Laundry

Sorry, but you're washing your jackets and coats wrong

Assuming you wash them at all...

Sorry, but you're washing your jackets and coats wrong Credit: Getty Images / Starkovphoto

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If your first thought upon seeing this article was, “Jokes on you, I never wash my jackets and coats,” then we need to address something first: You should be washing your outerwear. Not necessarily every weekend, but you should be freshening up jackets and coats at least once per season to get rid of all that accumulated grime.

Further, the process for cleaning jackets and coats depends on the material—you shouldn’t just slap outerwear in the washing machine on the bulky cycle and hope for the best. (Well, sometimes you can, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) With that in mind, here are our recommendations for washing your favorite jackets and coats without ruining them.

How to wash your jackets and coats

Clothing Tags
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Check your clothing tags, so you know exactly how to wash your jackets and coats.

Before cleaning anything, check the tag on your outerwear to make sure your coat isn’t made from a delicate material or require dry cleaning. Then, follow these steps to clean your coats based on what they're made from.

Wool

When it comes to high-maintenance materials, wool is up high on the list. You'll want to start by reviewing the label—most wool coats can be washed in the machine, but harsh cycles and high dryer heat can ruin the fabric.

You’ll want to take precautions by setting the machine to the gentle cycle, running a cold wash, putting your coat in a laundry bag and/or using a detergent made especially for wool.

This is very important: Do not dry your wool coat. This will cause the fibers to shrink (a lot), and you'll likely end up with a toddler-size jacket. Instead, hang it to dry. You can expedite the process by placing the coat between two towels to soak up some of the initial moisture.

Waterproof

Waterproof Jacket
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Since waterproof clothing repels water, you can't throw it in the washing machine.

We love our waterproof clothing—so much so that we have a in-depth guide on how to clean your favorite waterproof gear.

This is another material you won’t want to throw in the washing machine. Since waterproof clothing is coated with a durable water repellent (often called DWR) finish, you’ll want to choose cleaning materials specifically suited for this compound. Start by brushing your jackets gently with a soft brush, then selecting a DWR cleaner for a more thorough wash—we recommend Nikwax Tech Wash or Granger’s Performance Wash.

Down or other puffy materials

There's nothing more comforting than bundling up in a down jacket during the cold winter months. Thankfully, this is another fabric that’s easy to clean. Start by zipping it up completely, then put it in the washing machine with a mild or specialized cleaner.

Wash your puffy jacket on a gentle cycle, or if your washer has a "down" cycle, use that. Dry the jacket on low heat until all the water has evaporated.

Leather

Leather is a tricky fabric to clean. Faux leather requires slightly less care, but authentic leather should be respected and treated kindly.

Your best option may be springing for a professional cleaning every few years, but in the interim, use a high-quality leather conditioner or cleaner to treat spots. Opt for a product with high ratings and a gentle formula, like the Leather Honey Leather Conditioner.

Suede

Similar to leather, suede requires very specific cleaning. You can opt to hire a professional to clean your suede coats, but if you’re looking for an at-home solution, start with cleaning products targeted to the material, like suede brushes and cleaners. You can even use suede erasers on stains or spots that have accumulated over time.

Do not put suede in your washing machine, as it can warp with water, heat and abrasive movement—essentially all the features that make your washing machine work.

Fleece

Fleece is far less temperamental than other materials. You should take care when washing it, but you don’t need to be quite as particular as you would with suede or leather.

Button your coat, set your washing machine to a gentle, cool cycle and add detergent as normal. Heat can damage fleece, so avoid using the dryer—instead, hang the garments for a few hours to dry.

Do you need to dry clean jackets and coats?

Dry Cleaning Jackets
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As long as you're washing them right, you probably won't need to dry clean your jackets or coats.

Thankfully, the answer here is no! At least not if you’re successfully washing your jackets and coats at home.

High-maintenance fabrics, like suede and leather, should be professionally cleaned on a regular basis, but other fabrics, like wool, down and waterproof material, don’t need that professional touch unless you’ve got a stubborn spot that just won’t budge. Professional dry cleaning may prolong the life of your favorite jackets and coats, but you can save costs by washing your jackets and coats at home—gently, of course—and always adhering to their care tags.