How to Clean and Care for 9 Types of Winter Coats

Nine types of winter coats hanging up

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $20

How to wash a winter coat depends on you reading the care label and determining if it can be washed at home in the washing machine or needs to be dry cleaned. The cleaning materials you need for each type of coat vary widely since some you can clean using laundry detergent, while others shouldn't touch water and will require a brush. If you wear your coat daily, you'll need more frequent washing, at least twice per season.

Never attempt to wash natural fur; it needs a professional dry cleaner or furrier's care. Down and wool need specialty cleaning detergents, while suede should never get wet. Commonly, many people opt to take leather, suede, and lined wool coats to get professionally cleaned. However, faux fur, vinyl, waterproof fabric, fleece, and down are easier to clean from home. You'll also find that down and fleece coats can go in the dryer while all the others need air drying.

With the right techniques and this guide, you can keep all of your coats looking their best without shrinking, fading, or ruining your garment. Read on for these simple steps to care for everything from wool, leather, faux fur, fleece, and other winter coats.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Wool Coats

  • Dryer (for dry-cleaning kit)
  • Steaming iron
  • Pressing cloth
  • Sturdy hanger

Down Coats and Vests

  • Washing machine
  • Dryer
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Sturdy hanger

Fleece Coats and Garments

  • Washer
  • Dryer (optional)
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hangers

Faux Fur Coats and Trim

  • Sink or large basin for washing
  • Indoor drying rack
  • Soft-bristled brush

Waterproof Coats

  • Washer
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hanger

Vinyl Coats

  • White cloth
  • Washer
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hanger

Leather Coats and Jackets

  • White cloth
  • Large sink or tub
  • Sturdy hanger

Suede Coats and Jackets

  • Suede brush
  • Clean, soft, white cloth
  • Pencil eraser or art gum eraser (for removing adhesives)
  • Emery nail file or emery cloth (optional)

Materials

Wool Coats

  • Home dry-cleaning kit
  • Washer
  • Large terry cloth towels
  • Clothes brush
  • Large mesh washing bag
  • Wool wash

Down Coats and Vests

  • Stain remover
  • Down wash, such as Granger's Down Wash or Nikwax Down Wash

Fleece Coats and Garments

  • Stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Faux Fur Coats and Trim

  • Gentle or mild detergent
  • Cool water

Waterproof Coats

  • Stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Vinyl Coats

  • Laundry detergent
  • Water

Leather Coats and Jackets

  • Saddle soap
  • Water
  • Leather conditioner

Suede Coats and Jackets

  • Cornstarch or baby powder

Instructions

How to Clean Wool Coats

Wool is a natural fiber spun from the hair of sheep or goats. Almost all wool coats are dry-clean-recommended. That's because the manufacturer must use interfacings and padding to achieve the structured shape of tailored wool coats, and these inner fabrics aren't washable. They'll likely dissolve or become misshapen in water. Additionally, wool coats may also be lined with fabrics that aren't washable.

Take your wool coat to a professional dry cleaner for the best results. However, if your coat needs to be freshened or spot-cleaned, you can also use a home dry-cleaning kit. According to some care labels, specific wool coats can be washed at home if done correctly with a gentle wool wash or detergent, low water temperatures, and gentle agitation.

How to Clean Wool Coats
Detergent Wool wash
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Gentle Cycle
Drying Cycle Type Do not tumble dry
Special Treatments Spot-clean only
Iron Settings Steam, wool setting, at 300°
  1. Brush and Pretreat Stains

    Brush away loose soil and pretreat any stains as you would before handwashing it. Be sure to empty pockets and button or zip the coat. Turn the coat inside out.

    Brushing the wool coat to get any stains out

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Set the Correct Cycle and Water Temperature

    Set the washer to the wool or gentle cycle and the water temperature to lukewarm or cold. If possible, select the slowest final spin cycle to reduce stretching.

    Warning

    Never use warm or hot temperature water or a clothes dryer with wool since the heat makes the protein fibers bind closer together causing the garment to shrink.

    Setting the cycle and temperature

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Add the Wool Wash and Coat

    Add the wool wash following product instruction to the washer. Place the coat in a large mesh washing bag to prevent snags. If you don't have a mesh bag, use a white pillowcase and tie the top closed.

    Placing the coat in a large mesh bag

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Air-Dry the Coat

    When the cycle is complete, remove the coat and turn it right side out. Follow the steps to air-dry the coat flat on a mesh drying rack or towels.

    Laying the coat flat to air dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Down Coats and Vests

Down is the soft, insulating layer in ducks and geese under their feathers; it is lightweight and super warm when used in coats. Keeping the down clean, dry, and fluffy is the secret to lasting success with a down coat or vest. If done improperly, wet down can clump. Down garments can be successfully washed and dried at home with a specially formulated detergent. Always read the care label to be sure that the outer fabric, which can be a natural or synthetic fiber like olefin, is washable.

How to Clean Down Coats and Vests
 Detergent Specially formulated
 Water Temperature Cool or warm
 Cycle Type Gentle
 Drying Cycle Type Low
 Special Treatments Finish with air-dry
 Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Treat Stains

    Pretreat any visible stains following the guidelines for the type of stain.

    Down coat stain pretreating

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Load the Washer

    Load the down coat into a front-load washer or a high-efficiency top-load washer without a center agitator for gentle agitation. 

    Loading the washer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Add Detergent

    Add a detergent formulated specifically for down and wash using cool or warm water.

    Adding the detergent to the washer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Dry on Low Heat

    Place the coat in a dryer on low heat. Add wool dryer balls to help fluff the down as it dries. During the drying cycle, stop the dryer and massage the coat with your hands to help break up any down clumps.

    drying a down jacket in the dryer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Hang to Dry

    Remove the coat while still slightly damp and hang to finish air-drying completely.

    Hang drying the down coat

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Fleece Coats and Garments

Outerwear made of fleece is a high-tech, lightweight synthetic polyester-type of fabric that provides incredible warmth. It's called fleece since it simulates wool fabric. Fleece often wicks away perspiration to keep you dry during strenuous activities, so clean it more often than other coats.

How to Clean Fleece Coats and Garments
Detergent  Regular or heavy-duty
Water Temperature Cold or warm
Cycle Type Permanent press
Drying Cycle Type Low
Special Treatments Wash alone
Iron Settings If must iron, use lowest heat setting
  1. Pretreat Stains

    Pretreat any visible stains following the guidelines for the type of stain.

    Pretreating stains on a fleece jacket

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Sort Laundry

    Fleece can be a magnet for pet hair and lint, so avoid washing it with lint-producing clothes. Follow all tips for reducing and removing lint from the laundry. Check the jacket pockets for tissues and paper that can stick to the fleece. Close all zippers, buttons, and fasteners and turn the jacket inside out to prevent snags.

    Sorting laundry and turning the fleece garment inside out

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Select Detergent and Washer Cycle

    Use a regular or heavy-duty laundry detergent. Wash in cold or warm water on the permanent press cycle, which has a cold rinse and does not spin excessively fast, as that can set wrinkles.

    Washing the fleece jacket in the washer

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Air-Dry

    Air-drying is best for fleece, but you can tumble dry on low heat to get started. Remove the garment while it's still slightly damp. Never dry on high heat.

    Drying the fleece jacket on a rack

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Clean Faux Fur Coats and Trim

The key to taking care of faux fur coats is to read the care label. The fur is almost always a washable synthetic fiber, but the coat's inner linings and structural components may not be washable. The best choice for washing any faux fur item is hand washing.

Never put faux fur in a clothes dryer, as the high heat can melt the fibers and cause them to fuse and become matted. Once this happens, there is little to be done that can reverse the damage.

How to Clean Faux Fur Coats and Trim
Detergent Mild
Water Temperature Cool
Cycle Type Hand-wash
Drying Cycle Type Drip-dry
Special Treatments Dry flat
Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Mix the Water and Gentle Detergent

    Clean large coats or blankets in a large plastic storage container or bathtub. Fill the sink or basin with cool water and 1–2 teaspoons of gentle detergent, such as Woolite or Studio by Tide.

    Mixing the detergent solution to clean faux fur

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  2. Submerge the Faux Fur

    Place the faux fur in the detergent solution, ensuring it's fully submerged. Swish the fur through the water for no more than 10–15 minutes, avoiding excessive agitation and wringing.

    Someone washing faux fur trim in a tub

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  3. Drain and Rinse

    Lift the fur out of the water and gently squeeze out as much soapy water as possible. Drain the basin, and refill it with clean water. Rinse until no suds remain.

    Squeezing out excess water

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  4. Remove Excess Water

    Gently squeeze out as much excess water as possible. You can roll the fur in a thick bath towel to help remove the water.

    Rolling the damp faux fur in a towel

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  5. Allow to Drip-Dry

    Use an indoor drying rack to dry the faux fur flat, or place it on a sturdy, padded hanger and hang it from a shower rod to dry. It may take 24 to 48 hours to dry. If you dry it on a rack, put it in the bathtub or shower to catch the drips and avoid a wet floor. Keep out of direct sunlight and heat. Do not wear or use it until the faux fur is completely dry.

    Letting the faux fur trim drip dry

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  6. Brush Lightly

    After the fur is dry, use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush any matted fur and lift the fibers. You can use a wide-toothed comb to loosen up stubborn fur.

    Smoothing and brushing out the fur trim

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

How to Clean Natural Fur Coats

Never attempt to clean a real fur coat at home. Natural fur coats come from the pelts of animals, and the fur is a protein fiber like human hair. Specialized care must be taken when cleaning a fur coat to keep the hide that holds the hair supple. The fur will shed if it becomes too dry or isn't maintained properly. You should use a professional furrier or dry cleaner to clean a natural fur coat.

Putting a natural fur coat in a garment bag

The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Clean Waterproof Coats

You must preserve the waterproof finish to keep a waterproof coat made of nylon-type fabric in good shape. Always wash this coat in cool water with a gentle detergent that won't harm the finish. Never place one of these coats in a dryer, and keep it away from high heat.

How to Clean Waterproof Coats
 Detergent Mild
 Water Temperature Cool
 Cycle Type Permanent press
 Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only
 Special Treatments Reduce spin cycle
 Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Pretreat Stains

    Pretreat any visible stains following the most gentle treatment for the type of stain.

    Removing stains from a waterproof jacket

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Select Detergent and Washer Cycle

    Use a gentle laundry detergent or one formulated for waterproof clothing. Wash in cold water on the permanent press cycle. Reduce the spin cycle speed, if possible, to reduce wrinkling.

    Permanent Press Cycle on a Washing Machine

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Allow Coat to Air-Dry

    Do not place a waterproof coat in a dryer. Instead, hang to air-dry. Wrinkles should fall out during the drying process.

    Waterproof jackets hanging up to dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Vinyl Coats

Vinyl and faux leather coats are synthetic fabrics, usually PVC plastics, that are quite easy to care for. Always read the care label first, but most vinyl coats can be machine-washed. 

How to Clean Vinyl Coats
 Detergent Regular
 Water Temperature Cold
 Cycle Type Permanent press
 Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only
 Special Treatments Reduce spin cycle
 Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Remove Stains

    You can usually remove stains by wiping the surface with a damp cloth. 

    Using a damp cloth to wipe down faux leather vinyl

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Select Detergent and Washer Cycle

    Use regular laundry detergent, and wash in cold water on the permanent press cycle. Reduce the spin cycle speed, if possible, to reduce wrinkling.

    Permanent Press Cycle on a Washing Machine

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Air-Dry the Coat

    Do not place a vinyl coat in a dryer, as high heat can melt the fabric. Hang to air-dry. Wrinkles should smooth out during the drying process.

    Hanging up the coat to air dry

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Clean Leather Coats and Jackets

Leather is often made from cowhide, but it can also be made from the hide of other animals, such as bison, deer, goat, and sheep. Keeping a leather coat soft and supple takes a bit of care, but it can last many years if properly maintained. You can clean leather at home. However, you should take expensive items to a professional dry cleaner specializing in cleaning leather.

How to Clean Leather Coats and Jackets
 Detergent Mild for delicate items
 Water Temperature Lukewarm
 Cycle Type Hand-wash only
 Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only
 Special Treatments Rinse thoroughly
 Iron Settings Do not iron
  1. Remove Stains

    Many stains can be removed by simply wiping them away with a clean, damp cloth. However, eliminating stains like mildew or ink from leather requires a bit more effort.

    Removing surface stains from leather with a white cloth

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  2. Read the Care Label

    If you're a novice with laundry, always follow the label instructions if it says to dry-clean only. The only type of leather you can hand-wash is aniline-finished leather; never wash suede or nubuck garments.

    Reading the care tag on the inside of a jacket

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  3. Test the Colorfastness of the Leather

    Before you attempt to hand-wash leather, test the colorfastness by using a clean white cloth dampened with water on an interior spot of the leather. If color transfers to the cloth, the dye is not stable on the leather, and you should not proceed.

    Testing a hidden area of the leather jacket

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  4. Prepare for Washing

    Begin by emptying all pockets of the jacket and turning it inside out. Fill a large sink or plastic storage container with lukewarm water. Add a small amount of a gentle liquid detergent recommended for hand-washing delicate items, such as Woolite, and swish to disperse through the water.

    Turning the leather jacket inside out

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  5. Add the Jacket to the Water

    Completely submerge the leather jacket. Swish through the water to be sure the entire lining is wet. Gently squeeze the solution through the lining, and allow it to soak for 10 minutes or so. If there are specific stains, use a soft-bristled brush to help lift those away.

    submerging the jacket into the water

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  6. Rinse Thoroughly

    When it's time to rinse the jacket, lift it out of the soapy solution. Never wring a leather item. Simply squeeze out the excess moisture. Fill the sink with clean water, and rinse. You may need to change the water several times to remove all of the soap and soil.

    Rinsing the jacket with new water

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  7. Hang to Dry

    Turn the coat right side out, and hang it over a bathtub to air-dry. Use a sturdy wooden or padded hanger to prevent marks on the shoulders. Never hang in direct sunlight or near a heat source. It may take 2 to 3 days for the coat to dry completely.

    Letting the jacket drip dry over the tub

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  8. Condition the Leather

    Using a good quality leather conditioner, condition the garment until it's once again soft and supple. 

    Conditioning the leather

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

How to Clean Suede Coats and Jackets

Natural suede is created from the soft underside of a split-grain animal hide. It has a nappy finish that's easily stained. While some small oil stains and scuffs can be treated at home, suede must be cleaned by a professional dry cleaner specializing in leather care. Some fabrics that appear to be natural suede are synthetic fibers. Read the care label for fiber content and care instructions.

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

    Brush the garment with a suede brush after every wear to remove dust and debris and smooth the nap.

    Brush out a suede jacket after wearing

    The Spruce

  2. Treat Stains

    Oil stains and scuffs can be treated at home, but consult a suede stain-removal guide to treat more difficult stains. After each step, brush the stained area with a suede brush to restore and smooth the nap.

    For oil stains, treat them as soon as possible. Sprinkle the stain with baby powder or cornstarch to absorb the oil. You should see the powder look oily after an hour; brush it away with a soft brush. It's fine to leave the powder on the stain for several hours. Repeat the process until the powder no longer changes color or texture.

    Tip

    Avoid getting suede wet since it can create permanent water stains on the fabric. If suede gets wet, blot it instantly and use a suede brush and hair dryer to dry it. To protect your suede jacket from future water damage, apply a good quality suede protector spray.

    Using baby powder on the stain

    The Spruce

  3. Remove Scuff Marks

    Use a clean, soft cloth to rub the area and remove any dried-on surface stain gently. The cloth will also restore some of the texture to the nap. If the stain remains, gently rub the area with a pencil eraser or art gum eraser. Use an emery nail file to gently rub the area as a last resort.

    Using a white cloth to brush the suede

    The Spruce

Treating Stains on Winter Coats

Each type of fabric has a different recommended way to treat stains. Stain treatment care is noted in the steps above. In most cases, if the item is machine washable, you should be able to use a spot pre-treatment cleaner to handle the stain. The instructions are more specific for items like suede or leather, requiring a different method. If you are not sure how to handle a stain, it's best to err on the side of caution and take it to a professional dry cleaner.

Winter Coat Care and Repairs

Before cleaning or storing, fix rips and tears in winter coats, including linings. If your coat has a large or jagged tear a few inches long, seek out a professional to try repairing the damage. Cloth coats and linings can be fixed with normal household thread. For tears in leather and vinyl winter coats, look for leather repair kits and vinyl seam sealant kits. When researching a kit, make sure the label says it can be used on coats and jackets.

Storing Winter Coats

Storing a winter coat the right way will help retain its shape. Gently fold and then loosely stack cloth winter coats into a plastic bin. Keep the bin in a cool, dry, dark place or under your bed. You can put puffer coats and vests with synthetic fill into space-saving vacuum-sealed bags. Other winter coats can stay on a wood hanger and continue to hang in a cool, dry, dark place so they can breathe during the off-season.

How Often to Clean Winter Coats

If a coat is visibly dirty or retaining odors, that's a natural indicator that it's time to clean it. Generally, clean everyday coats at least twice a season. For fleece coats or jackets that wick sweat and absorb odors more readily, wash them frequently, like every other week, especially if you wear them daily. Nylon raincoats can go longer, like once a month or every two months, depending on the frequency of use. A special occasion coat only needs cleaning once before storing it.

Tips for Cleaning Winter Coats

  • Before washing, cleaning, or taking any coat to the cleaners, fasten all buttons and zippers to prevent protrusions from becoming snagged.
  • Use durable wooden hangers for all coats to help retain their shape.
  • Mend loose or ripped seams before cleaning to retain the coat's shape and to keep the fill from coming out.
  • When washing your coats, remember to clean all your winter accessories, such as wool or fur gloves, hats, and scarves.
FAQ
  • Can you wash a winter coat in the washer?

    You can wash certain winter coats in the washer, such as nylon, down, fleece, and vinyl. In some cases, you can wash wool, but it's generally recommended you take wool coats to the dry cleaner.

  • How often should winter coats be washed?

    Down, leather, and wool can be washed once a season, twice if worn regularly. Since fleece absorbs perspiration and odors, you should clean it every few weeks. Nylon raincoats can be washed less frequently, about once every two months, more or less, depending on how often you use them.

  • Can you put a winter coat in the dryer?

    Only down and fleece items can go in the dryer. The garments will require low heat. Never put wet wool in the dryer since it can shrink; air-dry it only. However, if you choose to use a home dry-cleaning kit for your wool coat, you can use the dryer.