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Reviews > Do It Yourself > Nikwax Down Wash > Test Report by Duane Lawrence

NIKWAX DOWN WASH
Test Series by Duane Lawrence

Initial Review March 29, 2015

Long Term Report July 1, 2015
Tester Information
Name: Duane Lawrence
Email: delawrence_98 AT yahoo DOT ca
Age: 42
Location: Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Male
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.79 m)
Weight: 160 lb (72.6 kg)

I have been an avid outdoor enthusiast for the past 25 years.  I enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including mountaineering, day hikes, multi-day backpacking trips, river and ocean kayaking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking and rock climbing.  I have climbed and hiked throughout British Columbia, the United States and when opportunity presents itself in Europe and India.  I carry a wide variety of gear depending on the type and length of trip.  I am a Search and Rescue team member in the Southern Rockies and am part of the swift water, rope rescue technical teams and ground search team.

Initial Review
March 29, 2015

Product Information

Web Pagewww.nikwax.com
MSRP$9.75
ManufactureNikwax Ltd.
ProductDown Wash
Volume5 fl oz (150 ml)
Manufactured InGreat Britian
Suggested Product Usage to Down Volume3 oz (100 ml) for 1-3 items or 1 season sleeping bag
                        1 lbs 12 oz (790 g) to 2 lbs 8 oz (1130 g)
5 oz (150 ml) for 4-6 items or 2-3 season sleeping bag
                        2 lbs 8 oz (1130 g) to 4 lbs 8 oz (2040 g)
5 oz (150 ml) for 4 season sleeping bag
                        4 lbs 8 oz (2040 g) to 5 lbs 8 oz (2490 g)
EnvironmentalWater based; non-persistent; not tested on animals; no fluorocarbons

First Impressions and Testing

I had a look through my pile of down and realized just how badly they needed cleaning, so am looking forward to rectifying the problem.  The Nikwax down wash typically comes in a 300 ml (10 fl oz) bottle which has a complete outline of how to use the product.  For this test I will be using smaller sample sizes 150 ml (5 fl oz).  With the smaller bottles the instructions were not provided.  Fortunately, I also have a regular 300 ml (10 fl oz) bottle which has the full instructions for use on it.  There are full instructions on the web site as well. Listed are three methods of usage including front loading washer, hand washing and spot treatment. I will be testing the product both by hand and using a front loading washer and standard dryer.  On first glance at my pile of down it might also be worth doing some spot treatments.   After completing the wash and dry cycle  I will be looking closely at how my down stands up.  Does it still retain the same amount of loft as it had before, did the down wash clean the fabric well and although  I am not planning on taking a long walk in the rain I am curious to note if my jackets improve their water repellency as noted on the label.  The product itself has a slight yellowy colour and smells like, well, a very mild soap with a light chemical odor, nothing overpowering though.  

The Instructions

Since I already had a standard retail bottle I thought I would use the instructions listed on it rather than those on the web.  I should note that the web instructions are in more detail and much easier to read than those on the bottle.  The instructions are, although close to microscopic, clearly laid out on the label.  Included is a guide for the amount of product to use for volume of down, number of garments and types of sleeping bags.  The label notes that you can use the down wash straight out of the bottle for tough stains, hand washing or machine washing.  It also notes that when using a machine it must be front-loading, top-loading machines are not to be used.  For drying, a tumble dryer on low is recommended.

The label includes a number of warnings including ensuring washing machines are free of soap residue as conventional detergent can damage down and that commercial front-loading machines should only be used.  The product label also notes that the product should not be frozen, consumed or exposed to eyes.  

Web Site

The web page has a variety of detailed information on the product and how to use it effectively.  Included is information on why down items lose their insulating properties, how Nikwax Down Wash maintains down items, instructions for using the product in a washing machine and when to use the product.  The web page also has a quiz that visitors can take and if you answer all the questions correctly you can win a bottle of down wash.  I haven't taken the test yet so can not say what it is like.

Summary

Winter is almost done, so this test is coming at a perfect time for me.  I have a number of down products from light sleeping bags, down sweaters and vest as well as a couple of three and four season bags and an 800-fill down coat.  Although I will not be able wash all my down I will at the least have an opportunity to wash a good portion of my garments.  Overall I am optimistic about the Nikwax Down Wash having read through the web page and going through all the information about the product and the detailed, clear instructions for ensuring my down returns to its original state.  Or, at the least a much cleaner one with a renewed level of insulative value.

Long Term Report
June 30, 2015


Reading thought the instructions sadly meant I had a fun day at the laundromat as I don't have a front loading washer.  Wash day just got even more fun than I had anticipated!  Regardless, finding enough quarters and loonies (Canadian dollar coins) was harder than following the instructions.  A not-so-quick pre-washing machine rinse, never have paid to wash a washing machine before, but the time needed to clean the machine in order to make sure it had no residual detergents that could affect my down later on was worth the time.  Once the washing machine was clean the next hard part was stuffing my -26 c (-15 f) down bag into a little machine.  Using the recommended 5 fl oz (148 ml) of down wash and, Oh the excitement of watching a washing machine...  Meanwhile I loaded a second machine with a couple of down jackets and a vest, keeping one out for a thrilling evening of handwashing.  Without a measuring cup, which I never thought to bring with me, made measuring out the recommended 3 fl oz (89 ml) of down wash more of a guesstimatet than anything else.  At the end of the day either I got it right or the little bit more or less detergent does not affect the effectiveness of the product.  

Sometime later the machine final finished and, sadly, no I was not finished at the laundromat, as the three rounds of the recommended spin cycle awaited my full attention.  I did have a quick peek at the results of the initial wash and spin before sending it on another couple rounds of the friendly spin cycle and without a doubt my down bag was still completely waterlogged.  After the three spin cycles the soggy mass of my once puffy sleeping bag was slightly less soggy.  Thankfully my dryer at home is completely suitable for drying a down bag so, off I go. While my down bag and jackets that had gone through the washing machine were spending their first hour in the dryer I had the fun job of hand washing another jacket.  Setting everything up was as simple as the instructions indicate, fill a tub up with water, add the detergent agitate and put in your down.  I must admit, although I have washed my down before, it never feels quite right deliberately putting down into a bucket of water.  Anyway, after agitating and waiting the 10 minutes for the detergent to do its thing my soggy down came out and I spent the next half-hour rinsing and rinsing and rinsing....  Eventually the water did run clear and I squeezed out as much water as I could then into the dryer with the rest of my down it went.

Many moons later, well about 12 hours or so, out came my once again fluffy down bag and jackets and vest.  

Upon inspecting the jackets and down bag once they were dry I was pleased with the results.  Although the included photos don't do it justice my down was quite filthy and came out, although not perfectly clean, in much better condition than they went in.  The shells showed no discernable negative wear to being washed and the down showed no evidence of clumping in either my sleeping bag or my jackets and vest. I did checked the lint screen once everything was dry and I found some down.  Realistically though it was very little loss seeing that there were five items, including a heavy duty down sleeping bag. I should also mention that one of my jackets, shown below, has a patch made out of Gear Aid Tenacious Tape which was unaffected by the wash.  I am uncertain if the tape is that good or the wash is gentle enough to not affect it but I thought it was worth mentioning.  

     
Before                                                    (HAND WASHED)                                                        After

       
                                            Before                                                                                                After                                                                            Patch Still In Place
   
Before                                                          (MACHINE WASHED)                                                              After


Lint Screen (Down Loss After Drying)

Webpage

I mentioned in my initial report that I would further explore the web site and try out the web quiz.  The site provided excellent information on the products including the Nikwax downwash and all the other products Nikwax produces.  I was quite pleased with the level and quality of information and was able to easily navigate the site looking for the page on the Downwash and more detailed instructions.  I did try out the quiz and surprisingly did remarkably well, 10 out of 11!  And no studying beforehand.  The questions included a very wide range of subject matter from the care of horse blankets to specific manufacturer's jackets and Nikwax products.  If I spent more time online it would be a great source of information regarding the care and maintenance of all my outdoor gear.  

Summary

Although having to go to the laundromat was not exactly one of the highlights of this test it sure beats hand washing!  The instructions for using the Nikwax Down Wash were simple to follow and although it takes a bit of time to run it through the multiple spin cycles and takes literally hours to dry the down after washing it, I was very pleased with the results.  I took the opportunity a week or two later to take one of my newly washed jackets out on a quick overnight which provided me an opportunity test the jacket out.  It wasn't very cold out, just 6 c (43 f) in the evening, but the jacket preformed as if it were new.  At least I could not detect any reduction in performance.  Overall I am very pleased with the product and am happy to report that it does exactly what it is intended to do.  Cleans down without reducing its performance.

Thank you to Nikwax for providing me with the opportunity to try out this product.



Read more reviews of Nikwax gear
Read more gear reviews by Duane Lawrence

Reviews > Do It Yourself > Nikwax Down Wash > Test Report by Duane Lawrence



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