The most nerve-wrecking item of clothing in my wardrobe to wash, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear this, is my down jacket. There is something that fills me with dread each time I need to wash it – I fear for its fragility and expense. But having sat in the inevitable path of a smokey campfire for more than one evening in a row at the Outdoor Bloggers annual campout, I had no choice but to bite the bullet and put my reasonably new Berghaus Extrem Mico Down jacket in the washing machine.
Not sure what I’m doing, but this demonstrates why my jacket needed a wash. Thanks The Urban Wanderer for the pic!
My jacket sat in the bottom of the linen basket for a week or two – okay, maybe a month. But then I received an unexpected but very much appreciated email from Grangers, who wondered if I had any down jackets that needed a freshen up before I put them away for the summer. Yes I did, and it needed a *really* good freshen up! They very kindly sent me a Down Wash Kit to try out, and I promised myself that I would overcome the worry and get this thing clean.
Grangers Down Wash is suitable for use on all down items – so jackets and gilets as well as sleeping bags. You just change the amount of detergent you use (more for sleeping bags… unsurprisingly). I have just two down articles in my wardrobe, my beloved The North Face Nuptse Vest that I adore, and this Berghaus jacket that soaked up all the campfire smell I needed to get rid of. Neither item needs washing very often, in fact most outerwear needs washing only a few times each season unless you get particularly dirty on an adventure.
Picking the right detergent when washing down items is incredibly important. Regular household laundry detergents like the non-bio I normally use certainly leave garments looking and smelling clean, but they can also leave chemical residues behind after washing – reducing a garment’s ability to insulate or repel water. And let’s face it, the only reason we have down is to keep us warm. This is especially true when you wash at a low temperature, which most active wear, including that insulated with down, requires. Grangers Down Wash has been formulated to thoroughly clean down items without damaging the delicate down feathers within.
The Grangers Down Wash Kit comes with a 300ml bottle of down wash, good to clean six down jackets, and three bright green spikey dryer balls that are designed to prevent down clumping during the drying cycle (as well as improve drying time). For best effect, run a rinse cycle on the washing machine before you start to get rid of any detergent residue from your previous wash.
I read the instructions for my washing machine regarding delicate items very carefully, and bundled my bright blue down jacket into the drum. My machine is a washer/dryer, but I took advice from friends (gotta love twitter) and chose to run a delicate wash cycle first, and then a drying cycle separately. During the washing cycle I admit I checked on the gently spinning machine far too many times.
Tumble drying down clothing is said to be the best way to maintain their loft and prevent clumping – which in turn will prolong the life of the item and improve its performance compared to air drying. Drying for two to three hours on a low heat is recommended, with drying balls in the drum, but always check the care label on your jacket or sleeping bag to be sure you’re not overdoing it. This is the first time I’ve used a dryer for mine (I’ve moved to a house that had one built in), before now I have chosen warm but windy days to wash my down and dried it on the line outside, giving it a good shake every hour or so to separate anything that might have clumped.
After two hours on a low heat and low spin in my dryer, I took my jacket outside to air dry for the last little bit (and cool down). It was clean and fresh smelling, still the right size (no shrinkage!) and with fluffy down everywhere it should be. Result!
Playing in my down jacket again…
Of course, I should say that I needn’t have worried so much about washing my down jacket at home. For starters, my Berghaus Extrem is made very well and by following the tried and tested instructions on the care label I could be sure the jacket would come out of the washing machine in good condition. And by using the Grangers Down Wash instead of my usual detergent and utilising the cool looking balls in the drying cycle, I knew I was only doing the right thing by my expensive outdoors clothing. I definitely won’t worry anywhere near as much again, I’ve proved it works and will happily repeat the process the next time I come home from camp with a smelly jacket! For under a tenner, this kit is a good buy.
To get your own Grangers Down Wash Kit, head over to their website, or it’s a little cheaper at Go Outdoors at the moment (gotta love their price match promise, too, if you spot it anywhere else). You can also buy a bigger bottle of the Down Wash on its own if you’ve already got the balls (or something similar). Or, if you prefer, hang around until tomorrow when I have a giveaway coming…!