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Reviews > Do It Yourself > Nikwax Down Wash > Test Report by Steven M Kidd

NIKWAX DOWN WASH
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 11, 2015

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Steven M. Kidd
EMAIL: ftroop94ATgmailDOTcom
AGE: 42
LOCATION: Carmel, IN
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 185 lb (83.90 kg)

Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1

Manufacturer: Nikwax LTD
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.nikwax-usa.com
MSRP: US $9.95 10 oz (300 ml) bottle/ $26.50 33.8 oz (1 L) bottle
Listed Weight: N/A

Nikwax Down Wash, hereafter referred to as Down Wash or wash, is an agent specifically designed for cleaning down filled gear. It removes both dirt and oils from the product fabric and the internal down fibers. Nikwax states the Down Wash aids in revitalizing the Durable Water Repellent (DWR), which in turn protects the item from rain and condensation. It extends the life of a down filled item and once clean allows the down to better insulate the user. It may be used in a washing machine or items may be cleaned via hand-washing.

WEBSITE INFORMATION ON DOWN

Down is a natural lightweight insulating option. Down traps air between its filaments, in turn body heat warms this air creating insulation for the person wearing or sleeping in an item.

Dirt and body oils build up on down items negatively impacting the down fill. Dirty down actually attract water, be it condensation or perspiration. When down is wet it clumps losing its insulating properties. Therefore, it is imperative to keep the down fill of my garments and sleeping quilts clean to maximize warmth. Even if an item appears clean, there may be internal build up through perspiration that needs to be addressed.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

I received a 10 oz (300 ml) bottle, as well as two 5 oz (150 ml) sample bottles. I state this because the sample bottles offered different instructions than the retail version.

The samples suggested using the entire contents on one item. Whereas the retail bottle suggested varying volumes based on the number of items. Retail bottle directions suggested washing a maximum of six items at once. Suggestions are to use 3 fl oz (100 ml) for 1 - 3 clothing items or for 1 sleeping bag in the 2.5 - 4.5 lb (1.1 - 2.0 kg) range, and 5 fl oz (150 ml) for 4 - 6 clothing items or a bag in weighing 4.5 - 5.5 lb (1.1 - 2.5 kg).

I anonymously called the customer service line and asked for clarification on using the sample bottle. The representative stated that samples are considered a "one and done" use. He went on to clarify, I should follow the retail instructions for sleeping bags, but I could estimate 1.5 fl oz (50 ml), or roughly a capful for each article of clothing. Therefore, I doubt I will use an entire sample bottle at once unless I decide to wash six articles at once. However, I may very well do this!

WASHING:

The wash is intended for use with a commercial front loading washing machine or for hand washing. When hand-washing items it is suggested that I use gloves. When I spoke with customer service I also inquired about using a residential front loading machine as I've safely washed other down items in the past in my machine at home. The representative asked what items I would be washing, and I suggested everything from coats to bags. He clarified that a front loading machine without an agitator wouldn't damage my items, but some larger sleeping bags take up too much volume in a residential machine and thus don't receive optimal cleaning effects from the wash.

Most of my sleeping items are down quilts designed for hammock camping weighing well under 2 lbs (0.9 kg) per item with no zippers. He stated if my quilts fit in the washer with room to rotate washing them at home should be fine. I, therefore, will likely be testing the Down Wash at home as I own a large capacity washer.

The instructions suggest cleaning the detergent dispenser from all build-up. This is an inherently nasty job, but in the spirit of testing, my wife will appreciate that I'm taking on this step! I then place the items in the machine and fill with water. After these first two steps are completed I then add the necessary amount of Down Wash to the dispenser. Finally I run a normal wash cycle in accordance with the items care label.

Hand Washing instructions suggest immersing the 'hand-hot' water in no more than 4 gallons (15 L) of water running 3 fl oz (100 ml) per item. I'm then to agitate the mix and soak for five to ten minutes, and then thoroughly agitate the item again. Finally, I should rinse the item until water runs clear.

I doubt I will try the hand washing method in this test series.

DRYING:

Spin dry the item 3 times on a slow setting in the washing machine. If the item's label allows, tumble dry on a low heat setting until 'clumps' disappear. Teasing apart the down clumps repeatedly during the drying process will aid in restoring the items loft.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & SUMMARY

I'm aware down must be cared for to extend the life of the product and increase its insulating properties. After reviewing the Nixwax website, I'm now even more aware of how important it is to routinely clean these items!

That stated it still always terrifies me to see my down items in the clumpy wet state after I've just washed it! I don't know why, it always comes back to life looking better than before. Somehow that fragile clumpy mess just sinks my heart with a fear that my favorite item may never return to its former pre-washed glory. I know it is a silly irrational fear, but it is one I have to again overcome as I embark on this test series!

I've not used Nikwax Down Wash in the past, but I've used other products that I'm completely impressed with, so I'm excited to start this test and share as best I can the transformation of my down items via images in my next report. I own 3 down sleeping bags, 7 down quilts, 4 down jackets, a vest, two pair of pant and three hats. My wife has a few items she'd like washed as well! I obviously won't be able to attend to all my down with the allotted product, but I plan to wash everything I can and report back in the spring.

Please check back for a full report on how this wash has worked on all my down(y) goodness...


LONG-TERM REPORT

USE & SUMMARY

IMAGE 9
My Hat is Like New!
With my spring outings behind me and temperatures over the last week reaching nearly 90 F (32 C) I was fairly confident I could spend a recent Saturday afternoon washing my down clothing and winter sleep gear in order to revitalize and prepare them for summer storage. Having written many reviews I've often used pictures to support the text, but in this case I'm pretty certain the text will merely support the images I'm providing!

The Initial Report concentrated on the product, how oils and dirt effect the insulating properties of down...all the technical background information. This update centers on how well the product worked? My opinion...EXCELLENT!!!
IMAGE 1
Cleaning the Washer Dispensing Tray

I will utilize before and after images as best I can to share what some of the gear looked like before, during and after the cleaning process.

First, per the instructions I cleaned the dispensing tray. My wife would like to thank Nikwax and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me the opportunity to do so! I then machine-washed and dried the items. Below I'll explain the loads I laundered and the amount of product I used per load:

Load (1): Nikwax used - entire 10 oz (300 ml) bottle - items laundered (8) {2 - jackets, 1 - parka, 1 - hooded pullover, 1 - pant, 1 - pillow, 1 watch cap, 1 - overquilt rated to 45 F ( C)}
Load (2): Nikwax used - entire 5 oz (150 ml) bottle - items laundered (3) {1 - overquilt rated to 20 F (-7 C), 1 - underquilt rated to 30 F (-1 C), 1 - pant}
Load (3): Nikwax used - entire 5 oz (150 ml) bottle - items laundered (2) {1 - overquilt rated to 20 F (-7 C), 1 - underquilt rated to 20 F (-7 C)}

As I mentioned in the opening report, I used my home washer and dryer to perform the tasks. The first load had more items than the directions suggested, but 6 of them are technical in nature and weigh very little. In total those six weighed just over 32 oz (907 g), and all the items together were only 57 oz (1616 g). That was less than some 4-season bags weigh, so I was comfortable doing them together.
IMAGE 3
A Like-New Pillow
IMAGE 2
One Big Clump of Down

I dried the items on a Casual (low temperature) setting. I dried all the items from the first load together, save the quilt. Everything except for the pillow came out lofted with no down clumping after one dampness-sensor controlled cycle. The pillow was one large volume chamber with 3 oz (85 g) of down, so I actually kept it in the drier through every remaining load. I would routinely stop the load and massage the down clumps apart during the drying cycle. I only had to do this step with the pillow and the heavier quilts in the second and third loads. Notice the images of a clumpy wet down pillow juxtaposed to a pillow that in my opinion was fluffier than it was when I first acquired it.

I initially attempted to dry the two 3-season quilts together, but quickly learned that I needed to do them separately. These items each took several cycles. I'd say 90% of the down was dry after the first cycle, but there were wet clumps in the corners and edges of the material. It simply took time to manually work with the clumps of wet down to dry longer and repeat.
IMAGE 4
Black Widow: Pre Wash/Post Wash Comparison

One of my overquilts was completely dry save the top baffle. The down in that chamber seemed to refuse drying. That quilts shell material is a very lightweight technical fabric and I feared imposing too much heat from the dryer. After several drying cycles I laid it out in a warm attic room with no humidity. I came back the next morning, worked the clumps and dried it once more. The down was like new. For a moment I was concerned about leaving this small amount of down wet and clumpy, but recalled I had been on the trail with wet down before and it always rebounded!

Please take a look at the hammock underquilt I refer to as the 'Black Widow'. This is my go-to underquilt that I use from summer to freezing temps. It was amazing to see the change in the loft after laundering the item. Keep in mind that I store all my down items in loosely stored in large breathable storage bags.

After the cleaning process the down items all looked so clean, fully lofted and rejuvenated! They looked like new to me.

I was able to launder two identical items showing a true before and after comparison. I own two pair of identical down pants, the only difference is that one is sized large and the other is a medium. I happened to wash the large pair in my first load. When I went up to grab some quilts from my gear closet I grabbed the other pair and it was at this point I decided to make some true side-by-side comparisons. I have several images with a dirty pair next to a clean pair and another image of two laundered pair next to one another. I believe this in itself clarifies the statement; "a picture is worth a thousand words".

I hope the images can partially justify the use of the Nikwax product. In the side-by-side comparisons the unlaundered items are always on the left. The fabric is crinkled and lack of loft compared to the just cleaned item on the right was easily noticeable in person. I also provided a second set of side-by-sides to show an 'after' comparison and they were nearly identical in loft filling the volume in the sewn chambers. The dark nature of the material may lose some of its clarity in the photograph, but I can assure the reader I noticed a marked difference after the items were cleaned using the Down Wash. One pair of down pants had splashed mud spots on the back of the legs. I gave it no special attention prior to washing and it was completely clean afterwards. Please reference the photographs at the very end of the report.

In summary I have nothing but positive affirmation concerning Nikwax Down Wash. I used all the wash I had available and was thoroughly impressed with the product. Unfortunately, I have several more down sleeping bags that don't get as much use as my hammock camping gear does and I didn't have enough test product to clean it all. I definitely plan on purchasing this product in the future, likely by the liter, and cleaning my down gear on a more routine basis. I obviously haven't used the gear in these current summer-like conditions, but the loft alone has me sold!

I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Nikwax LTD for allowing me to test this product.

IMAGE 5
Left-Unlaundered/Right Laundered
IMAGE 6
Both Items Laundered


















IMAGE 7
Left-Unlaundered/Right Laundered
IMAGE 8
Both Items Laundered
IMAGE 10
This State Always Terrifies Me!



















This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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