How Do You Wash Ski Jackets?

by Simon Knott | Updated: January 30th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

Your ski jacket is one of the most important items of clothing for skiing. It protects you from the cold, snow, rain, and the wind and yet is light enough to not restrict your movement throughout the day. But if I slip and fall on a patch of mud, how do I get the mud off my jacket? How do you wash ski jackets?

If looked after properly ski jackets shouldn’t need washing that often. However, if they get splashed with mud or have an odor from lots of use then washing is the best solution. The best advice for washing varies from brand to brand, so always check the manufacturer’s advice. However, most ski jackets can either be washed by hand or on a short washing machine program. Down ski jackets often need special treatment such as dry-cleaning.

Ski Jacket

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How Many Layers Does A Ski Jacket Have?

Ski jackets are generally made from several layers with each layer performing a particular function:

1. Outer Layers

The outer layer is often made from nylon or polyester, which is a very durable fabric that can stand up to frequent rough use. This external layer is treated with a waterproofing agent, which stops water from spreading through to the layers underneath.

2. DWR Coatings

This is usually called a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) coating. Water or snow is repelled by this coating, creating small droplets, which roll off the surface of the fabric easily rather than soaking in.

3. Breathable Layer

Underneath the outer layer, there is a waterproof but breathable fabric (Gore-Tex for example), which is made from ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) or PU polyurethane. The breathability of fabrics such as Gore-Tex works on their ability to transmit water in one direction only.

Water vapor molecules, created from sweat, are small enough to pass through the very fine holes of these breathable fabrics and leave the garment. This leaves you feeling warm and dry inside the jacket. However, any liquid water molecules from the outside are too large to pass through and remain on the outside of the fabric.

4. Insulation Layer

The next layer, the insulation layer, serves to retain body heat inside the jacket and at the same time insulate the wearer from the cold outside air which is held at bay. The insulating effect is achieved by weaving a layer of fine, polyester fibers, which are good at trapping air, making a thermal barrier.

Most ski jackets are made with man-made insulation, such as polyester fibers, however, some manufacturers do still use duck down, for its superior insulation properties which do, however, need specialist cleaning.

5. Linings

The innermost layer, the lining, acts to contain the other layers inside. The lining is thin and made from a man-made fiber, which has a glossy finish, which makes it easy to slide over other garments.

As all four layers of the jacket work together they create an overall fabric that is breathable, letting moist air out and dry air in, waterproof, durable, and insulated to keep the wearer warm.

How To Hand Wash a Ski Jacket?
  1. Fill a large bowl with slightly warm water.
  2. Wash the jacket on its own. Turn it over in the water to ensure the soap penetrates.
  3. Use a medium brush to gently remove any stains or muddy areas.
  4. Allow it to soak for a few minutes.
  5. Pour away the dirty water and rinse in clean water.
  6. Squeeze the jacket gently to remove surplus water.
  7. Pour the rinsing water away and let the jacket drain for a few minutes.
  8. Hold the jacket up and allow more water to drain.

How To Machine Wash a Ski Jacket?

A ski jacket is a large bulky item to wash in a machine so it’s always best to wash them alone. The insulation layer will soak up a lot of the water, which means any other washing probably wouldn’t get properly washed. Also, the jacket will become heavy, and any extra washing is likely to create problems when the machine spins. Always follow the manufacturer’s advice on washing.

  1. Check the manufacturer’s advice for machine washing.
  2. Remove everything from the pockets, including the lift ticket in the arm.
  3. Zip or close all pockets.
  4. Wash the jacket on its own on a cold or slightly warm, short wash.
  5. Add either a specialist ski jacket detergent, which helps maintain breathability and repellency or liquid detergent, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. Spin the jacket on a short cycle to remove the worst of the water.
  7. Lie the jacket onto a bath towel on the floor and place another towel on top.
  8. Leave the jacket to dry for a few hours and then transfer it to a coat hanger.
  9. As the jacket dries, turn and shake it occasionally to distribute the insulation layer.
  10. Let the jacket dry away from direct heat or the sun.

How To Clean A Down Ski Jacket?

Down ski jackets usually have insulation made from duck down. Depending on the down this can cause problems with washing because the down tends to soak up a lot of water and then clump, making drying particularly difficult. Often manufacturers recommend dry-cleaning to get around this problem, so always check the manufacturer’s advice.

Tumble Drying Ski Jackets

Tumble drying should be avoided if possible and only used if on the manufacturer’s advice. Only ever use a low temperature for the minimum amount of time. Alternatively, dry-cleaning may be the better option.

What Can You Do To Minimize Washing Your Ski Jacket?

However organized you are, washing a ski jacket is always going to be a complicated task, so any action you can take to make these washes less frequent is very useful.

Ideally, always wear at least two base layers under your jacket when skiing.

The natural oil, sebum, that the body gradually excretes through the skin transfers to the nearest surface. If you are wearing just one thin T-shirt under your ski jacket the oil will quickly contaminate your jacket as well. So, use the base layers you wear next to your skin as a barrier to the grime from your body getting onto your jacket.

Skier in Red Jacket
Photo by Roderick Eime licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0


Q. Do you need to add fabric softer or bleach?

A. No. The fewer chemicals the better. Just use a specialist or liquid detergent. Always check your jacket's washing instructions on the inside label before washing (which is usually located on the inside of the jacket towards the bottom - a white label with a washing machine symbol.)

Q. Can you dry the jacket outside?

A. Yes but keep it out of direct sunlight and away from direct heat.

Q. Do I need to reapply the waterproofing?

A. The waterproof coating does get removed with each wash. You can check if the waterproofing is still working by pouring a few drops of water onto the outside of the jacket. If the water stays as droplets and rolls off the fabric the waterproofing is still okay. However, if the water soaks in to make a patch it needs redoing. You can buy a specialist waterproof treatment, which you add to a second wash. This only needs to be done occasionally.

Q. Do I zip the jacket closed before washing it?

A. Yes do the zip up. It will help to keep the shape of the jacket during washing.