  • Some people prefer to toss in their sneakers or tennis balls to keep things fluffed. (If you do, make sure they're perfectly clean.) But you don't have to use anything at all.
  • Instead, part way through the drying cycle, remove the down item from the dryer and fluff it by hand, then return it to the dryer.
  • If your machine has an automatic sensor that tells you when drying is done, ignore it. Down can fool the sensor. The cover may be dry, but the feathers inside may still contain moisture so extra drying time is required.
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