How to Keep Your Puffy Jacket Clean

Puffy coats are an essential part of every outdoor adventurer’s wardrobe. Whether you’re a hiker, skier, climber, or backpacker, one (or more) of these synthetic and down-filled jackets probably regularly finds its way into your pack. But with winter now upon us, you’ve also probably been wearing it so much that it begs the question: is your puffer clean? Because keeping your puffy clean improves its performance and increases its longevity, read on for a few tips to keep your precious puffy in pristine condition and, if it happens to get dirty, clean it up.

TK_EMS-Conway-6545-CH

1. Top of the Line

Stashing your puffy at the top of your pack offers a handful of advantages. Most notably, it keeps it easily accessible for when you stop—which is always a great time to add a warm layer for sudden shifts in temperature. From a longevity standpoint, stowing your puffer on the top of your pack keeps it out of harm’s way when shoving items in and out of your backpack. It also helps it avoid absorbing moisture from wet items in the pack, or from being doused by a leaky water bottle.

2. Hang in There

Speaking of storage, while many puffies on the market come with stuff sacks or stow in their own pockets, keeping them bundled up is not a good long-term solution. Keeping an insulated jacket compressed can cause flat spots and negatively affect how insulation lofts. Instead, hang your puffy up at the end of the day. It’s good for the disbursement of insulation and loft of your puffer, and also ensures that your jacket dries thoroughly between uses.

3. Look Sharp

Another easy way to keep your puffy jacket at peak performance is by simply being careful when handling sharp objects. Tuck ice axe picks into pick pockets or cover their sharp edges with Black Diamond Pick Protectors. When storing crampons, make sure to pack them with their points facing one another, or use the Black Diamond Crampon Bag to avoid accidentally puncturing your puffy. Carrying skis on your shoulder? Watch those edges!

Pro Tip: If you’re planning on wearing a puffy for a considerable amount of time—and conditions allow—consider adding a more robust layer, like a softshell, on top of the puffy for an extra layer of protection.

TK_EMS-Conway-9497

4. Don’t Dig Yourself into a Hole

Despite our best efforts, it seems holes are inevitable on puffy coats (especially lightweight ones). Patching holes early is a good way to keep expensive insulation inside your coat and add years to your jacket’s lifespan. Duct tape is the old standby for many outdoors people, but it can actually do more harm than good since it can further tear the coat when removed, leaves a residue behind, and pulls the insulation out when removed. Instead, use a pre-cut Gore-Tex Patch or Gear Aid Tenacious Tape, both of which are easily stored in a repair kit.

Pro Tip: To avoid losing insulation or further damaging the outer lining, patch any holes on your puffy before washing it. Of course, if the material around the hole is truly filthy, spot cleaning it can go a long way to ensuring that the patch stays put.

5. Clean Up Your Act

No matter how careful you are with your puffy, the time will come when it needs a wash—dirt, oils, and, in some cases, beer all have a way of winding up on your jacket. Keeping your jacket clean is for more than mere aesthetics—it also improves the loft of insulation and revitalizes Durable Water Repellent (DWR) shells, keeping puffies functioning at the pinnacle of performance and extending their lifespan.

While cleaning a puffy can feel daunting, it is actually quite easy:

  1. Most companies advise using a front-loading washing machine for cleaning your puffy coat and warn against using top-loading washers. However, many newer top-loading machines do not use agitators—which can snag and rip delicate items like puffies. If you have access to a newer top-loading washer without an agitator, feel free to use it. No matter if its a front- or top-loader, use the gentle cycle. No washer? No problem, a bathtub or sink also works great.
  2. Get a cleaner designed specifically for your garment, such as Nikwax Down Wash. Traditional laundry detergents can strip down feathers of their natural oils and leave a residue on your jacket’s shell, both of which will negatively affect your coat’s performance. If you are washing a synthetically insulated puffy, a product like Nikwax Tech Wash both cleans insulation and restores the jacket’s water resistance, all without leaving a soapy, performance-inhibiting residue behind.
  3. After your puffy is done in the washing machine, throw it in the dryer on low heat. At low heat, drying a puffy can be a time-consuming process and it often requires a few cycles to get a puffy completely dry. Fight the temptation to speed up the process by jacking up the heat—too much heat can melt everything from the jacket’s outer shell to the synthetic insulation. It’s also possible to air dry a puffy, although it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week. To air dry, simply lay your puffy on a towel in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight and occasionally flip the jacket over.
  4. To help your jacket maintain its loft, throw a few clean tennis balls into the dryer with it, as they aid in re-fluffing your puffy. If you’re hand drying, manually pulling apart insulation clumps can help restore your puffy’s fluff and speed up the drying process.
  5. While everyone loves a nice, clean puffy, it’s advisable to only wash them as needed. Washing can cause extra wear and stress to a jacket and shorten its lifespan.

Do you have any tips for keeping your puffy pristine? We want to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section below.

EMS-Winter-Mountaineering-1745