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!