How to Wash Your Winter Coat—Without Splashing Big Bucks at the Dry Cleaner

Photo: Getty Images/Christian Vierig
Most of us would never dream of going an entire season without washing our go-to jeans or favorite white T-shirts. So why is it that winter outerwear—which gets just as much play as those other wardrobe staples, if not more—is so often left out of the fluff-and-fold fun?

Okay, so your coat isn't directly exposed to your bod in most cases. But even if it doesn't touch your skin or sweat, it's actually making contact with lots of far grosser things during the course of a day—car exhaust, polluted precipitation, latte drips, and energy-bar crumbs from your a.m. commute.  (Oh, and fun fact: On the east coast of the U.S., at least, air quality is at its worst in the winter months. So that's a whole lot of gross particulate matter latching on to your wool trench.)

Cleaning your winter coat on the reg isn't just a matter of good hygiene, say Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, co-founders of eco-friendly fabric care brand The Laundress. It's also a win for sustainability, helping you get more wear out of your outerwear wardrobe. "Down coats will look deflated and lose their warmth [if not cared for properly]," Boyd says. "Wool coats are also important to wash in order to preserve the natural lanolin of the fibers. Add rain, snow, and slush to the mix, and your coat will begin to look dingy after seasons without a proper wash. Caring for winter coats will increase their longevity for seasons to come." (Like, maybe even 10-years long, if you follow one Well+Good editor's lead.)

Fortunately, you don't need to sanitize your puffer every week—and in most cases, outerwear doesn't even require dry-cleaning. "A proper wash is only necessary once or twice a season," says Whiting. "Always wash your coat at the end of the season before long-term storage, and pay special attention to sleeves, cuffs, and collars." She adds that you can maintain them in the meantime with a steamer and some fabric-freshening spray. In other words, cleaning your winter coats is a lot easier than you might expect.

Scroll down to learn how to wash (almost) every type of winter coat in your closet, DIY style.

how to wash a down jacket
Photo: Getty Images/Christian Vierig

Wool coats

Get ready to have your mind blown: You can actually machine-wash your wool coats. It's basically the same process as washing a sweater, say Boyd and Whiting.

First, they say, treat any stains with a wool-friendly stain remover. Then, turn the coat inside-out and put it into a mesh laundry bag, washing it in cold water on your machine's woolen, delicate, or hand-wash cycle. Make sure to use a detergent that's designed especially for wool or cashmere. Finally, lay it flat to dry, avoiding direct sunlight or heat sources (because they can shrink wool). Once dry, remove any pills with a wool brush or comb—and you'll no longer feel, um, sheepish, for neglecting your go-to winter closet staple.


The process for washing your down or fiberfill puffer starts off the same as your wool coats, according to Boyd and Whiting—pre-treat any stains, then flip it inside-out and wash inside a mesh bag on your machine's version of a delicate cycle, using warm or cool water. (Be sure to remove any detachable fur or faux fur details from the coat before washing—and again, use a wool-friendly detergent.)

In this case, says the duo, you should dry your coat in the dryer. Tumble-dry on low, using low heat, and repeat until the coat's completely free of moisture, as this will prevent mildew. Boyd and Whiting add that you should take the coat out of the dryer halfway through the cycle and shake it to redistribute the filling, using your hands to spread it around if necessary. Because nobody wants a lumpy puffer, right?

Active coats

If you're a skier (or another type of snowy adventuress), you might be familiar with slush stains—and how difficult they are to remove. Boyd and Whiting say the trick is to soak the coat before you clean it. Take a stain remover and lather it into the slush stains. Then, soak the coat in warm water for 30 minutes.

If your coat contains a lot of fine mesh, Boyd and Whiting suggest handwashing it in cool water with a squirt of detergent, leaving it to soak for an additional 30 minutes, and rinsing with cool water. If not, you can machine wash it in a mesh bag on the delicate cycle, using cool water if the stains have come out, or hot water if they're still lingering. Then, lay the coat flat to dry away from heat or sun—the same as you'd do for all of your activewear.

how to wash a down jacket
Photo: Getty Images/Melodie Jeng

Faux fur

No, getting a little sloppy with the guac doesn't have to mean game-over for your faux fur jacket. To make it good as new, Boyd and Whiting recommend treating any stains with a solution that's approved for the material your fur's made from—The Laundress' Wash & Stain Bar also works well for this—and hand washing the coat in cool water, using a wool-friendly detergent. After gently working the lather into the coat with your hands, let it soak for 30 minutes before you rinse it in cool water. (Make sure you get all the suds out before you move on to the next step, or your coat might feel crispy when it dries.)

To dry, say Boyd and Whiting, lay the coat flat or hang it—you never want to put faux fur in the dryer. You can use a wide-tooth comb to detangle and fluff the fur, and like all the other coats, it's safe to steam it to remove wrinkles.

Faux Leather

This is one case where dry cleaning isn't just a waste of money—the chemicals could actually damage your coat if it's made from vegan leather, say Boyd and Whiting.

Luckily, polyurethane or polyvinylchloride coats are quite possibly the easiest to clean of the bunch. Just turn the garment inside out, they say, and wash it in a mesh bag. Make sure your washer is set to cold water and the delicate cycle, and use a detergent made for delicate items. The dryer and faux leather are not friends, so lay your coat flat or hang it to dry.

Sorry, but these coats should *always* be dry-cleaned

Okay, so not every coat in your closet is a match for the laundromat. As Boyd and Whiting explain, real leather or fur should be professionally cleaned, as the skin can shrink or dry out when washed with water.

Viscose is another fabric that really is dry-clean only. "Viscose is a type of rayon, and although many rayons can be washed, viscose has been known to shrink to extreme proportions," says Whiting. Even if your viscose piece says it can be machine washed or hand washed, it's not worth the risk, she adds: "The shrinkage, elongation, distortion, or puckering [that can result] aren't reversible."

Finally, you should consider leaving your most tailored coats to the pros. "We don’t recommend washing structured materials, like blazers with shoulders pads, as they can become distorted in the wash," says Boyd. But if you follow her advice about the rest of your coats, those periodic dry-cleaning bills probably won't feel as painful.

While you're in clean-up mode, here's how to properly wash your jade roller and your Instant Pot

Loading More Posts...