Down Jacket Ruined In Wash? | 3 Ways To Fix Down Jacket Clumps After Washing

Last Updated on 05/10/2022

3 ways to fix a Down Jacket Ruined In Wash

Is your down jacket ruined after putting it in the wash?

If the feathers are clumped together and half the jacket feels flat and empty, don’t worry, this can be fixed. If you washed or dried it at a high temperature and now it looks weird or there are loose feathers in the washing machine then you may have a problem.

Down jackets should only be washed when absolutely necessary. It takes a lot of skill to wash a down jacket and retain even distribution of down throughout the baffles. The trick to uunclumping a down jacket is to dry it correctly using the methods we discuss below.

Did You Ruin Your Down Jacket By Washing It?

Have you washed your down jacket and now all the feathers are clumped together leaving flat spots all over?

Before you panic, read these questions and answers to figure out if your down jacket can be saved:

1. Did you wash your jacket above 40 degrees celsius? If yes then there is a chance you may have damaged your down jacket.
2. Did you dry your jacket above 40 degrees celsius? If yes then there is a chance you may have damaged your down jacket.
3. Did you use biological washing detergent? If yes then you didn’t ruin it but you may have reduced its performance.
4. Did you use a fabric conditioner? If yes then you didn’t ruin it but you may have reduced its performance.

If you washed your down jacket on a low setting (below 40º C) using a down-specific washing detergent and dried it in a dryer on a low setting (below 30º C) then you have nothing to worry about. We explain in more detail how to correctly wash a down jacket without clumping further down.

clump of down in jacket baffle after washing

3 Ways To Fix a Down Jacket Ruined In Wash

If it looks like your down jacket is ruined after washing it in the washing machine then don’t worry, we have three solutions for you to try:

1. Unclumping By Hand

unclumping dwn jacket by hand

The fastest way to fix a down jacket with clumps is to do it by hand. You need to go around every single clump of down feathers and gently break them up and pinch them apart through the outer shell and interior lining. Once the feathers are loosened you can gradually start to distribute them across the baffle. Here is the 10 step process we use:

  1. Make sure the down jacket is completely dry using a dryer and tennis balls, dryer balls, or croc etc…
  2. Start with the largest baffles to begin with which are often around the neck or lower body
  3. Pinch the clump of down from the outside with one hand
  4. Then pinch the same clump of down from the inside of the jacket with your other hand
  5. Gently tease apart the down into smaller and smaller clusters
  6. Be careful not to damage the shell and liner by pinching and pushing too hard
  7. Once the down is separated, encourage small amounts at a time towards the empty baffle sections using your finger and thumb
  8. Repeat this process until the baffle feels evenly filled and there are no hard clumps left inside
  9. Then work your way down the other baffles repeating steps 3 to 8
  10. Once complete give your jacket a shake in every direction for maximum loft

Your jacket should look better than it did before because now it is clean. The whole process is faster than you think and takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. To make sure all the down is spread out evenly, hold it up to the light which should reveal where the insulation lies.

2. Re-Wash and Dry

If you think you made a mistake by not using a dryer or by using the wrong fabric cleaner then sometimes it is best to just start over. This involves following the steps for washing and drying a down jacket (further down the page) to reduce the amount of clumping. Even after you do this you may have to manually redistribute the insulation by hand so use this as a last resort.


3. Take it to a Professional

The other thing you can do if you don’t mind spending a bit of money and waiting a few days to a few weeks for it to be returned is to leave it to a professional. You can try asking your local dry cleaners, messaging the manufacturer, or looking for a specialist gear fixer. If your jacket is expensive then you might feel most comfortable taking this option but be warned, not everyone knows what they are doing.

Here are some companies that will repair your down jacket for a fee:

Ruined Down Jacket By Washing It

How to Wash Down Jacket Without all the Feathers Clumping?

It is impossible to wash a down jacket without any of the feathers clumping together, the key to success is in how you reverse the clumping by drying it. That being said, there are things you can and should do to reduce it. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to avoid feather clumping when washing down jackets:

  1. Make sure all the pockets are empty and that any elasticated tension cords are released.
  2. Zip up the front zip fully but leave the pockets open when washing.
  3. Use a specific “Down wash” like the ones listed below.
  4. Use the coolest setting on the washing machine or set the temperature to 30º C (40º C maximum).
  5. Avoid long spin cycles when wet.

Two down wash products that we highly recommend using are NikWax Down Wash Direct or the Graingers Down Wash Cleaner seen below. These help to protect the natural qualties of down without harsh chemicals and ensure a long life for your jacket.

Nikwax Down Wash Direct Detergent
Nikwax Down Wash Direct Detergent
Graingers Down Wash Cleaner
Graingers Down Wash Cleaner

How to Dry a Down Jacket To Unclump and Refluff the Feathers?

Once you have washed your down jacket, don’t just hang it out on the line to dry. All that will happen is the down will dry in clumps and you will have to rewash it or manually move the down around. Instead, follow this step-by-step guide for using a dryer to remove the clumps:

  1. Take your down jacket out of the washing machine and shake off any excess water.
  2. Lay it flat onto a large towel then roll the towel and wet down jacket together up in a tight roll using lots of pressure.
  3. Gently wring the jacket and towel togethe to transfer any moisture from the jacket to the towel.
  4. Make sure all the zips are closed and place it in a dryer with some clean tennis balls, dryer balls, or a croc shoe.
  5. Use the lowest possible setting for delicates and let it run for an hour before turning it inside out and repeating.
  6. A large down jacket may take anywhere from 3 – 8 hours to fully dry and reloft in a dryer on low settings.
  7. You may still have to readjust some of the down throughout the baffles but hopefully not too much

If your down jacket has lost some of its water resistancy the time to reapply DWR treatment is while it is still wet. You should do this straight after step one and then continue to step two.

Down Jacket Ruined In Wash PROBLEM

Can You Fix a Puffer Jacket the Same Way as A Down Jacket?

Yes, puffer jackets that have a baffle design similar to down jackets and down gilets can be salvaged or rescued in the same way. Simply unclump and spread out the insulation slowly and gently by teasing it apart and redistributing it. Sythetic insulation does not suffer from clumping like down does but if you was it too hot you may see a similar situation.

Why Do Down Jackets Get Clumps After Washing?

When down gets wet it often ‘sticks’ to itself and loses its loft. However, it is the fast revolutions at the end of the spin cycle that force all the little clusters of down to form into clumps and bunch at one point in the baffle. Most often what you will find is that all of the down ends up clumped at one end or both. There is nothing you can do to stop this.

Is Biological Washing Powder Bad for Down Jackets?

Biological washing powder is not goodd for down jackets. It contains enzhymes that strip the down feathers of their oils and reduce their performance substantially over time. If you have accidently washed your jacket with biological washing powder then put it back in the washing machine on a rinse setting for two cycles to try and remove any reminants of the detergant.

Is Non-Bio Washing Powder Bad for Down Jackets?

Non-Bio washing powder and detergent is not as bad as bio detergent but it still needs to be thoroughly rinsed our of the down for it to keep working effectively in the long term. It is far worse to use any kind of fabric softeners than it is to use a non-bio washing powder on a down jacket. The more eco freindly the better as untested chemicals are never good for down.


So if you thought your down jacket ruined itself in the wash, you now know how to fix it in the future. Please share with someone still wearing a filthy down jacket because they qare too scared to wash it.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

Gear Assistant