For most of my adult life, I have been too afraid to buy anything insulated with down. The hefty price tag of down gear, plus how gear shop workers unfailingly mention that it needs careful cleaning attention, was enough to drive me away for a while.
But then I broke the cycle- and down, like many quality outdoor materials, is so worth the investment. Being cold-natured, I could live most of my life inside of down. After dirty trips, accidental spills and plenty of use, your favorite gear pieces will be in need of that dreaded cleaning process.
Though it can be daunting to clean your most precious gear, doing so correctly is actually not rocket science, and will preserve gear effectiveness and lifespan. Proper cleaning not only keeps your gear smelling nice and looking sharp but also revitalizes the qualities that keep you powered outdoors.
Here’s how to show some TLC to your most finicky outdoor gear, worry-free.
Because of its lightweight, compressible and highly insulative capacity, down is a prime filling for sleeping bags, quilts, and winter coats. However, down can lose its insulating ability if not cared for correctly.
The ultimate enemy of down puff is clumping, when the down feathers stick together and lose their fluff. Clumping is caused by contact with water, improper detergents, and even drying methods. Without fluff, your down will not keep you warm, so bear in mind through the cleaning process that puff-preservation is top priority!
To wash down, you will need:
Important: Washing machines with center agitators are absolutely not safe for down gear! If your washing machine is not front-loading, you will need to head to a laundromat.
Once you have these tools together, its time to do a little prep work. First, clean out the detergent compartment of your washing machine to prevent contamination in your down wash.
It is also a good idea to rinse out the washing machine if you suspect that there could be detergent residue or buildup lingering inside. Remember, even a small clump in your down gear could make a significant difference when you need it most.
Next, gently wipe off the outside of your gear. Remove caked dirt and buildup with a dry washcloth.
Now, everything is ready to wash. Let start!
Congratulations! Your down gear should look full and rejuvenated after a good wash and full dry. The best news? Down gear only needs to be washed once a month if used every day. Get back outside!
Merino wool seems magical to me. Its temperature regulating, anti-bacterial (so odor resistant!) and it keeps it's warmth when wet. For obvious reasons, wool is the ideal material for many gear items, especially clothing that has direct contact with skin. To keep your wool gear magically soft and scent-free, gather these items.
To prepare your wool gear for washing, turn it inside out and divide into dark and light colors. Be careful to not overfill the machine, as agitation can case wool to pill and wear down. Now, let’s get it clean.
Merino wool maintains cleanliness for much longer than most fabrics. Only wash your wool if it is really dirty- often, simply drying and airing out wool is enough to revitalize it.
Gear with waterproofing requires special care, especially because of its importance when you find yourself outside in harsh weather. Waterproof shells, tents, jackets, pants and more can lose their water-impervious qualities when not washed correctly, putting you at risk on adventures. Thankfully, there are simple ways to wash- and even completely re-coat- waterproof gear at home. You will need:
To prepare for the wash process, you will need to wipe out the detergent compartment of your washing machine to prevent contamination in the tech wash. Like when washing down, it could be beneficial to do a rinse with nothing inside of the washing machine to clear out suspected detergent residue.
With a damp or dry washcloth, gently rub away caked debris on the gear prior to washing. Ready? Here we go.
Extra Tips for a Smooth Gear Washing Experience
Enjoy the process of caring for the gear that cares for you outside, knowing that there are many more adventures ahead!
Happy sudsing and scrubbing.
From Colorado's peaks to international destinations, Erin writes about outdoor adventures, travel, and exceptional coffee. If she is not exploring, Erin is most likely daydreaming about her imaginary, future labradoodle, Evie. Check out her website at www.conspirewriting.com, and follow her on Instagram!
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