Stinky Puffy: How to Get Smells Out of a Your Jacket

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Puffer jackets, also known as quilted jackets, have a signature puffed quilted design filled with what is known as “down” insulation. This down insulation, or synthetic fibers, provides a high level of warmth to the wearer depending on the quality of the synthetic fibers.

These jackets are also much more lightweight than other jackets, compared to wool and leather especially. Where wool and leather are heavier and warm, puffer jackets that are puffed up with down or synthetic fibers are lightweight and warm.

However, when this “down” stuffing gets wet, for example, it can cause the jacket and your clothing to start to smell. The smell a damp down jacket gives off is stale, musty and overall unpleasant so how do you get smells out of a puffer jacket?

You want to start by first putting your down-filled jacket into the washing machine with setting at warm water, using a very mild detergent and adding a single cup of white vinegar into the rinse water. A puffer jacket should also be washed in the washing machine on the delicate cycle and in a mesh laundry bag and/or down-specific detergent.

Once you have taken it from the washing machine, you should immediately transfer it into the dyer. When you move the jacket into the dryer, ensure that you put it in with two towels to absorb the moisture and a couple of unused tennis balls.

These tennis balls will help avoid the down in the jacket from bunching in one spot and help fluff up the jacket throughout the drying process.

It is important to remember that a puffer jacket starts to smell musty and stale when it gets wet and stays wet. As such, even after using the dryer to get the moisture out of the jacket, you should still position it on a drying rack that is sitting in the sun.

Make sure that you flip the jacket over to ensure both sides are completely air dried, and once it is tried, it should be stored hanging in a dry location to prevent more moisture absorption.

Another critical warning in regards to washing a down jacket is that you should only wash it at home if you have a front-loading washing machine. If you do not have a front-loader, you should take your down puffer jacket to the professional cleaner to clean the odor.

How to Wash the Armpits of a Jacket to Avoid Smells?

Between full washes of a jacket, sometimes jackets need a quick freshen up. Additionally, if you don’t have an in-home washer/dryer and can’t get to the nearest washer/dryer, finding a way to clean the armpits of any smell between washes could be a lifesaver.

Here are some tips to help freshen up your jacket and clean off any unwanted stench.

  • To Remove Sweat Odors: One of the best and quickest ways to clean the stench out without soaking the jacket is through baking soda. Sprinkling baking soda on the armpits/smelling areas of the area and letting it sit for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes have passed, shake the baking soda out outside to avoid a mess and remove the excess with the vacuum cleaner hose attachment. After that, hang the jacket outside to air the coat out and help get out the last of the smell.
  • Additional Method: This method does involve some liquid and getting the area wet. Mix vodka and water in a spray bottle and spray the affected, vodka dries without odor, and it will kill the bacteria in the jacket while removing any smells. The ratio of water to cheap, high-proof vodka should be about 30% water and 70% vodka.
  • Spot Cleaning the Affected Area of the Jacket: You can also use a water detergent mixture. By dissolving about a tablespoon of mild detergent into about 4 cups of warm water, you can turn the jacket inside out and use a sponge to help wipe up/clean the odorous area. Think of it as a wash and rinse cycle, as the second step is to use a clean sponge and warm water to rinse the area afterward.
  • Freezing Temperatures: Additionally cold is also known to be able to kill bacteria, so putting your jacket in the freezer could kill the bacteria that are causing the odor.
  • Last Option: Using a mixture of lemon and water to scrub the area can help rid the odor as well. With any form of wet cleaning/rinse of the jacket, you should hang it dry to ensure that no more bacteria grow in the jacket’s damp armpits.

When you are cleaning the jacket’s armpits alone, it is critical that you find a clean, sunny, dry location to air dry the jacket. Especially with puffer jackets, odor occurs when there is trapped moisture in the jacket’s puffer parts.

If most of the odor seems to be centralized in the jacket’s armpit area, then one of these quick tricks may be able to help quickly remove the odor. However, if the odor is throughout the jacket, a full clean in a washing machine is the best route to take for a smelling puffer jacket.

Important Tips to Washing a Puffer Jacket

Properly caring and cleaning your puffer jacket will impact the life of your jacket. Through regular cleaning and delicate care of the jacket, you can help ensure that your jacket’s appearance is maintained, restores the jacket’s loft, and helps extend your jacket’s life.

Though many recommend taking a puffer jacket to a professional cleaner, many people still choose to clean their down jackets safely at home carefully. Here are some tips to ensure that you safely wash and dry your puffer jacket.

  • Ensure that all of the jacket’s zippers and fasteners are completely zipped/buttoned/velcroed up before washing the jacket. After the jacket is safely closed up, turn the jacket inside out.
  • Put the washing machine on the most gentle or delicate cycle with warm water instead of cold or hot.
  • Wash your down jacket with two or three heavier items like towels or jeans with the jacket. These heavier items will help to keep the machine balanced and scrub the jacket throughout the cycle.
  • Always use a down specific or gentle detergent when washing the down jacket.
  • Down jackets are very heavy and delicate when wet, so when you lift the jacket from the washer, make sure you carefully transfer it to the dryer. Never twist, or wring a down/puffer jacket.
  • When putting the jacket in the dryer, keep it on the low heat setting as the high temperatures could damage the jacket. Higher temperatures in the dryer while drying a down jacket could melt the jacket’s external fabric or even damage the down inside.
  • Every five to ten minutes that your jacket is in the dryer, you should take it out and gently fluff the jacket by hand before putting it back into the dryer. It could take as much as an hour to dry the jacket fully.
  • Only remove the jacket from the dryer when you’re confident that the damp down feathers inside are dry. Damp down could just create mildew inside the jacket and reinstate the smell you’re trying to remove.
  • Finally, shake the jacket out gently to help restore the “puffed” look of the jacket, otherwise known as the “loft.”

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Final Thoughts on How to Get Smells Out of a Puffer Jacket

Over time and use your puffy jacket will end up picking up a bunch of odors, both from you and also from the environment as things like fire and sweat can be ripe over time.

Taking the time to clean and decontaminate your puffy jacket can lead to a longer life for your gear. Since many jackets don’t come in high quality for cheap cost extending the life is a goal most should strive for.

Hopefully what you have read above will help you extend the lifespan of your puffy gear, breathing life back into something you expected to be done and saving you $100s on new purchases.

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