It is winter. When it’s cold and unpleasant outside, you put on your down jacket more often. At the same time these long dark nights allow you to do the necessary kit check and plan your next trip. One of the first things you will notice is that your precious and well-kept down products need to go into the laundry. But how do you do it? You have heard the horror stories of clotted down and mouldy smell after the first and only wash.
So better leave it completely and just tolerate the smell or buy new down wear? Of course we would welcome the latter decision, but it would cost quite a bit of your money (which we could happily accept – but that’s just not who we are). We actually like to give you a few good ideas of how to take care of your down jackets and sleeping bags so you can enjoy them for as long as possible.
I got in touch with the down expert of Yeti so I can provide you with some of his sound expertise in taking care of down.
Before washing – preparation is everything
Please read the washing instructions for your product carefully. There are some down sleeping bags which should only go into the laundry when there is no other solution. For instance, waterproof sleeping bags should not be washed since the waterproof treatment could be damaged. So you should check the recommendations of the manufacturer carefully.
Before washing, fasten all the zips. All buttons, hook-and-loop fasteners and pull cords should be opened or loosened. Turn the product inside out – it is basically the inside that needs the laundry. If there are some persistent stains at the collar, you can apply some soap before laundering.
In the washer
A major problem when laundering down are the residues of the detergents. They clot the down after the laundry, which reduces the bulking power and with it the thermal output. Because of this, you should rinse them properly. The washer should have a capacity of at least 6 kg (some even say 7 kg). In the case of products with a particularly high volume, such as a winter sleeping bag, you should use a large washer. For this reason you should also wash only one product at a time.
You should choose a washing program for delicates or wools. These programs wash and rinse fabrics with a higher amount of water than the other programs. You should, however, not use a washing program for silks. These programs don’t have intermediate spin cycles, which are rather useful when washing down.
As for the detergent, you should in any case use a down detergent and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application. You should never use detergents that are not made for down or any kind of fabric conditioners. If you want to make sure your sleeping bag or jacket stays in good shape, you should run the washing program for an extra time, but this time without any detergent. This is a way to get rid of the last leftovers of detergent. If possible, you should spin your down product with 1000 to 1200 rpm before removing it from the washer.
Handwash (for the brave among you)
In any case: use the bathtub. Everything else will result into your downstairs neighbours holding you liable for water damage or lots and lots of mopping for you. The water temperature should be lukewarm (about 40° Celsius). You should apply detergents according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let the sleeping bag or jacket soak for an hour. Then rinse it thoroughly. Repeat the rinsing to remove the detergent completely. Do not wring it too strongly. The delicate down prefers soft squeezing. Handwashing requires quite a bit of patience. If that is not for you, you should see if you can use a large washer.
Drying (more important than washing)
To make a long story short: without a tumble-dryer you should think twice before starting. You can try, of course, but you need be aware that the process of drying will take up to ten days. You will need to keep the product in a very dry place and turn it regularly. Otherwise the down might get moldy and this is something you want to avoid – simply because of the smell.
Yeti recommends that you pack the sleeping bag or jacket carefully before bringing it to the tumble-dryer. This way you can avoid massive shifts of the down which may result in damaging the sensitive chamber walls.
For tumble drying you should keep in mind the following things: Tumble dry at a low temperature (no more than 30° Celsius). Otherwise the outer materials might stick to the tumble-dryer. Putting some (clean!) tennis balls in the drum of the tumble-dryer help to swirl everything around. After one hour you should remove it. Allow enough time for cooing down. During this process you should repeatedly shake it thoroughly. And then the procedure starts over – and that for a number of times. According to Yeti a sleeping bag with a 1000 g down fill needs 4-6 hours for drying. It is residual moisture that will lead to smelly down. So it is better to dry the sleeping bag one time too many, otherwise you might have to repeat the entire procedure, starting with the washing.
So don’t wait too long to keep your down products in good shape. If you feel this is just too much work, you can, of course, give your sleeping bag to a professional. This can be the cleaning service around the corner or a down specialist. Yeti, for instance, offers a wash and repair service for down products.
If you have any further questions, our customer service team are happy to help. Hannes is our resident expert in textiles and clothing. You can contact him on weekdays from 9:00 to 16:00 by telephone +49 (0)7121/70 120 or by email.