Nikwax Down Wash Direct
This is an effective product for cleaning and restoring loft to down garments and sleeping bags/quilts. It works for both hand and machine washing. The price for a bottle is steep, but I have found it to be pretty concentrated, with good results using less product than is prescribed.
- Removes dirt and oils
- Restores loft
- Leaves a bit of a 'soapy' odor
- Product directions are in such a small font that they're hard to read.
Nikwax Down Wash Direct is a specialty detergent for washing high-quality down products like jackets (puffies) and sleeping bags/quilts. Anyone who is familiar with high fill-power down products knows how expensive they can be, therefore requiring special care. It is also well-known that a user's body oils and dirt are transferred to the down fibers, greatly diminishing their ability to loft. It is important to routinely wash down items to remove the dirt/oil and restore loft.
I have used several quilts and jackets during thru-hikes of the Colorado Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Te Araroa. Down items are going to get DIRTY during the course of a thru-hike, no question about it. So I followed advice from many websites and manufacturer instructions to wash my quilts and jackets with this Down Wash after my thru-hikes.
As you can see from the picture, there was an astonishing amount of dirt built up on my Enlightened Equipment quilt! I added about 2 oz of Down Wash to the bathtub water and this was the result. The instructions say to add 3.4 fl oz to 3-4 gallons of hand-hot water, but I felt that given the concentration of the fluid, less was better.
I rinsed the quilt several times, then ran it in the dryer on low heat for a LONG time. The quilt came out like new, with observably better loft, perhaps even better than when it was new. I have washed this quilt twice and my Katabatic Gear Alsek quilt once, all with similar results.
For my down jackets plus beanie, I washed them together in a machine with about 1.5 oz of Down Wash product. Both jackets (Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer and a Montbell EX Light Anorack) came out looking like they doubled in size, the loft is so good. In fact, some of the baffles appear to be bursting at the seams.
Down Wash Direct also claims to restore water repellency to hydrophobic down. This is a claim that I cannot really verify without devising some sort of experiment. It is at least good to know that the product is supposedly safe for down that is already hydrophobically treated and that it may actually add a hydrophobic treatment to down that is not. I'll just have to take them at their word on this.
What I do know from reading of others experiences is that using an ordinary detergent to wash high-quality down products is a bad call. Such detergents can actually leave a residue on the down fibers, preventing them from lofting like they should. Thus washing them proves to be counter-productive. I wish I could say exactly what magic makes Nikwax Down Wash work so well in restoring loft but it's a mystery to me. It just does.
Economy: The product is sold in 10oz bottles. So far, 1 bottle has lasted me through 3 quilt washings and 1 jacket (2 jackets combined in a machine) washing. There is approximately 1/3 or 3 oz left.
Odor: The product has a mild, 'soapy' odor that is not unpleasant and pretty neutral. The odor is present on the down product afterwards, giving it a freshly-laundered smell. I am not allergic or sensitive to detergents, so this doesn't bother me. And believe me, that fresh scent will go away quickly once it gets mingled with campfire smoke and thru-hiker body funk.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: 11 USD