It was a nervous few hours.
There was no good reason for the nerves.
After all, ducks and geese live in water, so there was no logical reason for me to fear the ruination of my down jacket simply by washing it.
I think that the fear came from the ‘thou must not get down wet’ warnings in wide circulation in relation to the use of down items, and my mind had mixed getting-wet-in-use with getting-wet-when-washing.
But it could be ignored no more. My down jacket had become a bit flat in places and more than a bit grubby in others. It needed a wash and I wasn’t prepared to part with the amount of cash required to send it to a professional cleaner when all information I could find indicated that I could achieve the same end result at home.
The instructions sewn into the jacket (a PHD Minimus) told me that it had to be handwashed. The instructions on the PHD website told me to machine wash it. I went with the website.
I could have just used soap flakes for the washing process, but my attention had been drawn by the little packs of Nikwax Down Wash and Down Proof. It was the Down Proof that particularly caught my attention. During this year’s walking my jacket has got wet more than once (sometimes carelessness, sometimes the belief that the jacket I had over the top could fend off the rain). On reflection, I should have bought the Minimus with a water resistant shell. I have now come to the conclusion that I will never again buy a down item without a water resistant shell, but hindsight is a wonderful thing (and I'm now digressing). So, adding a bit of water resistance sounded like a good thing to me.
Admittedly, I could have just bought the Down Proof, but I didn’t need a big bottle of the stuff (I don’t intend to undertake similar experiments with any of the sleeping bags), so I went for the little bottles.
So, into the machine went the jacket and the Down Wash. I dithered a while as to which programme to use. Half an hour later, the wash was finished and I started the cycle again with the Proof. Half an hour later it was finished and I put it on for an extra spin.
Grimacing at the inefficient use of the tumble dryer, I then put the single item together with a couple of those tumble dryer balls (which claim to make your dryer more efficient, but I bought solely with my down jacket in mind (£1 for 2 in a pound shop in Leeds past which I happened to walk whilst killing time between trains yesterday)).
An hour and three-quarters later (having nervously checked it progress at regular intervals) and out of the dryer I pulled a jacket more fluffy than it has been since new. Big sigh of relief. Not ruined after all.
It turns out that some of the marks haven’t come off the shell, but for the moment at least, I have a nicely lofted jacket again. Hopefully it will be able to fend off a bit of moisture too, for those times when I accidentally dip my arm in a bucket of water or get caught in a shower whilst dashing across a field.