As the temperature continues to drop, it's important to make sure that your winter clothing is ready to protect you against the cold. The last thing you want to discover is that you can only find a single glove when your fingers are freezing, or that your cozy down jacket needs serious cleaning. Down has the highest weight-to-warmth ratio around, and a quality item filled with down can last for decades if you know how to take care of it.

The unfortunate truth is that these incredible insulators can begin to lose some of their power when they're dirty, wet, or improperly stored. No matter how much you spend on a high-tech treated coat, natural oils from your body and dirt will gather over time, impacting your jacket's performance. Proper cleaning ensures that your winter investment will continue to keep you safe and warm for years to come.

down jacket

Step 1: Prepare Your Jacket for Washing

First and foremost, if your jacket has been in storage over the summer months, you'll need to make sure it's ready for the washing machine. Brush away any loose dirt or mud that may have gathered the last time you wore it, and check any pockets for money, valuables, loose dirt, or stray chap sticks. Once you're sure all the pockets are empty, zip them up and close any flaps or compartments the jacket may have, before turning it inside out.

Be sure to check the care instructions provided with your jacket before washing, while some down jackets can be machine washed, others require dry-cleaning only. At the same time, avoid adding stain remover to down-filled garments, as these can sometimes damage the fabric.

Step 2: Choose the Right Washing Station

Hand washing a down jacket can be a great option if you have the time and motivation – but it's a huge job. A better solution may be to find a front-loading washing machine. Never wash down in a top-loading machine, as the agitator at the center will likely damage the garment. Keep in mind that the more space your item has to move within the drum, the better your results will be, as the down will have more room to loft. With this fact in mind, you might consider using a local launderette, instead of washing your jacket at home, as they often have larger machines available.

Step 3: Purchase Specially-Formulated Detergent

Once you've found the washing machine you want to use, clean away any lingering detergent that may contaminate your wash. The warm, lightweight material of down jackets requires the use of special, technical wash specifically formulated for down – regular detergent could strip waterproof coatings and damage internal feathers.

Choose a "loft soap" that has been created to gently clean clusters of down, and make sure that you set the washing machine to a delicate cycle, with cold water. After the wash has finished, squeeze the water out of the jacket to ensure that all of the detergent is gone. If the water doesn't run clean, this could be a sign you need to rinse the garment again.

Step 4: Make Sure the Jacket Is Completely Dry

Never air dry a down jacket – the process not only takes a great deal of time, but may also cause the feathers to fall and clump together. Instead, make sure you place your jacket in a tumble dryer on a low heat. For a small jacket, 60 to 90 minutes of drying should be a good start, but you'll need to keep checking to make sure the item has dried completely.

Often, you'll find that drying out your jacket will mean continuing to run it through the tumble dryer long after the exterior fabric is already dry.

Protect Your Down Investment

Getting the most out of a down jacket means ensuring you look after it. From washing it with the right detergent, to ensuring that you store the garment properly when not in use, your jacket will only last for a long time if you show it the right level of attention.