How to Wash Synthetic Insulators: 5 Easy Steps
WANT TO KEEP YOUR INSULATOR PERFORMING AT ITS BEST?
WASH IT ONCE IN A WHILE.
Just like other performance apparel, synthetic insulation jackets and vests need to be cleaned and cared for in order to maximize their performance and lifespan.
A synthetic insulator, often casually referred to as “a puffy” or “a fill layer”, is a staple of the outdoor wardrobe.
Over-compression, dirt, grime, spilled drinks, sweat, snot, dog hair, sand, smoke, and other things can limit the insulation functionality of a jacket. When foreign substances remain embedded in the fabric fibers, the strength and integrity of the surrounding shell fabric – and the insulation contained inside – becomes compromised, resulting in fabric tears, cold spots, and other mishaps.
Not to mention… um, odor?
Odor is also a great reason to clean your insulator.
Here at Helly Hansen, we feel confident in the pro-level quality of our gear, but we also know that just like anything else made for top-tier performance (such as tools or sports cars), maintenance is a vital part of maximizing the overall use potential of the garment.
TYPES OF SYNTHETIC INSULATION
Here at Helly Hansen, we use 3 main types of synthetic insulation in our line:
Lifaloft™ is the result of our collaboration with Primaloft®, in which we combined our proprietary Lifa® fiber (the naturally hydrophobic and lightweight fiber we use to manufacture our base layers) with the warmth and insulation properties of Primaloft® synthetic insulation. Introduced in 2018, Lifaloft™ is 20% lighter than standard synthetic insulation, while simultaneously being warmer.
Primaloft® is an industry-leading insulation company, with whom we partner. We incorporate their top-quality levels of synthetic insulation into various pieces throughout our outdoor, ski, and sailing lines.
STANDARD & RECYCLED INSULATION
We also utilize blown-in polyester insulation, as well as recycled polyester insulation, in pieces of our line where familiarity or sustainability is a focus.
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HOW TO WASH SYNTHETIC INSULATORS
STEP 1: READ THE CARE LABEL
Locate and read the manufacturer care label on your jacket(s). Be careful to follow any guidelines you see regarding water temperature, products to avoid, etc. For Helly Hansen jackets, that label is most often found on the left hip of the jacket.
The common “DO NOTs” for synthetic insulators:
- Do not use a top-loading machine with an agitator
- Do not bleach.
- Do not dry clean.
- Do not iron.
- Do not use standard laundry detergent.
- Do not forget to close all velcro straps and zippers.
- Do not use fabric softener.
STEP 2: INSERT JACKET
Place jacket(s) into a front-loading washing machine. You may use a top-loading machine, but only if it does NOT have an agitator in the middle.
All technical apparel should be washed by itself or with same-category items. For example, multiple insulators may be washed together, but do not mix in other types of garments (cotton, rain shells, base layers, denim, wool, etc.). Different fabrics require different care and cleaners.
STEP 3: ADD CORRECT TECHNICAL CLEANER
Avoid laundry detergent. Instead, replace it with a technical cleaner specifically designed for cleaning synthetic fabrics. We recommend Nikwax Tech Wash, or a similar product. For specific amounts and directions, consult the back of the bottle. Each product has its own measurements.
STEP 4: RUN WASH CYCLE
Most often, use medium temperature water, and a medium-strength cycle. Consult the care label to be sure.
STEP 5: DRY JACKET
Most importantly, follow the care label for specific drying instructions.
If the instructions are not clear, a common method is to tumble dry the garment(s) on low or medium heat. We recommend tossing a few dryer balls or tennis balls in with the insulator(s). They can help break up clumps of insulation that may be sticking together, and help the jacket to regain an even distribution of insulation throughout its whole paneling or baffle structure.
Be careful not to overheat synthetic insulators. Extremely high heat can damage some synthetic fabrics and materials. It’s best to stick to low/medium heat.
BONUS: Add Water Repellency
If your jacket has any water-repelling functionality, it likely has a coating on the outside, known as a Durable Water Repellent (DWR). That DWR is what causes water to bead up and roll off. When the DWR coating has been compromised, it will stop repelling water, causing your jacket to begin absorbing moisture.
The same things that we mentioned above (dirt, grime, sweat, etc.) can all contribute to the compromising of a DWR coating.
So, if your jacket has lost its water-repelling or water-beading function that it once had, and you would like to add some water-repellency back to it, then we would recommend using a product like Nikwax TX Direct.
STEP 1) Be sure to clean your garment first, following all the above steps accurately.
STEP 2) Then, you will do the whole process one more time, but use Nikwax TX Direct instead of Nikwax Tech Wash.
The key thing to remember is that insulators are not designed to necessarily guarantee waterproofness… that is the job of a good mountain shell or ski shell.
However, it doesn’t hurt to give your insulator the ability to shed a little precipitation, while it keeps you warm.
And finally, be sure to store your synthetic insulators in a way where they can be freely expanded. Compressing your insulators over an extended amount of time can have a lasting impact on its ability to re-loft.
Thanks for reading!
What if my jacket is a MIXTURE of synthetic insulation and down?
First, consult the individual garment’s care label for any specifics. Then lean toward caring for the more sensitive insulation or material… in this case, down is more sensitive. It is common to have synthetic insulation and down in the same garment; those garments are often referred to as “hybrids.” For information on caring for down garments, you can READ THIS GUIDE.
My synthetic puffy is just a simple lifestyle jacket. Do I wash it the same as those elite top-end insulators?
As a general rule of thumb, gear care is centered around fabrics and materials, not the activity for which a garment was originally constructed. In short, if a garment has synthetic insulation, you can wash with the same process, regardless of “end use.” So, you can wash your “dog-walking” puffy the same way as your “summit-ready” insulator.
What if I’ve been washing my insulators with all my other normal clothes, using standard detergent?
No need to panic. A couple washes with a gentle, technical cleaner (ex. Nikwax Tech Wash) will remove all the residue left behind by your standard detergent, allowing your jacket and any existing DWR to be refreshed, re-ensuring even distribution of insulation, and maintaining fabric and structural integrity.
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Images c/o Michael Overbeck, High Mind Studios, Cam Mcleod, Nate Brown
Looking for more gear care tips?
For any additional gear care questions, please contact our Customer Care team in your region.