How to Dry a Down Jacket

Down jackets are some of the first hiking gear that you should buy. They are essential in making sure that you are always comfortable and warm during your adventures. They are lightweight, which makes them ideal for solo backpackers.

Because down is a naturally insulating material, it needs extra care to make sure that your jacket stays in good condition for a long time. Even with recent innovations in fabric and insulating technologies, down’s weakness is its inability to fully cope with water and moisture.

That’s why aside from making sure that you wash your down jacket well, you must follow the right steps in drying it.

In this article, we will outline the steps in the drying process. We will also share tips in cleaning your jacket without damaging its down insulation. Read on!

How To Dry a Down Jacket?

Washing your favorite down jacket takes a bit of preparation to ensure the insulating material maintains its pristine condition. Similarly, drying a down jacket takes a bit of care. There are two ways to do this: using a washing machine or air drying.

Drying Using a Tumble Dryer

Most manufacturers recommend tumble drying as it does not damage the down feathers. Numerous tumble dryers in the market come with a preset program for down apparel. If you have a front-loading washing machine, check if you have this functionality too.

However, not all washing machines come with dry tumble features. After you wash your down jacket, follow these steps to dry it using the same washing machine.

  1. Before starting the machine, it is a good idea to gently squeeze out the excess water. Do not wring out the jacket as it could damage the insulation. It will help the jacket to dry out faster.
  2. Place the jacket on its own in the machine. It needs as much space as possible to expel moisture and water without crushing the fluffy feathers.
  3. Choose the low heat setting on the dryer. Machine drying a down jacket takes a few hours to fully dry the insulating material. The setting should be at low temperature as intense heat will damage the down feathers and affect the jacket’s fluff. Putting it at a high temperature will only dry the outer layers, which leaves moisture inside. This can form mold or mildew within the jacket material.
  4. Add three clean tennis balls to the dryer along with the jacket. The tennis balls help fluff the down jacket as they bound around during the drying cycle. It will also prevent clumps from forming and dry the jacket evenly.
  5. Turn the dryer on at its lowest drying cycle. It is natural to hear the banging of the tennis balls inside the machine. Aside from making sure that the down stays fluffy, they break up clumps and pockets of moisture.
  6. Turn the dryer off every thirty minutes. If your machine comes with a timer feature, it will help make the process easier. Take the jacket out and fluff it. Break any clumps that may form. Also, shake the jacket to even out the down. If you notice any loose feathers, push them back into the jacket instead of pulling them out.
  7. Most jackets will be dry after three hours of gentle drying in low heat. Check if the jacket is back to its fluffiness. If the jacket is still damp after three hours, continue the cycle in 30-minute increments. Keep checking and fluffing at the end of each cycle.

man taking picture on snow sand beside trees

Air Drying

It is also a great idea to air dry your down jacket to keep its quality. This takes a bit of preparation, as well. If you plan to dry the garment outside, it is best to wait for a windy day or at least weather that’s not too humid.

However, we recommend drying the jacket indoors as leaving it under the sun for too long may damage the insulating materials. Here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Just as mentioned in the previous section, gently squeeze the extra moisture and water from the jacket. Make sure not to wring it out to avoid damaging the down feathers inside.
  2. You can also shake the jacket to evenly distribute the insulation. Grab the collar and gently shake it. Then, turn it upside down, hold the bottom, and shake it again.
  3. Put the down jacket on a hanger. A laundry drying rack or a clothesline works as well. Hang it in a cool and dry place with enough ventilation. Hanging it in a humid room will result in a smelly down.
  4. Hanging the jacket near the radiator will also help dry it faster. However, make sure that the radiator is not at its highest temperature.
  5. Set a timer for every half hour. Fluff the insulating by massaging it gently. Avoid compressing the jacket at the same time. You can also remove any clumps using a gentle shake. If possible, hang it back upside down to distribute the down evenly.
  6. Allow the garment to air dry for five hours. Do not forget to check and fluff every 30 minutes as well. Make sure that it is completely dry before packing it away. A damp down will start smelling right away, and it will affect the insulating capacity of the jacket.

How to Clean a Down Jacket?

Aside from properly drying the down jacket, you should also remember a few tips when cleaning the apparel. Here are some of them:

  • Avoid getting your jacket wet as much as possible. Repeated wetting and drying will reduce its thermal quality.
  • Do not use regular detergent or fabric softener when loading the jacket in the washing machine. Choose liquid detergent for sensitive laundry instead. You can also try a cleaner specifically formulated for down garments.
  • Instead of washing your down jacket regularly, spot clean if possible. It will extend the lifespan of the garment while maintaining its quality.
  • Always agitate the insulating material, especially when drying.
  • Do not dry clean the jacket. The chemical used in this process may strip the water-proofing layer of the fabric.

person sitting on rock across snow covered mountain under cloudy sky


Down jackets are not the cheapest gear around. That is why you must take care of it, especially during maintenance.

Fortunately, you do not have to wash the entire jacket all the time. When used during light to moderate activities, spot cleaning the dirty areas should be enough to keep it clean.