Picks

The Down Detergent That Made My 4-Year-Old Puffer Look Brand New

No need to shell out for dry cleaning.

Man wearing black Patagonia puffer jacket.
Maxine Builder

I washed my down jacket in a washing machine yesterday and it came out great. It didn’t shrink. It didn’t melt. The feathers are nice and fluffy. (Did you know you can wash down in a machine? Because I had no idea.)

I first started looking into it last week, when I fished my trusty Patagonia out of the closet. It’s been six months since the last time I wore it, and the down was flat, deflated, and spottily distributed. High-wear areas like the collar and wrists had a weird shine—a greasy shine, not a nice “Moncler” shine. It was in bad shape. Not interested in sending it out for dry-cleaning, I researched options online and found a bunch of recommendations for Nikwax Down Wash Direct—a favorite down detergent among outdoorsy people. And after it revived my Patagonia, it’s a favorite of mine.

Here’s what you do: Wash on cold on the gentle cycle with the Nikwax, which has a minty smell and a consistency thicker than Bronner’s but thinner than Tide. It might need a second cold cycle to rinse completely. When you take the jacket out of the wash, DON’T PANIC. Mine was flat and heavy and unrecognizable, but all you do is shake it out and throw it in the dryer with a few tennis balls, which help break up clumps of feathers. It’ll take a while: Mine cycled for about 90 minutes before it was completely dry. But it’s worth the wait. My jacket was completely revived. It’s puffy again. The shiny spots are gone. It looks and feels brand new.

I wanted to know how it works, so I called Bill Kennedy, owner of Kenco Outfitters in Kingston, New York, who told me that he likes Nikwax because it cleans without leaving residue like ordinary detergents, so down stays light and maintains its insulating properties. (It’s also popular with hunters because it washes gear without leaving any scent that might be detected by animals.) I’d thought the fact that my Patagonia actually felt warmer was psychosomatic, but I’m glad to hear it wasn’t. And I’m really glad that I can wash my Patagonia (and comforter and pillows) on my own without shelling out $20 or more for dry-cleaning.

Nikwax Down Wash Direct

BUY: Nikwax Down Wash Direct

More Strategist-Approved Clothing Cleaners

The Laundress Home Spray.

Writer Brennan Kilbane recommends the Laundress’s Home Spray for clothes with odors: “The spray doesn’t just mask odor. It actually lifts it with the help of antibacterial eucalyptus (you may also get a whiff of some lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, and bergamot), rather than ammonia or eco-unfriendly sodium phosphate. Unlike highly chemical alternatives, it’s safe to use around pets, too. Buy it as a housewarming or hostess gift the next time you’re invited over to someone’s apartment; it looks much more extravagant than it is.”

BUY: The Laundress Home Spray

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap.

Writer Chris Cohen swears by Fels-Naptha, a century-old bar soap that uses to wash his workout gear in the shower: “I give the clothes a quick scrub with the soap, roll everything around for a few seconds, then hold them up to the showerhead to wash the suds out. The whole process takes less than a minute, and the next day, I have dry, sweat-stink-free clothes ready to go.”

BUY: Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap (Pack of 4)

Spray n’ Wash Pre-Treat Stain Sticks.

Writer Maxine Builder relies on Spray n’ Wash Sticks for stain removal: “Immediately after a stain happens, I rub the product onto the spot and the fabric, and let it sit for as long as possible. Before I go to sleep, I’ll wash the product out in the sink with cold water, wring it out, and let it dry. When I wake up, the stain has lifted and the clothing is ready to wear again, with no one the wiser.”

BUY: Spray n’ Wash Pre-Treat Stain Sticks (Pack of 2)