How to Clean Dirty Winter Gear

published Jan 11, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Two children in winter jackets run in the snow
Credit: Photo Volcano/

Although we’re barely into the official winter season, most of the country has seen more than its fair share of winter weather. Even here in East Tennessee, we’ve seen single-digit days and snow, which meant we had to pull out all the warm socks, gloves, hats, and puffer jackets. Having just moved from Florida, I’m not super used to dealing with these articles of clothing. 

Now, though, we need to have these items handy for everyone and stored in such a way that we can find them when we need them. This is not easy for a newbie like me, especially since we have so many pieces to keep track of. In addition, since our winter gear is getting so much more use, we’re finding we need to clean it more often (and some of it for the first time ever). 

Whether cleaning winter gear is a new chore or old hat for you, it’s good to know the best ways to make sure these specialty items get clean without compromising or damaging them. Here are a few tips:

Overall Tips 

  • Check for care labels and instructions. Before cleaning any article of clothing, check for care labels and instructions. Following those can save you from shrinking an item or ruining it some other way, and it can also make your work so much easier if, for example, you find out something is machine washable. 
  • Clean the whole family’s winter gear all at once. Another tactic that can make cleaning winter gear more manageable is cleaning the whole family’s winter gear all at once. This way, your mind is in the “zone” and you can focus your energy on cleaning the same types of items all at once. By washing, say, all the gloves at once, you don’t allow the possibility of forgetting how to do it or finding the clothes pins for hanging them. 
  • Assess what’s missing and reorganize. In addition, cleaning all the family’s gear at once allows you a chance to assess what you have, what’s missing, whether one of your kids really has been using his brother’s gloves, and what you can snag while it’s on sale if you need to fill in gaps in the winter wardrobe. Finally, having all the clean winter clothes in one spot allows you to reset your organizational systems, a welcome refresh during the season, particularly at the start of the new year. 

How to Clean Puffer Jackets

  1. Check labels. Most puffer jackets can be safely cleaned in the washing machine, but always double check. 
  2. Use the right kind of washing machine. When washing puffer jackets in a washing machine, be sure to use a front loader or a newer top loader because the agitators in older top loading machines can damage the outer fabric of your jacket. Remember that laundromats are always an option if you don’t have a suitable washing machine at home. 
  3. Always use the gentle cycle and don’t overstuff the machine. No matter what kind of machine you use, always set the cycle to gentle. As always, never fill the washing machine drum over 3/4 full to ensure thorough cleaning. 
  4. Brush loose dirt off your jacket and spot treat stains. If your kids are anything like mine, they likely have dried mud and/or dirt on their jackets. Make sure to brush off the dirt so it doesn’t contaminate the washing water. Also spray any stains with stain spray. Again, as always, spot test if you need to. 
  5. Use a down-safe detergent for down puffers. Down is delicate and detergents that aren’t formulated for down can leave feathers stripped of their natural oils and prone to breakage. Detergents made for down preserve loft and therefore the longevity of all your down items. (Use it for your comforters too!) 
  6. Add an extra rinse cycle. If you have the option to add an extra rinse cycle, do it. Getting every bit of detergent out of your down or other filling is key to a jacket that looks its best and that will last. 
  7. Skip the spin cycle. Skipping the spin cycle is another way to be gentle on your puffers. Instead of using the spin cycle, gently knead excess water out or roll in a towel. You could also let it drip outside in the shade before putting it in the dryer, but make sure it is laying flat, not hanging.
  8. Tumble dry on low heat. Drying your puffer in the dryer is important so that the down or other filling gets redistributed properly. Always include up to three clean tennis balls or dryer balls to help dry the filing and fluff it up. 

How to Clean Hats

Cleaning hats is a bit more straightforward than cleaning puffer jackets. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Read care labels. This will determine which hats you can wash in the washer and which you should wash by hand. In general, wool and cashmere hats will need to be washed by hand. 
  • Wash knit hats the way you’d wash sweaters made of similar materials. This means using cold water whether you’re washing in a machine or by hand and air drying flat. You can use a towel to gently roll excess water out of your hats. 
  • Use a low heat setting. If your care labels say drying your hats in the dryer is fine, make sure to use a low heat setting. 

How to Clean Gloves 

  • Read care labels. They’ll tell you, as usual, what temperature water to use, etc. 
  • Spot clean. Use a soft-bristled brush and some liquid detergent to spot clean where necessary. 
  • Clip gloves together and put them in a mesh laundry bag. Clipping gloves together and then putting the whole kit and kaboodle of them into a mesh laundry bag will save you so much time and energy later on. You won’t lose any gloves in the washer/dryer black hole and you won’t have to spend any time matching pairs either! 

How to Clean Winter Boots

Between rainwater, mud, snow, and salt, winter boots stand up to a lot. Cleaning them well is an important part of making sure they last through many seasons of hand-me-downs. To clean non-suede or leather boots, all you need is a homemade solution of water and white vinegar. After brushing off as much dirt and salt as you can with a soft-bristled brush, dab the affected areas with your vinegar solution and then rinse with a clean, wet cloth. Wipe dry and then allow to air dry completely. 

How to Wash Snow Gear

Luckily, most snow gear can be washed in the washing machine. However, make sure to use a detergent formulated for waterproof gear. In addition, don’t ever machine dry your snow pants or other snow gear. Hang them to dry away from a direct heat source and away from the sun. 

Cubby: Eat. Live. Play. Families Together at Home.

Want more great home ideas for families? Sign up for Cubby’s weekly newsletter featuring our best editor-approved product recommendations, meal ideas, and all the kid’s room decor ideas you need.