Down jackets are a popular choice for staying warm during cold weather. However, they can develop a bad odor that smells musty, fishy, or like a wet dog. Why does your down jacket smell bad?
These are the most common reasons why your down jacket smells musty:
- Insufficient Cleaning – The most common cause of a smelly down jacket is the build-up of sweat and dirt over time. Although you can machine wash a down jacket, the water can damage the shape and insulating qualities of the jacket. Finding a local dry cleaner that specializes in down jackets is recommended. I actually like to use this eco-friendly down jacket cleaning service because they use a no-heat process, which protects the jacket. You can mail your jacket and they will sanitize and clean it with a dry-cleaning (no heat, no water) method.
- Improper Drying – Another common cause that makes a down jacket smell musty is improper or insufficient drying after the jacket becomes wet (from the elements or from a machine wash cycle). It may take up to several hours or even a full day for your jacket to air dry completely, depending on the humidity level and temperature.
In this article, we will explore why your down jacket smells fishy or musty and how to prevent odors from happening. We will also discuss how to properly clean your down jacket to remove bad odors.
|Why Down Jackets Smell||Sweat, body oils, and moisture can get trapped in the down clusters, leading to the growth of bacteria and mold that causes unpleasant odors.|
|Preventing Smells||Avoid excessive sweating, use a jacket liner, and allow the jacket to dry completely before storing it away.|
|Cleaning at Home||Use a front-loading washing machine with a gentle detergent, tumble dry on low with clean tennis balls or dryer balls to fluff the down clusters.|
|Dry Cleaning||Down jackets can be professionally dry cleaned, but it can be expensive and may not be necessary unless the jacket is heavily soiled.|
|Other Odor Removal Methods||Air out the jacket, use a fabric refresher spray, or place the jacket in a sealed bag with baking soda to absorb odors.|
|Spot Cleaning||Gently scrub specific areas with a mild detergent and water, rinse thoroughly, and allow the jacket to air dry completely.|
Why A Down Jacket Smells Fishy or Musty
The most common cause of a down jacket smelling musty or fishy is from the accumulation of sweat, body oils, and dirt over time. These substances can build up and create an unpleasant odor that can be difficult to remove.
A down jacket usually needs to be cleaned once a year to remove dirt and sweat build-up and prevent odors.
Another reason your down jacket smells musty is improper or insufficient drying after the jacket becomes wet (from the elements or from a wash cycle). It may take up to several hours or even a full day for your jacket to air dry completely, depending on the humidity level and temperature.
Preventing Smells from Developing
The best way to deal with stinky down jacket smells is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Here are some tips to help keep your down jacket smelling fresh:
- Allow your jacket to dry completely before storing it away.
- Avoid wearing your jacket when you are sweating excessively.
- Consider using a jacket liner or wearing a moisture-wicking layer underneath your jacket.
- Keep your jacket clean by spot cleaning as needed and washing it periodically.
Let’s discuss each of these in more detail.
Allow your jacket to dry completely
One of the most common reasons your down jacket smells musty is because it was not allowed to properly air dry.
Allowing your down jacket to dry completely before storing it away is essential in preventing musty odors and mold growth. When a down jacket is damp, moisture can get trapped inside the jacket, creating an ideal environment for mold and bacteria to grow. The smell from this growth can be challenging to remove and can ruin your jacket.
To ensure that your jacket is fully dry, shake it out gently to remove any excess water before laying it flat on a clean towel. Leave it to air dry in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources. It may take up to several hours or even a full day for your jacket to dry completely, depending on the humidity level and temperature.
Never store your down jacket in a damp or humid area, such as a basement or a closet without proper ventilation. If you need to store your jacket for an extended period, consider using a breathable storage bag or container that allows air to circulate around the jacket while protecting it from dust and moisture.
By allowing your jacket to dry completely before storing it away, you can prevent odors and prolong the life of your down jacket. To read more, visit my article that discusses how to dry a down jacket without dryer.
Avoid wearing your jacket when you are sweating
Avoiding wearing your down jacket when you are sweating excessively is crucial in preventing unpleasant odors from building up in your jacket. When you sweat excessively, the moisture can get trapped inside the jacket’s down clusters, leading to the growth of bacteria and mold (which is why your down jacket smells musty).
To avoid excessive sweating in your down jacket, consider layering your clothing appropriately based on the temperature and activity level. Wearing moisture-wicking base layers can help to pull sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable. You can also remove your jacket during high-intensity activities, such as hiking or skiing, to prevent excessive sweating.
If you do sweat in your jacket, it’s essential to clean it as soon as possible to prevent odors from setting in. Wash your jacket according to the manufacturer’s instructions and allow it to dry completely before wearing it again. You can also use a fabric refresher spray to help neutralize any lingering odors.
By avoiding wearing your jacket when you are sweating excessively and taking steps to clean it regularly, you can help prevent unpleasant odors and keep your down jacket smelling fresh.
Consider using a jacket liner
If your down jacket smells musty, using a jacket liner is an effective way to prevent future odors. A jacket liner is a lightweight, breathable layer that you wear under your down jacket. It can help to wick away moisture and keep you warm without adding bulk to your outfit. It also prevents sweat from soaking into the down jacket.
Jacket liners come in a variety of materials, including wool, fleece, and synthetic fabrics. Wool and fleece liners are excellent options for colder weather, as they provide insulation while wicking away moisture. Synthetic liners are typically more lightweight and breathable, making them a good choice for milder temperatures or high-intensity activities.
Using a jacket liner can also help to extend the life of your down jacket. The liner can act as a barrier between your skin and the jacket’s delicate down clusters, preventing friction and wear. This can help to reduce the need for frequent washing and prolong the jacket’s lifespan.
When selecting a jacket liner, make sure to choose one that fits comfortably under your down jacket without adding too much bulk. Look for a material that is lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking to help keep you comfortable and dry.
By using a jacket liner, you can protect your down jacket from sweat and body oils, reduce the need for frequent washing, and prolong the jacket’s lifespan.
Spot cleaning your down jacket
Spot cleaning your down jacket as needed can help to keep it clean and fresh in between washes. Spot cleaning involves using a mild detergent and water to clean specific areas of your jacket that have become dirty or stained. This method can help to prevent the need for frequent washing, which can be damaging to the delicate down clusters.
To spot clean your jacket, start by identifying the areas that need cleaning. You can use a soft-bristled brush or a damp cloth to gently scrub the area with a mild detergent and water. Be sure to rinse the area thoroughly with clean water and allow it to air dry completely before wearing your jacket again.
It’s important to use a mild detergent when spot cleaning your down jacket, as harsh chemicals can damage the delicate down clusters and reduce the jacket’s insulation properties. Look for a detergent that is specifically designed for down-filled items or one that is gentle and free from harsh chemicals.
When spot cleaning your jacket, be sure to avoid scrubbing too vigorously or using hot water, as this can damage the down clusters and cause them to clump together. It’s also essential to allow the cleaned area to dry completely before wearing your jacket again to prevent musty odors from developing.
By spot cleaning your down jacket as needed, you can help to keep it clean and fresh in between washes, prolong its lifespan, and maintain its insulation properties.
How to Remove Musty Smell From Down Jacket
Clean Your Jacket at Home
If your down jacket smells bad, it’s probably time to clean it. If you want to clean it at home, here are some steps to follow:
- Check the care label on your jacket to ensure it is safe to wash.
- Close all zippers and fasteners on the jacket.
- Use a mild detergent and set your washing machine to a gentle cycle with cold water.
- Rinse the jacket thoroughly and gently squeeze out excess water.
- Dry the jacket by laying it flat on a towel and allowing it to air dry completely.
Dry Cleaning a Down Jacket
If your down jacket smells musty and you do not feel comfortable washing your down jacket at home, you can take it to a professional dry cleaner. However, it is important to choose a cleaner that has experience cleaning down-filled items. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Look for a cleaner that specializes in down-filled items.
- Ask about the cleaning process and what types of solvents they use.
- Make sure the cleaner can guarantee the jacket will not be damaged during the cleaning process.
To learn more, visit our article that discusses dry cleaning a down jacket.
Removing Smells without Washing
If your down jacket smells fishy or musty and you do not want to wash or dry clean your down jacket, there are other ways to remove the smell. Here are some options:
- Hang your jacket outside in the fresh air for several hours.
- Place your jacket in a plastic bag with a handful of cedar chips or a sachet of lavender to absorb the odor.
- Use a fabric refresher spray designed to neutralize odors.
Why a Down Jacket Smells Musty After Machine Washing
While machine washing your down jacket is an effective way to clean it, it can sometimes lead to a lingering odor. Here are some reasons why your jacket might smell after machine washing:
- Improper Drying: Down jackets can take a long time to dry, and if not dried properly, can result in a musty smell. Make sure to air-dry your jacket completely before storing it away.
- Insufficient Detergent: If you don’t use enough detergent, your jacket may not get fully cleaned, leaving behind dirt, sweat, and body oils that can lead to an unpleasant smell.
- Poor Quality Detergent: Using a low-quality detergent or one that is not designed for down-filled items can also leave behind residue and contribute to a lingering odor.
If your down jacket smells musty after machine washing, try washing it again with the correct amount of detergent and without fabric softener. Make sure to air-dry it thoroughly by hanging it in a well-ventilated area in your house. If the odor persists, consider taking it to a professional cleaner who specializes in cleaning down-filled items.
If you want to clean it without a washing machine, learn more by visiting my article that discusses how to clean a puffer jacket without washing it.