How To Fluff Up A Flat Down Jacket? (Full Guide!)

Do you have a puffer jacket that has lost its volume? Maybe you have washed it or stored it for some time, resulting in a decreased loft of the down or synthetic fibers of the jacket?

Don’t worry. With a little time and effort, I will show you how to make your down jacket fluffy again!

For down and synthetic puffer jackets, the best way to re-fluff them to regain their loft is to dissolve the down of fiber clumps in a tumble dryer. Setting the dryer to a low heat setting and drying for 30 to 60 minutes with the addition of 2 to 3 tennis balls is the best way to blow new life into your down jacket.

However, read on for alternatives on what to do if you do not want to use a dryer, are lacking tennis balls, or simply want to be as gentle as possible by not subjecting your jacket to the washing or packing conditions that caused the clumping in the first place.

My Puffer Jacket Has Gone Flat After Washing – What To Do?

If your puffer jacket has gone flat after washing, there are a few things you can do to try and get it back to its original shape.

First, you can try fluffing it up by hand by simply shaking it, but most likely you will need to run it through your tumble dryer in order for the clumps to dissolve into individual downs or synthetic fibers again.

There are, however, differences between fluff jackets and the main one is the insulation material.

They can be insulated with either down or polyester (synthetic) filling and this has implications for their loft and washability.

The risk of your jacket going flat is generally higher for down jackets as the downs will clump more easily when wet. Synthetic jackets, on the other hand, tend to fluff up more easily after washing as they are not as free to move around as the tiny down feathers of a down jacket are.

However, no matter what type of puffer jacket you have, you have come to the right place! I will guide you through a process that works for both types of puffer jackets here.

The important thing to keep in mind is, that down filling is generally much more sensitive to heat and water than synthetic polyester fillings are. That is, you will have to keep the following in mind:  

  1. Washing of a down jacket should be done less often and with more care.
  2. Drying a down jacket should be done at a lower temperature.
  3. A down jacket should be shaken vigorously or massaged to dissolve clumps as soon as they arise as they will only get worse over time!

So having a down jacket requires a bit more work and care, but it is certainly worth it in terms of weight and insulation capabilities!

Detecting clumps early and massaging them out is a good way to prevent loss of insulation ability in your jacket!

However, most people experience a loss of fluff in their puffer jackets when they attempt to wash them for the first time. It is a bit like washing a woolen shirt for the first time, if you don’t wash natural materials like down or wool the right way, it might shrink or even break!

The next sections deal with that situation of fluffing a down jacket after washing, but will also apply to a dry synthetic or down jacket that needs to be un-clumped or re-puffed!

How to Fluff a Down Jacket in the Dryer?

If your down jacket has lost its loft or isn’t as warm as it used to be, you can fluff it up again with a few simple steps.  

To fluff down a jacket in the dryer, first, make sure that the jacket is clean and free of any debris. Next, put the jacket in the dryer on a low heat setting with a few round objects (like tennis balls) to beat the clumps apart.

Allow the jacket to tumble in the dryer for about 15 minutes and take it out for manual shaking to make sure all clumps are gone.

After 15 additional minutes, remove the jacket from the dryer and shake it out. Finally, put the jacket back in the dryer on a low heat setting for another 15 minutes.

Larger or more wet jackets may need longer time as they absorb more water and accumulate bigger clumps.

If your jacket has not been washed before putting it in the dryer, use the lowest possible heat setting as drying is not necessary and we only need the airflow and circular motions of the tumble dryer.

This entire process of re-fluffing a jacket is done most efficiently by using round and soft objects, like tennis balls, to help “beat” apart the clumping of the down or synthetic insulation material inside the jacket.

If you are using tennis balls, there is no need to shake the jacket in between drying runs. Simply add the jacket to the dryer with the tennis balls and run it for around 30-50 minutes depending on the thickness of your jacket.

  1. Put the jacket in the dryer on a low heat setting
  2. Add a clean tennis ball or two to the dryer
  3. Tumble the jacket and balls together for about 20 to 40 minutes

For the optimal result, you should also shake the jacket by hand and massage out big clumps a few times during this process.

How to Fluff a Down Jacket Without Tennis Balls?

If you are not using any objects to beat the clumps out of the down or synthetic filling while drying, it will tend to clump much more during the tumble-drying process.

This can be prevented by taking the jacket out periodically during the drying process and shaking or massaging it manually. But the easiest is to have some round object do this for you directly in the dryer!

If you just lack the tennis balls but don’t mind using hard objects to beat your jacket in your dryer, there are other types of balls or round objects that can be used. For example, baseballs or even wooden balls can be used.

If a hard object is used, I recommend wrapping it in a soft cloth to prevent damage to your washing machine. You can wrap it in cloth using an elastic band to keep the cloth in place.

I sometimes simply use a cloth with rubber bands around in the shape of a ball instead of a hard tennis ball as this is more gentle and always available.

However, my favorite method to avoid using tennis balls is to simply form a ball out of a cloth e.g. a t-towel or a dish cloth adding elastic bands to keep the shape in place.

This will provide a much gentler treatment than that of a tennis ball and is easy to make when you need it.

How to Fluff a Down Jacket Without a Dryer?

Getting a proper distribution of the filling in a down or synthetic puff jacket without a dryer is doable, but you will need a bit more patience.

To fluff a down jacket without using a dryer, you can hang the jacket on a clothesline or towel rack and let it air dry while periodically shaking it at least once every hour.

To speed up the process, you can use a hair dryer or ventilator pointed at the jacket. This works best when the jacket is hanging so the air can circulate freely around it.

But you can also lay the jacket flat on a clean surface like a bed or couch and let it air dry that way. In that case, you will need to flip it after each shaking to make sure the down filling distributes equally inside the chambers of the jacket.

Once the jacket is almost dry, you can gently shake it or pat it to fluff up the down filling in place and use your fingers to break larger clumps apart.

If you have not washed your jacket beforehand, you do not need to worry about drying but only the shaking and massaging of down clumps!

Can I Clean my Down Jacket Without Risking It Losing Fluff?

Yes! The safest way to clean a down jacket without risking any clumping of the insulating (synthetic or down) content of the jacket, is simply to avoid soaking it in water!

Some down jackets, especially those meant for outdoor and hiking use, may also be treated with a water repellant compound on the outer nylon or polyester layers to make them rainproof.

However, these water repellant treatments will often be removed during washing or make washing harder, so sometimes a more targeted cleaning is highly preferred!

If you’re trying to avoid washing your down jacket in water, there are a few things you can do to clean it instead.

Many down jackets have been treated with water-repellant chemicals to make them rain resistant. However, you can still spot clean them, which will retain most of the water resistance.

First, spot clean any areas that are particularly dirty with a damp cloth. You can also try hanging your jacket outside on a sunny day to help air it out and remove any lingering odors.

  1. Take the jacket outside and shake it off to remove any loose dirt or debris.
  2. Use a lint roller or sticky tape to remove any pet hair or lint.
  3. Spot clean any areas that are particularly dirty with a damp cloth.
  4. Brush the jacket with a soft brush to loosen any dirt that is embedded in the fabric.

Finally, make sure to store your jacket in a cool, dry place when you’re not wearing it. With a little care, you should be able to keep your down jacket clean without washing it too often.

How Do The Down and Synthetic Fillings in Puff Jackets Differ?

You probably already know that down jackets tend to be more expensive compared to synthetic ones, but did you know that they are also warmer and lighter?

The composition of a down unit is much more voluminous than that of the homogenous synthetic polyester filling used in the cheaper synthetic puffer jackets.

When you hear “synthetic filling” think polyester. All synthetic fluff jacket filling is made from thin threads of polyester – a man-made material that does not collapse to the same degree when wet and has a higher tolerance to heat.

Read more about the properties of polyester here.

Polyester is in many ways similar to that of other synthetic materials such as nylon, but nylon is not as “springy”, is more expensive, and tolerates humidity less when compared to polyester.

Feathers, down included, are made up of a protein called “keratin”. This is the same material that makes up our nails and hair as well as the horns, scales, and wool of animals.

The physiochemical behavior of keratin is highly dependent on humidity (hydration of the protein), and temperature. The higher the moisture content and temperature, the less elasticity and strength it has.

This is why a down jacket is more sensitive to humidity and tumble drying than a synthetic jacket is! But these drawbacks are compensated by the much warmer and lighter nature of down compared to its synthetic counterpart.

Whereas down is arguably the best insulator of the two, down filling tends to deform and clump more easily resulting in a lower tolerance to long-term compression,

Synthetic materials tend to do better over time because they don’t experience the same entangling and deformation of the fibers upon compression and when wet.

The downside of synthetic filling, however, is that polyester is heavier per volume and therefore has a much lower fill power compared to down.

You just don’t get the same high insulation ability from synthetic materials, and you will therefore need to use much more of it, which compromises the weight of your jacket.  

General Advice on Puffer Jacket Care & Maintenance

Puffer jackets are a great way to stay warm in cold weather, but they require special care to keep them looking their best. Here are some tips for caring for your puffer jacket:

  • Always check the care label before washing or dry cleaning your jacket. Puffer jackets can be delicate, and some cannot be machine-washed.
  • If your jacket is machine-washable, wash it in cold water on the delicate cycle. Use a mild detergent and avoid bleach.
  • Tumble dry your jacket on low heat or hang it to air dry. Again, avoid high heat, which can damage the fabric.
  • If your jacket has a hood, remove it before washing or drying. The hood can often be washed separately from the body of the jacket.
  • Never put your puffer jacket in the dryer without first checking the care label!

Apart from proper handling of the jacket when washing and drying it, it is also important to store it correctly.

For example, you don’t want to pack it down for longer periods of time. I have explained the reason why in my previous post on how to store sleeping bags to avoid clumping.

Always check the label of your specific down jacket before proceeding with any washing or fluffing treatment! This label is from my own down jacket and most of the instructions apply to other down jackets as well.

But the conclusion is that the more humid and compressed a down jacket is, the more likely it is to clump. This is also the case for synthetic fibers, but these polyester fibers are more forgiving in many ways compared to down although often not as warm.

So keeping your jacket out and in good air circulation is key to retaining its insulating properties and its overall longevity no matter the insulation material, but is most critical for down jackets!

Conclusion

Puffer jackets are a great way to stay warm in the winter, but they require special care.

Always check the care label before washing or dry cleaning your jacket and follow the instructions carefully.

If your jacket is machine-washable, wash it in cold water on the delicate cycle and tumble dry on low heat or hang to air dry. Never put your puffer jacket in the dryer without first checking the care label!

Store your jacket in a cool, dry place when you’re not wearing it, and never pack it down for more than a few days at a time.

With a little care, you should be able to keep your down jacket clean and looking its best for many years to come!

Worst case, if you are not able to save your down jacket, you can buy really cheap down jackets and other outdoor equipment of surprisingly good quality if you know where to look.