How to wash really dirty down jackets

I decided to finally tackle the project that is washing my 10+ year old white Columbia down jacket.  When I first got it,  I had never heard of technical washes (did they even exist then?!) so my poor jacket only got washed once a year with Tide in a top-loading machine.  The end result was a lot of dirt in high friction areas like the collar, cuffs, zipper and arms that never washed out.

I knew a capful of down wash wasn’t going to cut it now, so I asked around on twitter if anyone had any ideas.  Blue Dawn detergent and peroxide were suggested by @thehighandlo and @JenOfTheNorth.  This reminded me of a stain removal recipe that I had tried a while back with great success on stubborn armpit stains.  Turns out it works just as well on down, and my jacket looks almost brand new again!  Here’s what I did:

1. Mix up drugstore hydrogen peroxide, blue dawn dish detergent and baking soda.  I used roughly 1 part baking sode: 1 part Dawn: 2 parts peroxide.  I don’t think the exact proportions are the key to this, just that you get it into a liquidy paste you can rub into your jacket.

2. I used a kitchen scrubber with bristles to work the mixture into the areas with stains.  I was very liberal with the application and had to make several batches to thoroughly soak all the stained areas.

3.  I let the mixture sit for 30 minutes then rubbed more of the mixture into each area and let it sit for another 30 min.

4.  Before I washed the jacket with my Patagonia down sweater, I wanted to rinse the mixture off. I tried rinsing it under the sink but due to the number of stains I had treated, it was too time consuming and messy.  So I ran it through my front loader on a pre-set short cycle with no detergent.

5.  After the rinse, I washed all my down products together with technical down wash according to the instructions on the bottle.

Clean cuffs!

Clean cuffs

Clean arms and zipper

Clean arms and zipper.  I wish I had taken ‘before’ photos but I never expected this to work so well!

Note: I’ve only ever tried this on white or cream items so if you want to try this on anything coloured, I would test it out first on an inconspicuous area.

Another note: On the stain removal topic, if you have any stubborn grease stains on regular clothes, Goo Gone does a great job of removing them no matter how old.  I’ve used this on coloured fabrics as well and never had an issues with discoloration!

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61 Comments

  1. Gutsy move, going with a white down jacket ;) Glad it’s back to new!

    Reply
    • It was purchased before my outdoor days when I knew better :)

      Reply
      • Lucy

         /  December 8, 2015

        you first mention baking soda, then in the measurements you say”detergent , Blue Dawn and peroxide ” ?? Please explain! Lucy

      • Typo :) It’s fixed now if you go back and look!

  2. Bisa Mitrovski

     /  December 29, 2013

    This worked like a charm on my daughter’s purple/white down Columbia jacket. Thank you for sharing. I thought I would have to go out and buy a black jacket.

    Reply
    • So glad it worked out for you! I was also about to call it quits on the jacket and buy a new one and this was my last ditch effort.

      Reply
  3. TPOWELL

     /  November 30, 2014

    I bought a white down Columbia jacket about 5 years ago. It lasted one winter due to the salt and snow on my car (scraping the windshield, buckling in my daughter etc) I have tried just about everything to get rid of the salt stains. Thanks for this post. I applied the mixture to my sleeves, and am hoping for the best! With any luck, I may have my favorite coat back!

    Reply
    • Hope it works for you! I applied the mixture twice to my sleeves until I saw it was going away before putting it in the wash. And feel free to rub it in.

      Reply
  4. Parisha

     /  December 22, 2014

    This worked so well!! Thank you so much for the suggestion. I have an off-white North Face down parka and was really worried I would not be able to remove all of the black grime that had built up on the hand holes and edges of the coat after a year of wear. I scrubbed the paste into all the areas with a bristled brush and found it worked instantly. I was impatient and didn’t let it sit for 30 min, but turned out there was no need to wait. I stuck it in a delicate wash cycle with warm water and then tumble dried on low heat. The coat came out looking brand new!!

    Reply
  5. Amber

     /  January 11, 2015

    I have a purple and white Columbia wonder what it would do to the purple?

    Reply
    • Likely nothing. I’ve never had it discoloration any clothing but I’d still suggest testing it on a small corner just in case.

      Reply
  6. Whitecoat

     /  February 5, 2015

    I tried this mixture and scrubbed my white jacket with an old toothbrush and the stains I’ve had for 2 years came out right before my eyes! I couldn’t believe that it worked so well I wish I could post my before/after photo

    Reply
  7. anna le souef

     /  February 21, 2015

    Holy cow, you’re amazing!! I have a white down coat, it’s a third-time hand-me-down of god only knows what age, and it was absolutely filthy. I tried washing it, but very little came out. I’m an unpaid UN intern in Germany – it’s freezing and I can’t afford another coat, so I didn’t have much of a choice. And now you’ve helped me create this glorious, beautiful white coat, that I’m so proud to wear – it makes me feel a million dollars. I must have spent an hour and a half scrubbing it today – and everything came out. Thank you so so much. I hope you have a glorious 2015.

    Reply
  8. Marianne

     /  October 19, 2015

    I’m so happy I found this post! I have a 10-year old down coat with a few white sections that had turned dirty and grey. I avoided wearing it for years, but I recently moved to Boston and I need a warm coat. I also just quit my job, so it seemed silly to spend $50-150 when I could clean the old one. I was skeptical that this would work, but it really helped! I did two applications of the paste and scrubbed pretty hard to work it in. The stains didn’t disappear all the way before washing, but it looked much much much better when it came out of the dryer. Thank you!!

    Reply
  9. JTJC

     /  November 16, 2015

    Thanks for this post! It helped clean my dark brown down long jacket and my husband’s North Face black down jacket. Three things – be careful with how much of the cleaning paste you use. We had an issue with very excessive foam/bubbles in our front loader/HE washing machine, even when we did the rinse cycle first (even caused the machine to “freeze” in the cycle since it was too full of the foam & had to empty the foam out twice.) Might be good to do a thorough rinse in the sink or tub before putting it in the machine. Second thing – we did not use fancy down wash (just regular detergent) and it seemed to be okay. Not sure if it affected the water-resistant part or not though. Third thing – use dryer balls or tennis balls in your dryer to speed up the drying process & help the down to fluff up well.
    All in all, though it took a while for the whole process due to issues with the foam, it ended up turning out well & our coats look great & are nice & puffy! :o)

    Reply
    • I can definitely see how two coats plus a lot of dish detergent might foam up a HE washer! Good tip to rinse them first. If you’re not planning on washing your jacket often, skipping the down wash is probably ok. I use dryer balls but put them in socks so they’re a little more gentle on down coats.

      Reply
      • JTJC

         /  November 17, 2015

        Our issue with the foam actually was when we washed these coats separately. I’m very glad that I kept them separate otherwise we would have really had a problem! I too used tennis balls covered in socks and felt/wool dryer balls. Thanks for the note re: down wash. Will keep that in mind if we wash them more often.

  10. Rachel

     /  January 3, 2016

    Great post! I work for a local ski shop, and we had shipped a white down jacket to a customer in Austrailia. When she received it, she called us saying it had been soiled in transit. She shipped it back to us and I could NOT believe how awfully dirty it was. It has sat on a shelf in our office for nearly 3 months because neither myself or my boss thought there was any saving it. I went on a cleaning binge the other day, found the jacket on the shelf and thought “what the heck?”

    The jacket is in my washer right now on a final rinse/spin cycle and then it will be going in the dryer. I wasn’t sure about using the dish soap on down just because of the suds, but since some of the stains looked like they could be grease, I didn’t have much of a choice, I just did a couple of extra rinse and spin cycles in the washing machine.

    It took me almost an hour to cover and scrub all the stains (the entire front of the coat was covered in dirt/grease/water stains). I let it sit for about an hour and washed it. The stains were diminished, but not gone. I did end up using Shout for set in stains and let that sit overnight, and washed it this morning. The only evidence of staining I saw were a couple of small spots that I think I missed initially. Even though I ended up using the shout, this recipe worked incredibly to start the process and it completely removed the spots that I think were grease.

    I was hoping to keep the jacket, but it may be too clean. My boss will probably want to sell it! :)

    Reply
    • I hope you got to keep it :)

      Reply
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      Reply
  11. Meganne

     /  January 5, 2016

    I just wanted to let you know that I used your recipe for my own Columbia pure white down coat with just a couple tweaks and it worked like a charm.

    So for mine, I used a half cup of Palmolive Pure and Clear to avoid any potential stains from the dye in the soap, a half cup of Hydrogen Peroxide, and a whole box of Arm and Hammer baking soda. This created approximately 2 cups of paste that I applied on the coat. From there, I followed your instructions to a ‘t’ and my coat looks brand new. It had all sorts of grey marks, make up marks, etc on it and all those are gone. I am going to make sure to do this every year! I love the results! While I probably will never get another white Columbia down coat, I do think that this recipe makes the process a little less painful.

    ALSO, I read online that all Seventh Generation detergents are safe to use on down, and it worked like a charm on my coat.

    Reply
  12. Nicole

     /  January 6, 2016

    Excellent! I warned my daughter about choosing a white down jacket (she’s 8), and lo and behold, she is upset about the dirty cuffs… and now wants a new coat, just two months later. I will definitely try this tonight! Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Barbara

     /  January 24, 2016

    Wow, I just used this on a winter jacket I was ready to toss. Looks brand new now. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  14. SaraJane

     /  February 11, 2016

    Thank you! That was a lifesaver! I have a down coat that was embarrassing to wear because of the dirt. Regular washing didn’t touch it. I scrubbed the hot spots with your mixture this morning using a kitchen brush with bristles and let the coat sit for about a half an hour. Then I rinsed the coat in the sink a bit before placing it in the washing machine. I used the delicate cycle without detergent. The coat is like new. Thanks again!

    Reply
  15. Cynthia

     /  February 18, 2016

    Thank you so much. I can’t wait to try this! I was ready to just give this off white Columbia down coat to Goodwill because it was so frustrating to spend money washing it at the laundromat only to have it come out dirty.

    Reply
  16. Salmy Dean

     /  March 2, 2016

    Thanks for the tip. My favorite pink down jacket had grease stains. I was going to buy a new one but decided to give this a chance. I used normal laundry detergent and three tennis balls tucked in socks and tumble dry low.There are two spots left but otherwise the jacket was really clean.

    Reply
  17. Hanah

     /  March 28, 2016

    Thanks to my wonderful Inlaws. They bought my daughter a white Columbia coat. Super cute on her, but looks like an 8 year old drug it through the playground. Nasty! My youngest has a light mint Columbia. This worked wonderfully. Thank you!

    Reply
    • White is such a tough one with kids!

      Reply
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  18. Chloe Almond

     /  August 31, 2016

    Thank you so much for this! I was just about to buy a new downy because my bright green one was just covered in brown stains, I don’t think it counted as a green downy anymore. I tried a mix of the baking soda with hydrogen peroxide, a little bit of eucalyptus oil and I used pure soap instead of dish washing liquid. It really does make it look like new! I don’t even remember it being that bright when it was new.

    Reply
  19. This was so helpful!!! It’s been about 10 years since I bought my cream colored down coat and have been avoiding wearing it because it was dirty and I couldn’t get it clean enough. Your suggestion did the trick! Thanks!

    Reply
  20. Amanda

     /  December 26, 2016

    Hi well omg I had a white jacket four 4 years and the first time I bought it’s I got stains on the cuffs and on arms of my coat. And I had my.coat sit in the closet for 3 years only.wpre it twice and never threw it out so I found what you wrote and I did this omg omg.omg it came out I freaked I can now wear it again yahhhhh!!!!! Thank you so much

    Reply
  21. Valerie Buckingham

     /  December 30, 2016

    Thanks I’m going to try it tonight, I’ll take some pics first. Best and easiest advice so far. I’ll let you know how well it works.
    Valerie

    Reply
  22. Lulu

     /  January 3, 2017

    I realize I’m super late to the game commenting on a 3 year old post but I couldn’t not after seeing how gorgeously brand new my jacket looks after doing this!! Wore my white ski jacket out clubbing on a Uni ski trip and after a very messy night involving tyre surfing down the slopes it was covered from head to toe in black/grey marks, the worst areas being the sleeves. Fast forward a year later, a month prior to the next ski trip, and I’m worrying about being able to wear said jacket on the next ski trip. After googling this seemed like a pretty solid method and I’m so glad I trusted it! My jacket is white again and looks (almost) brand new! Thanks so much for this!! I live in the U.K. so the brands I used weren’t the same but the method worked just as well.

    PS Don’t worry, I won’t be wearing it on a night out this year!

    Reply
  23. Susan Price

     /  January 3, 2017

    This worked beautifully on my white Kanuk …twice! red wine spilled on it and it came right out. Thank you
    S

    Reply
  24. Djanira

     /  January 15, 2017

    Thank you so much for saving my jacket!
    I have a gorgeous lilac down gilet that I was embarrassed to wear out of the house.
    I made up your mixture and followed your instructions step by step and it worked just perfect.
    The colour has definitely faded/bleached a little but I used it uniformly over the whole jacket so it’s pretty even.
    I’m keen to try it on more things now but will adjust the mixture to tone down the dish soap. I think equal measures of soap, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide should be fine. And I love someone’s comment about adding some essential oil :)
    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Sarah

       /  January 30, 2017

      Hi there, I have a baby pink ralph lauren down puffa, do you think the solution would discolour it if I use it on certain areas?
      I was wearing it on a london bus in the rain and it left a huge black mark on the sleeve. I only got it for christmas so Im absolutely devastated! Ive tried washing it with down safe detergent today but it hasn’t really helped! :(
      xx

      Reply
  25. John Cherry

     /  January 19, 2017

    Definitely trying this tomorrow! Would it affect the waterproofing at all? Its on an oakley ski jacket.

    Reply
  26. Meriam Waqas

     /  January 24, 2017

    Woo Hoo! Used this recipe on my white Columbia down coat last night. I gave it a good scrub twice over, ran it through a rinse and spin cycle, then washed it with my scarf and gloves with some Tide. Looks good as new! My husband has been complaining about how gross my coat looks and now he has no complaints either! I had recently gone to Sephora and got lipstick stains all over my coat as well – now that’s gone too! Next time, however, I’ll have to wear dishwashing gloves as my hands are very dry and peeling.

    THANK YOU!

    Reply
  27. Chelsea

     /  February 16, 2017

    I had a light pink and dark brown down jacket from college that I hadn’t worn in years because it was so grimy. I’m from the southwest and had no idea how to clean down jackets. I was planning on giving it away when I found this blog. This recipe was AMAZING. The jacket looks brand new. The deep black/brown awful stains are gone on the cuffs of the neck and sleeves. I highly recommend using a scrub brush to drive the cleaning slurry into the material. I scrubbed on application, scrubbed it again 20 minutes after the application, and left it on for 45 minutes total. Had no problem rinsing it out of the jacket. I got the paste all over the dark brown part of the jacket and found no bleaching/discoloration.

    Reply
  28. Hi! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My site looks weird when viewing from my
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    Reply
  29. L Lavallee

     /  March 23, 2017

    I can’t wait to try this on my favorite white coat. I have tried everything else and I won’t get rid of the coat so, I just apologize for the appearance. Wish me luck!!

    Reply
  30. Hi, I have an all nylon rain coat made by Louis for Boston which needs washing. I searched using this info and landed here. It is not down, just nylon w/a lining w/a crosshatch pattern (but no filling). I wondered, can I wash it? It doesn’t have a dry cleaner label, but still I hesitate. Thanks.
    Caroline

    Reply
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