Restore the Fluff: How to Wash Your Puffy Jacket Back to Life

Learn how to thoroughly clean your puffy jacket to remove odors and extend its lifespan. Simple at-home tips to care for your jacket and make it last.

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

Man with an orange puffy jacket in the mountains
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Puffer jackets, also known as quilted or down jackets, have a signature puffed quilted design filled with what is known as “down” insulation. This down insulation, or synthetic fibers, provides a high level of warmth to the wearer, depending on the quality of the synthetic fibers.

These jackets are also much more lightweight than others, especially wool and leather. Where wool and leather are heavier and warmer, puffer jackets that are puffed up with down or synthetic fibers are lightweight and warm.

However, when they get wet, it can cause the jacket and your clothing to start to smell. The down jacket smell damp jackets give off is stale, musty, and unpleasant, so how do you get smells out of a puffer jacket?

First, put your puffy jacket into the washing machine with warm water, using a mild down-specific detergent. Then, add a single cup of white vinegar to the rinse water. Gear should also be washed on the delicate cycle within a mesh laundry bag.

Once you have taken it from the washing machine, you should immediately transfer it into the dyer.

When you move the jacket into the dryer, put it in with two towels to absorb the moisture and a couple of unused tennis balls.

These tennis balls will help avoid the down in the jacket from bunching in one spot and help fluff up the jacket throughout the drying process.

It is important to remember that a puffy jacket like the Nano starts to smell musty and stale when it gets wet and stays wet.

Even after using the dryer to remove the jacket’s moisture, you should still position it on a drying rack sitting in the sun.

Make sure that you flip the jacket over to ensure both sides are completely air dried, and once it is tried, it should be stored hanging in a dry location to prevent more moisture absorption.

Another critical warning regarding washing a down jacket is that you should only wash it at home if you have a front-loading washing machine.

If you do not have a front loader, take your down puffer jacket to the professional cleaner to clean the odor.

How to Wash the Armpits of a Jacket to Avoid Smells?

Between full washes of a jacket, sometimes jackets need a quick freshen-up.

If you don’t have an in-home washer/dryer and can’t get to the nearest washer/dryer, finding a way to clean the armpits of any smell between washes could be a lifesaver.

Here are some tips to help freshen up your jacket and remove any unwanted stench.

To Remove Sweat Odors

Baking soda is one of the best and quickest ways to clean the stench without soaking the jacket.

You need to sprinkle baking soda on the armpits/smelling areas of the area and let it sit for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, shake the baking soda out outside to avoid a mess and remove the excess with the vacuum cleaner hose attachment.

After that, hang the jacket outside to air the coat out and help get out the last smell.

Additional Method

This method does involve some liquid and getting the area wet.

Mix vodka and water in a spray bottle and spray the affected. Vodka dries without odor, killing the bacteria in the jacket while removing any smells.

The ratio of water to cheap, high-proof vodka should be about 30% water and 70% vodka.

Spot Cleaning the Affected Area of the Jacket

You can also use a water detergent mixture. By dissolving about a tablespoon of mild detergent into about 4 cups of warm water, you can turn the jacket inside out and use a sponge to help wipe up/clean the odorous area.

Think of it as a wash-and-rinse cycle, as the second step is to use a clean sponge and warm water to rinse the area afterward.

Freezing Temperatures

Cold is also known to kill bacteria, so putting your jacket in the freezer could kill the bacteria that are causing the odor.

Last Option

Using a mixture of lemon and water to scrub the area can also help rid the odor. With any form of wet cleaning/rinse of the jacket, you should hang it dry to ensure that no more bacteria grow in the jacket’s damp armpits.

When you are cleaning the jacket’s armpits alone, you must find a clean, sunny, dry location to air dry the jacket. Especially with puffy jackets, odor occurs when moisture is trapped in the jacket’s parts.

If most of the odor seems centralized in the jacket’s armpit area, then one of these quick tricks may help quickly remove the odor.

However, if the odor is throughout the jacket, a full clean in a washing machine is the best route to take for a smelling puffer jacket.

Essential Tips for Washing a Smelly Puffer Jacket

Properly caring for and cleaning your puffer jacket will impact the life of your jacket.

Regular cleaning and delicate care of the jacket can help maintain your jacket’s appearance, restore the jacket’s loft, and help extend your jacket’s life.

Though many recommend taking a puffer jacket to a professional cleaner, many still choose to carefully clean their down jackets safely at home.

Here are some tips to safely wash and dry your puffy jacket.

  • Ensure all the jacket’s zippers and fasteners are completely zipped/buttoned/velcroed up before washing the jacket. After the jacket is safely closed up, turn the jacket inside out.
  • Put the washing machine on the most gentle or delicate cycle with warm water instead of cold or hot.
  • Wash your down jacket with two or three heavier items like towels or jeans with the jacket. These heavier items will help to keep the machine balanced and scrub the jacket throughout the cycle.
  • Always use a down-specific or gentle detergent when washing the down jacket.
  • Down jackets are very heavy and delicate when wet, so when you lift the jacket from the washer, carefully transfer it to the dryer. Never twist or wring a down/puffer jacket.
  • When putting the jacket in the dryer, please keep it in the low heat setting, as the high temperatures could damage the jacket. Higher temperatures in the dryer while drying a down jacket could melt the jacket’s external fabric or even damage the inside.
  • Every five to ten minutes that your jacket is in the dryer, you should take it out and gently fluff it by hand before putting it back into the dryer. It could take as much as an hour to dry the jacket thoroughly.
  • Only remove the jacket from the dryer when you know the damp-down feathers inside are dry. Having a damp down could allow mildew to grow inside the jacket and recreate the down jacket smell you’re trying to remove.
  • Finally, shake the jacket out gently to help restore the “puffed” look of the jacket, otherwise known as the “loft.”
Man wearing a Zpacks Goose Down Jacket

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Final Thoughts on How to Get Smell Out of Puffer Jackets

Over time and use, your puffy jacket will pick up a bunch of odors from you and the environment, as things like fire and sweat can be ripe over time.

Taking the time to clean and decontaminate your puffy jacket can lead to a longer life for your gear. Since many jackets don’t come in high quality for cheap cost, extending the life is a goal most should strive for.

Hopefully, you’ve learned how to clean a puffy jacket and that what you’ve learned will help you extend the lifespan of your puffy gear, breathing life back into something you expected to be done and saving you $100s on new purchases.

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