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Can You Use a Down Jacket in the Rain? Will Rain Ruin it?

Beautiful girl with makeup in a black jacket in a hood in the rain.

A down jacket can keep you warm and toasty when it’s cold outside, but it’s not necessarily the best thing to wear in the rain. While you shouldn’t have any issues if you wear your jacket when it’s drizzling, a downpour could cause the feathers insulating your jacket to get wet. You don’t have to avoid using your down jacket if it’s raining, but you should avoid staying out in the rain for too long.

What Happens If a Down Jacket Gets Wet?

Most down jackets are water-resistant. They can handle light rain and snow without any problem. If a jacket is soaked, however, the down inside the jacket can get wet, which can cause it to clump together.”

“Down has one major flaw,” says Steven Smith, owner of the backpacking site My Life Outdoors. “When it gets wet, it loses all of its magical properties. It can’t insulate, it gets really heavy, and it can even be deadly.”

When the down inside a jacket is wet, the feathers are no longer able to effectively hold heat. Water can also change the shape of a down jacket. The jacket can become less fluffy and may even look like it’s been flattened.

What Should I Do If My Down Jacket Is Wet?

Thankfully, water won’t ruin a down jacket. Even though your jacket won’t be able to keep you as warm once the down is wet, you can easily restore your jacket and bring it back to its original condition. Surprisingly, the best way to fix a wet down jacket is with more water.

If your jacket is machine washable, you should use down the wash to clean it in the washing machine. Alternatively, you can wash the jacket by hand. It’s best to dry a down jacket in the dryer on the lowest possible heat settings.

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While it can take up to three hours for a jacket to fully dry, you shouldn’t try to turn up the heat settings. High temperatures could cause lasting damage to the feathers that insulate the coat. To help give the jacket back its fluff, you should use place three tennis balls in the dryer along with the jacket.

Remove it from the dryer every 30 minutes or so and break up any clumps in the down. Once your jacket has dried, you should store it uncompressed in a clean, dry location.

Can You Waterproof a Down Jacket?

Girl walking in forest on winter day Down jacket.

Most down jackets have a finish that’s designed to repel water. Over time, dirt and oil can interfere with that finish, which can limit your jacket’s ability to resist water. If you’ve noticed that your jacket is getting very wet when it rains, it’s likely that this is the source of your problems.

While you can’t make your jacket completely waterproof, there are several steps that you can take that will help your jacket to repel water.

There are both spray-on and wash-in treatments that are specifically designed to protect down from water. Make sure that your jacket is completely clean before applying any sort of water-repelling treatment. Dirt and other types of residue can interfere with the effectiveness of the treatment.

It’s a good idea to use a treatment on your jacket at least once a year to protect it from the elements.

Are There Any Waterproof Down Jackets?

Almost any down jacket you’ll find on the market today will have waterproof features. While inside a down jacket are sensitive to water, the outer layer of a jacket is typically made from a waterproof material, such as nylon or polyester. Most jackets also have some sort of waterproof coating.

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Even though this can help to mitigate some of the issues that water can cause for down jackets, you should be aware that it isn’t a perfect solution. It’s best not to get your down jacket very wet even if the material it’s made out of is waterproof. Waterproof materials can keep the rain from completely ruining the feathers inside your jacket, but water can still impact the jacket’s effectiveness.

If you’re wearing a down jacket, you don’t have to run inside at the first sign of rain. However, you should take some precautions there’s heavy rainfall or if the jacket is very wet. Since water can compromise the jacket’s effectiveness, you won’t want to stay outside if your jacket is soaking wet.

Is Synthetic Insulation Waterproof?

Norway tourist girl wearing yellow jacket.

Synthetic insulation is designed to mimic the qualities that make down effective. Unlike down, a jacket filled with synthetic feathers will be able to keep you warm even if your jacket is wet. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that synthetic insulation is a better option than down. While synthetic feathers are more resistant to moisture, they won’t keep you as warm as down will when it’s dry.

You should consider a coat with synthetic insulation if you live in a wet, humid climate where your jacket will regularly be exposed to water.

How Can You Fluff Up a Down Jacket?

Young fashion woman in purple short jacket in stockings.

If your down jacket is still keeping you warm, but it’s not quite as fluffy as it used to be, the easiest way to fix your problem is to tumble dry the jacket on low heat. You can also use the dryer’s wrinkle release cycle. As mentioned before, you should toss in tennis balls and check on your jacket periodically to make sure that the down isn’t clumping.

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You can also fluff a wet down jacket without using a dryer at all. Take your damp jacket and hang it in a cool, dry area. While the jacket is on the hanger, you should give it a good shake to release any clumps.

Squeeze and massage your jacket, working to separate clumped feathers and restore the jacket’s original shape. Every 30 minutes or so, shake the jacket and massage it again. Continue this process until the jacket is fully dry and is fluffed up again.

What Else Can Damage a Down Jacket?

While it’s best to keep your down jacket dry, you can actually damage your jacket if you don’t wash it at all. In fact, not washing your jacket can cause the same problems as water. “Sweat and oils from your skin will build up on your jacket, which will inhibit its ability to breathe,” says Hannah from UK wilderness retailer Trekkit.

“It also won’t allow the down to fully loft because it’s going to get clogged with those sweat and oils, and it means you’re not going to get as much warmth out of your jacket.” Washing your jacket is important, but washing your jacket with the wrong detergent could actually make the problem worse. Standard household detergent can leave behind a residue on the down inside your jacket, which can cause feathers to stick together.

You’ll need to purchase a special type of detergent that’s specifically designed for down. Since detergent can be a problem for down, it’s actually a good idea to take out the drawer in your washing machine where you normally pour your detergent. Give the drawer a good cleaning before putting your jacket through the washer.

Your down jacket should be washed on its own without any other items.