Winter Laundry Tips 101

Yup, it’s winter. You and your kids are making your way through daily life – work, daycare, the gym, basketball practice and everything in between – wearing your favorite scarf, hat and that not-too-puffy down jacket that you got for Christmas.

Whether your favorite outdoor activity is cross-country skiing or walking the dog, you’re not working up much of a sweat that you can see. That means it’s easy to forget that clothes – especially base layers and outerwear – get dirty in the winter months.

While there’s no set schedule as to how often you should be doing laundry, it’s important that you’re washing your clothing items regularly. Even more important is laundering your winter clothes the right way. Check out our winter laundry tips below to get the best clean this winter!

Washing Winter Hats and Scarves

Wool Knit Hats and Stocking Caps

Hand washing is usually best for knit hats, especially if your grandmother or best pal made it for you. We recommend using a mild soap in cold water. For wool hats, remember that wool contains lanolin, which will wash out unless you use a specialty detergent. Machine wash other fabrics on a gentle cycle. Air dry flat, not on a line.


Hand wash scarves with warm water in the sink. Add a capful of mild detergent and swirl to suds up – but don’t scrub or rub, which will only bunch up the yarn. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes then squeeze gently to rid the fabric of most of the water. Set aside, refill the basin with warm water, drop scarf back in, pressing it gently to push out the suds. Again, take it out of the water and gently squeeze to release the moisture. Spread the scarf on a dry towel, fold the towel over the scarf and with gentle pressure squeeze out the last of the water. Finally, spread scarf on another towel to air dry, turning the scarf over a few times to dry thoroughly.

Tips for Washing Down Jackets

Washing a down jacket is much less complicated than you might think (just a few steps, no more involved than washing a T-shirt) but equally specific to the fabric and feathers.

  • If you don’t have a front-loading washing machine, a friend likely has one. Or visit your neighborhood Laundromat. That’s because top loaders with a center agitator can tear the fabric. Many newer top loaders don’t have that device in the middle of the tub, so they’re fine if you’re using the gentle cycle.
  • Toss a mild natural detergent directly into the tub. You don’t want residues from the dispenser mucking up the shell or down. Look for a down-specific or natural detergent like Charlie’s Soap that won’t reduce the delicate down’s ability to insulate or repel water. You can also gently rub a little detergent into dirty cuffs or sweaty collars. Set on the permanent press cycle. Make sure all soap is rinsed out by running a second wash cycle with no detergent. It’ll come out as a clump — but fear not, because…
  • Drying… It only takes time and patience. Air drying is safest but is a days-long process. Lay the jacket on a towel out of direct sunlight. Pull the clumps apart and flip over. Repeat often.
  • In a machine dryer, use a low heat, gentle setting. Be careful at the laundromat, where dryers tend to be reeeally hot. Take your down jacket out of the dryer every so often and pull apart the clumps. Toss in a couple of Wiffle or tennis balls to help loosen up clumps while it’s drying.

Either way, be sure the jacket is entirely dry. Otherwise, mildew can set in. Yuck! Lastly, never, ever dry-clean down garments. Harsh dry-cleaning chemicals will flatten the down and ruin it.

Tips for Laundering Winter Base Layers

Base layers, those garments next to your skin underneath your warm fluffy coat, are tricky. No matter the temperature outside, you still sweat.

  • Wash or rinse clothes directly after activity to prevent sweat from dissolving into the fabric.
  • Use a natural liquid detergent that can get into microfibers and remove entrapped odors.
  • Wash in cold or cool water.
  • Air dry. Synthetic materials, like spandex, will shrink and allow threads to break down in the dryer.
  • Avoid fabric softeners as they can coat fibers with a wax that prevents wicking.

Washing Machine Tips

While you may not always have control over the washing machine that’s available, we do have some tips to help ensure the best clean possible – no matter the season.

  • When possible, use a front loader or a top loader with no center agitator – as it can rip delicate fabrics.
  • Clean your soap dispenser regularly.
  • Use a natural detergent free of dyes and fragrances.

Go for a detergent brand you’ve heard of, one that’s formulated from plant-based ingredients like Charlie’s Soap Liquid. It’s safe and effective for cleaning wools, silks and synthetic base layers because it does not stick to fabric fibers while washing and then rinses away completely.

Two caveats: Charlie’s Soap makes for a deep clean of wool, and after multiple washing cycles, you will likely want to recondition with a lanolin rinse to be on the safe side. As for down jackets, a spritz of Charlie’s Laundry Pre-Spray will do wonders for the neck, where cleaning is usually most needed. But when choosing a soap for the washing machine, we strongly suggest you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Charlie’s Soap may allow water to get inside the actual tubes of the individual down feather, thus reducing their insulation effectiveness.