Down is a true miracle insulation.
It’s lightweight, warm, and oh-so-cozy. It packs down flat and fluffs back up with a shake. And while not as cheap as, say, polyester, it’s quite affordable compared to many winter-worthy materials. It only has one real downside (no pun intended) — it isn’t fully waterproof.
What if there was a way to fortify your favorite piece of down outerwear against rain, sleet, and snow so that you could revel in its toasty embrace all the time? Turns out there is, and it’s a lot easier than you might think.
So how to waterproof a down jacket?
The quickest and easiest way to waterproof a down jacket is to apply a special waterproofing wash or spray. Not only does it add water resistance to the exterior of the jacket, but to the lining and down insulation too.
Read on to get the 411 on down and its relationship to moisture, as well as a step-by-step guide on how to waterproof a down jacket so that you’ll always be ready for whatever life—or the weather forecast—throws at you.
Are Down Jackets Waterproof?
So, are down jackets waterproof?
While some down jackets have waterproof/breathable exterior fabric which prevents any moisture from getting into the jacket, most down jackets are not fully waterproof.
Additionally, most down jackets get wet fairly easily. And when it does, it loses many of the qualities that make them such outstanding insulator in the first place.
The thin outer shell soaks through, the feathers inside clump, the quilted construction flattens out, and your body temperature and comfort level go way down.
Truth be told, wearing a down jacket in inclement weather is about as pleasant as wrapping yourself in a wet newspaper, and only slightly warmer.
That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to only don your down on dry days. Modern technology being what it is, there are a plethora of waterproofing products on the market designed specifically for items made with down insulation, like coats, vests, and sleeping bags.
If your go-to down jacket doesn’t feature a water-resistant shell (another increasingly common practice in this day and age), or if it’s begun to lose its moisture-repellent properties as a result of continual use, apply one of these waterproofing agents will have it performing like new again.
Or better, as the case may be.
Related: How Down Jackets Are Made
Washing and Drying Down Jacket
There are two ways to waterproof a down jacket, but both methods share the same first step: giving the garment a good wash.
First thing first: grab your jacket and zip up the front. Do the same for all pockets and additional closures, inside and out. This will decrease its chances of getting snagged or tangled up in the wash and potentially becoming damaged.
Throw (or gingerly place) the jacket into the washer and set it to either the normal or gentle cycle (steer clear of the hot and heavy settings).
Be sure to use warm water when laundering temperamental items like down—not too cold, not too hot. Somewhere in the 80-85℉, (27-30℃) range is ideal.
Once you’ve got the washer programmed, sit back and let it do its thing.
If you like, you can repeat the spin cycle one or more times to remove as much moisture from the jacket as possible prior to drying.
When it comes time to dry your down jacket (which you should only do if you plan on following up with a wash-in treatment), select the tumble dry option and switch over to the lowest heat setting available.
Also, consider dropping a couple of tennis balls in with your jacket to restore its original loft and give it that fluffy, pillowy feel you love so much.
Making Your Down Jacket Rain Resistant
Ready to get down to business? Start by picking your protection: for this project, you have the option of using either a quick and easy spray-on waterproofing or a more wash-in coating.
Both treatments are virtually effortless to apply and will let you take advantage of your jacket’s newfound hydrophobic properties in a matter of hours.
Just double-check that the product you’re working with is specifically designed for use on the type of fabric your jacket is finished with.
1. Using a Waterproofing Spray
For this method, it’s important that your jacket be damp to better absorb the spray-on fluid. A waterproofing spray like this one should work perfectly. It is water-based, environment-friendly, and adds no scent whatsoever, making it ideal for hunters.
Granger’s High-Performance Waterproofing Spray For Outerwear (buy on Amazon):
Lay your clean but not-yet-dry jacket on a flat surface and reach for your handy dandy can of (down-approved) waterproofing spray. Give the can a few vigorous shakes to make sure its contents are thoroughly mixed.
To get your spritz on, position the can about six inches away from the jacket and hold down the nozzle while waving the can back and forth.
Try to hit every part of the jacket and aim for even coverage, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to use so much solution that the fluid begins to accumulate on the surface.
When you’re all done, let the jacket sit for a few minutes to finish soaking up the solution, then stick it in the dryer and tumble it dry on low heat.
The warmth of the dryer will lock in and activate the waterproofing agent so that it will be ready to go when you are.
2. Using a Wash-In Treatment
Remember those super-simple steps you followed when washing your down jacket?
You’re going to go through them again, only this time you’ll be trading in the regular detergent for a user-vetted waterproofing solution. A Nikwax is perfect for the job.
Before you commence your second wash, take a few minutes to remove any lingering traces of detergent from the detergent tray or dispenser and the barrel of the washer itself.
Otherwise, the residue that’s left behind could mix with the waterproofing agent, leading to spotty discoloration or inconsistent performance.
Once that’s done, load your jacket and portion out an appropriate amount of waterproofing solution into the machine’s detergent tray or dispenser (the directions listed on the product packaging should tell you exactly how much to use).
Nikwax Down Proof Waterproofing Spray (buy on Amazon):
You can then proceed to wash and dry your jacket like you normally would, subjecting it to multiple spin cycles if necessary and utilizing dryer balls to up the fluff factor.
There you have it — a three-part plan on how to waterproof a down jacket, helping you defend your down jacket (and therefore yourself) against wet, wintry conditions.
It’s as easy as doing laundry and will only cost you a few dollars out of pocket. Not too high a price to pay for the freedom to confront the elements bravely and in a perennial style.