Down jackets are some of the most comfortable and practical jackets there are since they are lightweight and warm at the same time. There are down jackets for all types of cold, and they are the best jackets to call upon when facing freezing cold weather. However, they have one downside (no pun intended): they usually tear quite easily. And not only do they tear easily, but it is also a fuss to repair them.
In this article, we will be going through the process of repairing a down jacket. If you happen to have one of these jackets that need repair or someone you know does, you might benefit a lot from this article since we have put together a step-by-step guide to fixing your down jacket. If you are interested in finding out more, read on!
What is a Down Jacket Made Of?
Before we jump into the step-by-step process of repairing a down jacket, we have to first talk a bit about what these jackets are made of, since that is the main reason in the first place why articles like these exist. No wonder there aren’t as many texts written about military-grade cargo pants. Everybody knows that most down jackets are easily torn or damaged, but why?
First, let’s talk about down. Down is the inner layer of the feather coats of birds. Many birds have down feathers, and many of them were used historically for making down jackets or other down feather clothing, but nowadays geese are by far the most commonly used birds. The largest importer of down feathers is China, and they get the feathers from the geese which were killed for food.
Down feathers are really soft, light, and flexible. Just like the undercoat of a husky, this is the layer of feathers on birds that keeps them warm, and above this is the external, protective layer that protects the bird from the Sun’s rays, rain, wind, etc. Since down is naturally used for insulating by birds, it makes sense that humans decided to use it as well, and it became one of the most iconic and widely used jacket “ingredients.” Although, there has been a decline in the demand for these products due to both animal rights movements and the much cheaper manufacturing of synthetic insulating materials.
Down is not waterproof and can soak up a lot of water, which is why it is very rare that waterproof jackets are made out of it since this would require a very sturdy and tightly-knit fabric to cover the down, which would also decrease the down’s efficiency.
A good down jacket is light, fluffy, hot, and made out of lightweight materials. Down needs to breathe; otherwise, it can get smelly or rotten and not heat as well, which is one reason why thin synthetic materials like nylon and polyester are often used to make down jackets. The fluffier a down jacket is, the more air it traps in between the feathers, which results in better insulation. If you ever find a down jacket that is not fluffy but rather like a piece of heavy fabric, it is probably low quality.
Step 1: Assess the Damage
The first step in repairing your down jacket is to examine the damage that was done to the jacket in the first place. However trivial it sounds, this is an important step since it will determine the repair method and the potential costs.
If the damage seems to be small (a couple of square inches of a damaged surface), there is a high probability that you will be able to fix the damage on your own with the right equipment (which we will talk about later on). However, if it is larger than that, there are two options to consider: getting rid of the jacket (charity or garbage) or taking it to a professional repair center.
Though this article is not about spreading positivity and humanitarian goals, if your down jacket is so damaged that you don’t think you can fix it and the process would cost too much in a professional center, we would still advise you to not just throw it in the garbage, but rather take it to some charity or a family/person who might need it. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so make sure not to waste such precious items of clothing.
If you do want to take the jacket to a professional repair shop to get it fixed, you have to be aware that the prices aren’t often too friendly. Patching can cost anywhere from 10 bucks all the way to 100 USD, depending on the size of the patch, the jacket material, and a couple of other factors.
At this point, it is on you to decide what you want to do with your jacket. Seeing as you are reading this article, we will assume that you chose to learn how to repair it for yourself, which is a great decision, since learning this skill can save you a lot of headaches in the future, and it isn’t even that hard. If you have made the decision and you are ready to start repairing your jacket, follow the next steps for a perfectly repaired down jacket!
Step 2: Gather the Necessary Equipment
So in this step, you have to collect all the items or tools needed for fixing a down jacket tear. Keep in mind, that this guide applies not only to tear wounds inflicted by cat’s claws, thorns, or some wire off a fence, but also burn damage from a bbq fire which spat out some sparks or burning wood at you, or any other form of damage which created a hole in the down jacket, which allows the down feathers to fall or bulge out of the jacket.
For this process, there are only a couple of things you will need. The brand isn’t very important, however, it is important for you to have all of these items for a successful repair job:
- Clear Repair Tape, like this one from GEAR AID
- Hairdryer (not always necessary)
- Rubbing alcohol (not necessary, but advised)
- Some clean, soft cloth or rag
- Patch stickers (optional)
The list is short, but it is important for you to have as many of these tools and items available when you are planning to repair your down jacket. There really aren’t many other ways to repair down jackets other than with the items on this list, so make sure you gather them before you start the process.
Step 3: Push the Down Back Inside the Jacket
This is the first, and arguably the most important step. When you burn a hole into your down jacket or tear it up one way or another, the down will almost surely start to bulge and stick out, possibly even start falling out. The reason why it is so important to place all this back, or as much as possible, is because if it isn’t back in its place, it might cause the adhesive patch to become loose later on, which might undermine your entire effort.
Take your finger, a pen, or some similarly shaped object which is the most effective for your situation, and push back all the down inside the jacket. The goal is to have pushed it inside so much that you can connect the torn or ripped parts of the jacket without any down sticking out between them or anywhere. In the case of a burned hole, the goal is to not have any down sticking out in any direction.
It is better if you push them down in so much that you will have to adjust it later, since leaving some down near the opening might cause problems in the patching process or just cause the patch to come off entirely in a couple of days or weeks after the process. Make sure you do this part of the process properly since it can make or break the repair process.
Step 4: Cut Off Any Strings
On the equipment list, we mentioned a scissor. It is time after pushing the down back into its place, to take out the scissors and do some meticulous cleaning work. Here, the point is to cut off any strings or threads which are sticking out or hanging loose near the tear site.
When a down jacket is torn, it isn’t only the down feathers that can cause problems but also the fabric that is holding them down feathers. These, as mentioned earlier, are usually synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester, and are made of very thin strands of the given material. This material, together with the stitching of the jacket, can result in a ton of hanging and free-standing threads and strings. These are the ones you need to meticulously cut off.
In the case of a hole that was burned into your jacket by a piece of hot, burning wood or coal, you might not even have to do this step, since the synthetic materials that these jackets are made of will probably melt when in contact with such heats. If anything, this might seal the ends of the microfibers together, so there usually won’t be any loose strands from this sort of damage. Take care, however, not to accidentally pick the burned parts apart, because it might make the patching somewhat more difficult.
When done with this step, the tear- or burn site should look relatively clean, without any down feathers sticking out or lose strands hanging nearby. If you manage, you can move on to the next step.
Step 5: Clean the Damage Site
Now, to avoid the patch you will put on later to stick to the dirt instead of the jacket itself, you will need to clean the damaged site. This step has to be done, regardless of the type of damage there was. What’s more, this step might be even more important for burn damage, since there can be bits of coal, wood, ash, or other materials stuck to the jacket.
The best thing to use for this job is a gentle rag and some rubbing alcohol. Water will work fine as well, but you will have to wait longer for the surface of the jacket to dry before you could continue, and the down feathers might also soak in the water, which is not a good thing if you want to preserve the heating ability and the structure of your jacket.
Rubbing alcohol is also antibacterial, which isn’t a big deal but it surely is a plus. Furthermore, you can use enough rubbing alcohol to make the damaged site wet enough to clean it properly, but the rubbing alcohol will evaporate in seconds and leave you a dry, clean tear- or burn site to patch.
Soak some rubbing alcohol into the rag, and then with the soaked part, gently brush and rub the damaged site, taking care not to widen the hole or extend the tear, but to still thoroughly clean the area. This step takes maybe half a minute, but it is crucial, so pay extra attention to it.
Step 6: Patch the Jacket
After your jacket has completely dried (the time needed for this depends on the substance you are using to clean it and the amount you put on it) after the cleaning process, it is ready for the patching.
This is the time when you should take out your clear repair tape (you can also use colored tapes if you manage to find a color that fits your jacket or your style), and start the main part of this process: the patching.
First, you should cut out a circular or oval-shaped piece of the tape, which is large enough to cover the damaged area, with about an inch of extra tape in every direction. It is important that the round-edged tape is substantially larger than the damage site itself since this is the only way it will truly hold together the jacket.
It is also essential to cut out a circular shape. This is because sharp edges can start peeling off a lot faster. These tapes are not ultimate gorilla glue solutions, they are jacket-repairing tapes. They can come off, and if you leave a sharp, square edge at any side of the tape you cut out, that is the place it will start to come off first.
Once you have the circular patching tape which is significantly larger than the damage (1 inch of space around it should be covered), you can patch the tear/burn. Make sure to keep the jacket securely held down while you do this, and that the hole or tear is preferably held together. You have to patch it together so that when the patching is done, it should look like a new jacket in its structure. Don’t pinch the jacket together with the glue, and also don’t leave the gap to cause a loose area on your jacket. This is very situation-specific and you need to see how it would be best to stick the patch on.
Some patches only require time and some applied pressure and they will become completely fixed in place, however, there are many tapes that need to be heated up somewhat with a hairdryer after being stuck onto the jackets to soften up the glue and the tape’s material. This will allow the glue to dry faster and also the tape to better follow the contour or shape of the jacket.
Step 7: Patch on a Sticker (Optional)
If you want to turn the jacket damage into something fashionable and aesthetic, you can buy a sticker patch. After patching the jacket together with clear tape, you can choose to stick on these stickers which can be of any design, all the way from pop-art to military-style badges.
You can also buy patches which are designs like stickers so that your design piece will also be the primary glue holding your jacket together. Look around on the market if you are interested and find some awesome designs and cool additions to your jacket to turn around the situation and make it a positive one!
Although most clothing items can be repaired with a needle and thread, do not even think about sewing together a down jacket unless you are a seasoned tailor with experience with down jackets and you know what you are doing.
Poking needles and pulling threads through the sensitive nylon or polyester that has already been ripped is just a recipe for disaster. We would advise nearly everyone against trying to sew these jackets together since the materials that a down jacket is made of is just not strong enough to accommodate this sort of repair process. Stick with the patches method (pun intended), and follow our step-by-step guide for the perfectly repaired down jacket!