Gear Guy

Q:

How do I clean down products?

Because of a small fire in our house I need to have three down sleeping bags, a jacket, and a vest cleaned. I need some suggestions of companies that will handle this operation and do it correctly. I may find other equipment and clothes as the clean up process progresses that need cleaning also. The smell smoke and soot of a house fire is not the se as that of a campfire! Gary Johnson Collegeville, Pennsylvania

A:Oh, the possibilities suggested by a few words! "Because of a small fire in our house..." is a phrase that summons up almost limitless prospects. I've had to use the same phrase myself —- after setting a plastic trash can atop a gas stove burner that was, alas, lighted. No harm came of it, and of course I hope the same is the case for you.

But, you have some smoke smell on some down equipment. Option 1: Hang the stuff on a clothesline and blast it with a few sprays of FeBreeze, an odor remover/neutralizer that I've found works very well. That, and a lot of air, may just do the trick.

If not, then washing the stuff is no huge problem. And really, I think you're best off doing it yourself. Of course if there's a local Laundromat that offers cleaning services (usually by the pound)—and that you can trust to follow some special instructions—you could take your stuff there. And you may have to anyway, as the only caveat is that washing MUST be done in a commercial-type, front-loading machine, or a newer home washing machine like the Maytag Neptune (which is a front-loader). You can't use a top-loading machine with an agitator, as that will tear the baffles inside the bag. Simply toss a bag or some clothes and mild liquid detergent into the machine and wash on warm/gentle. Rinse the stuff a few extra times to make sure all the detergent is out of the down. Then, toss it into a big dryer, on medium. Some people like to toss in a tennis ball, as that will help break up the wet down clumps. Some people also say that too will tear the baffles. A few cotton towels likely would accomplish the same thing, and be gentler on the bags.

And really, that's it. A lot of your other stuff —- tents, for example, and packs, you can just dump in the tub at home and scrub out. Down stuff requires the most delicacy.

Stay away from those matches!

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