Despite the great variety of down jackets we stock at Webtogs, the basics of down care are the same across the range. Firstly it is important to re-iterate that down does not like getting wet! Although most down items feature a DWR (Durable Water-Repellent Finish), which will cause the face fabric to repel water for a time, water will eventually find its way through the fabric, often through seams. When the down fill is exposed to water it will clump together as water saturates the down fibres, and it will cease to insulate as it can no longer trap air. When down dries naturally, due to the natural oils in the down and impurities accumulated through use, it will not regain its full loft or insulating properties and will lose its original ‘puffy’ appearance. Therefore it is best to avoid wearing down for prolonged periods in wet weather, or to wear a waterproof jacket over the top of your down jacket to protect it.
Over the past couple of years, brands such as Rab and The North Face have developed their own water-resistant down technologies to help combat the problem of wet, useless down. Rab Hydrophobic Down and The North Face ProDown both feature a water-repellent treatment applied to down to keep water at bay for longer: 17 times longer than untreated down claim The North Face. They also retain their loft better and longer than untreated down when exposed to moisture, making them far more appealing fills for use less predictable climates. We do not recommend wearing unprotected The North Face ProDown items in the rain if possible, as they will eventually saturate and clump like other down products. They do however give you extra durability and piece of mind in varied weather, and also give you that bit longer to get on your waterproof shell when the skies open.
Down Washing Instructions
If you should get caught out in the rain with your down, whether hydrophobic or otherwise, all is not lost! You can follow these simple washing instructions to restore your down to its former glory:
1) Clean out any detergent residue from the detergent tray of your washing machine, as this can clog down garments, reducing loft, warmth and breathability.
2) Wash the down jacket at no higher than 40 degrees C (follow exact instruction on the garment care label) using a gentle detergent, ideally a down-specific wash like Nikwax Down Wash, which will not leave any residue to clog down fibres. Use 150ml in medium/hard water areas and 100ml in soft water areas.
3) To get as much water as possible out of your down it’s best to spin dry a few times, each time slightly increasing spin speed. Because wet down is heavy, if very wet items are spun too quickly the internal baffles that hold down in place may break.
4) Tumble dry the down jacket on a low heat setting, also putting two dryer balls or tennis balls into the dryer drum to ‘agitate’ the down clusters; restoring air to the jacket. Ensure that the down garment is completely dry before removing from the dryer: it can take up to 3 tumble dryer cycles before the down is completely dry. To accelerate the process you can repeatedly tease apart clumps in the down between dryer cycles, which will help restore loft.
5) Air your down jacket in a warm, dry space for a day, and it should be back to looking and performing well again!
It is important to wash a down jacket every once in a while to remove any dirt from the face fabric and down fill, as this can reduce breathability and warmth. Washing in Nikwax Down Wash also revitalises the DWR and restores the water-repellency of the surface fabric, protecting your down jacket from dirt and water in the future. Unless there is visible dirt you want to remove, 2 to 3 times a season is enough to maintain performance, but not so much as to damage the structure of the down clusters. Over-washing will decrease the lifespan of any down garment.
Down Re-Proofing Instructions
After a few washes, or after prolonged wear, the surface water repellency (DWR) of down jackets can wear out. This reduces your jacket’s resistance to water, leaving the down and fabric exposed to the elements, and to dirt. To re-proof your down garment using Nikwax Down Proof, follow these simple instructions:
1) Follow steps 1-2 of the Down Wash Instructions, above.
2) Place down jacket in the washing machine (it’s fine for it to be wet). Use 150ml of Nikwax Down Proof in the detergent tray per 1 item (proof only 1 at a time), and wash it on a 30 degree C synthetic cycle and slow spin.
3) Follow steps 3 to 6 of the Down Wash Instructions, above, to remove excess water from the garment and restore it to full health!
You will not need to re-proof your down jacket very often, only after prolonged wear or several washes. If you notice that the face fabric of your down jacket is not repelling water effectively, even after washing with Nikwax Down Wash (water will soak in rather than ‘bead’ and run off), then it’s probably time for a re-proof.
Here’s a couple more essential down care tips:
• On most down jackets it is inevitable that you will get a small number of tiny feathers poking out through the seams and fabric. THIS IS NOT A FAULT, but an inevitable by-product of using down – it is a natural material after all. Do not pull these feathers out through the fabric, as this can result in the creation of a hole and loss of more down. Instead, with your hand on the inside of the jacket, try to pinch the end of the feather from the inside and pull it back in. Feather loss will reduce over time, and will have a negligible impact on the fill quantity.
• Don’t leave your down jacket under compression for prolonged periods, for example in a stuff sack, stuff pocket or rucksack. This can result in permanent damage being caused to the structure of the down, jeopardising the performance of the garment. It’s fine to compress your jacket for short periods, like in your pack as emergency insulation on a day walk or climb. When you get back to your home or campsite, just be sure to get it out to air and regain its loft.
• After periods of wear, be sure to hang up your down jacket in a warm, dry place. This will give any moisture in the down a chance to evaporate, leaving it in good condition to wear next time, or for storage.
• Don’t use any harsh chemicals on down jackets! Only use products certified for use on down such as Nikwax down care products – unless you want to clog your jacket with residue (reducing performance), or worse, cause irreversible damage to the down itself.