How to Wash (and Dry) Your Down

Down coats, down sleeping bags, and even down booties, will need to be washed after any long distance hike.  The tags will give you vague instructions, but I consulted an expert to be sure.  My Nana has a lifetime of experience washing down pillows, blankets, and coats.  She is a laundry fanatic with a passion for down and guided me every step of the way!

Start this project in the morning and only on a sunny day.

How To Wash & Dry Your Down

  1. Rub detergent on any stains or darkened areas (such as sleeves).
  2. Zip all zippers and turn items inside out.
  3. Load washer and set on warm water and gentle cycle. Use 1 cup of fabric softener in with the items and 1 cup of fabric softener in the slow release container.  Turn washer off after 5 minutes (once water is in the machine but before it is spinning) and allow to pre-soak for 60 minutes before resuming wash.
  4. Once washed, put in dryer for first round. Use a low setting (no heat/fluff) for 45 minutes and put a clean tennis ball in the machine to help break up clumps of down.  Take out and shake.  Start again for another 60 minutes.
  5. Hang items out on line in the sun for the rest of the day.
  6. The following day, do one more cycle in the dryer (no heat/fluff) for 60 minutes with tennis ball.
"Little Rhino" staring down a big rhino at the NOC. It was worth the splurge to get the parka version of this Outdoor Research down coat.

“Little Rhino” staring down a big rhino at the NOC. It was worth the splurge to get the parka version of this down coat, made by Outdoor Research.*


You know the smell of a wet dog???  It’s similar to the smell of a wet goose whose feathers remain wet in storage.

  • Dry out all of the moisture. You’ll notice, drying makes up most of the instructions.  Down will get moldy if there is ANY moisture left in the feathers.
  • Do NOT put in a garment bag to store while not in use (such as during the summer or after your hike). Hang items on hangers in the closet to allow down to breath and prevent molding.
  • Dry cleaning is bad for down due to the chemicals used. Do not dry clean down.
  • Do not use a washer that has an agitator.  It does not matter if it is front loading or top loading, as long as it does not have an agitator.
Outdoor Research makes a great down jacket! Lollygag is wearing his on Max Patch.

Lollygag is staying warm in an Outdoor Research* down jacket on Max Patch in North Carolina.


*We received a discount on our jackets but we are not sponsored by Outdoor Research.  We just like them!

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Comments 7

  • Heidi : Oct 27th

    Nana is the best!

  • Therese : Oct 27th

    Hi there
    This is great information!!!! Are you finished with the AT yet? If so, I’d love to chat with you a bit about this year’s trail. Send me an email when you have an opportunity. Thanks much!!!! I love following your trip.

    • Claudia and Andrew Carberry : Nov 1st

      Yes! We finished September 10th. Are you a hiker?

  • Ronnie : Oct 29th

    You forgot to stress to use a front loader washer. The agitator of a top loader will destroy the baffles of a sleeping bag. Ouch! Thanks.

    • Claudia and Andrew Carberry : Nov 1st

      Thanks Ronnie! I edited the article to include using a washer without an agitator.

  • Greg : Oct 30th

    Hey you two! Hope all is well in Arkansas.

    • Claudia and Andrew Carberry : Nov 1st

      Hi Greg! We’re doing great! Looking towards our next adventure— possibly New Zealand. Are you doing the back country chef thing this fall/winter?


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