In the world of outerwear, windbreakers reign supreme. These lightweight, weather-resistant jackets are designed to keep you comfortable and stylish in a variety of conditions—whether you’re braving the elements on a hiking trail or zipping through the city on your bike.
However, with great adventures come inevitable spills, stains, and odours. Fear not, for maintaining the crisp look and functionality of your windbreaker is easier than you might think.
This article is your comprehensive guide on how to wash a windbreaker, ensuring your jacket only looks great but also performs at its best when you need it most.
How Do You Wash and Dry a Windbreaker?
Knowing how to wash a windbreaker properly is essential to preserve its quality and functionality.
Before you begin, always start by checking the care label on your windbreaker jacket. It will provide specific instructions for washing and drying you must follow to avoid damage.
Check that these instructions are compatible with our below washing and drying method—our method is delicate and should be suitable for most windbreakers, but it’s always a good idea to check.
Next, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Fasten zips & turn inside out
Begin by checking the pockets of the windbreaker and ensuring nothing is inside. Then, to minimise the risk of damage while washing, zip up all zippers and fasten any velcro or snaps on your windbreaker jacket. This prevents them from snagging or damaging the fabric during the wash.
Turn the jacket inside out once all the zips and closures are fastened. Turning the windbreaker inside out helps protect the outer surface and any printed or embroidered designs.
Step 2: Handwash your windbreaker
You can wash your windbreaker in the washing machine (see below), but not all jackets are safe for machine washing.
Therefore, we recommend handwashing your windbreaker unless the care label specifies it can go in the washer.
Here’s how to hand wash your windbreaker properly:
- Create a soapy solution: Fill a sink with enough lukewarm water to submerge the jacket entirely. Add a small amount of hand-washing detergent and mix gently to create a soapy solution. Be sure not to use too much, as excessive soap can be difficult to rinse out.
- Soak your windbreaker: Immerse the windbreaker into the soapy water. Using your hands, agitate the water gently and softly knead the jacket. Pay particular thought to any areas with stains or spots and give them extra attention.
- Drain & rinse: Drain the soapy water and refill the basin with clean lukewarm water. Submerge the jacket in the water and gently agitate it to rinse out the detergent. Repeat this rinsing process until the water runs clear, indicating that all detergent has been removed.
Step 3: Dry your windbreaker jacket
The best way to dry a windbreaker is to air dry it. After washing, gently press the jacket against the side of the basin or sink to remove excess water to help speed up the drying process. Do not wring or twist the coat, as this can distort its shape.
Next, hang the windbreaker on a clothesline or a hanger, ensuring it’s hanging evenly to maintain its shape. Windbreakers may take a bit longer to air dry compared to other garments.
However, be patient and allow it to dry naturally—do not use a clothes dryer or any direct heat source like a radiator or heater to dry the windbreaker, and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Can You Put Windbreakers in the Washing Machine?
Some windbreaker jackets are safe for machine washing. However, refrain from throwing your coat in the machine on a regular cycle to avoid damage.
Instead, check the pockets, faster all zips and velcro, turn it inside out, and then follow these general guidelines:
- Choose a mild detergent: Use a gentle detergent suitable for delicate fabrics. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, which can damage the material and water-resistant coating.
- Use cold water: Wash the windbreaker on a cold water washing cycle to prevent colour fading and shrinking. Avoid hot or warm water, ideally choosing a 30°C setting or lower.
- Choose a gentle cycle: Use a delicate cycle on your washing machine to minimise agitation. If there is no delicate cycle, opt for “hand wash,” “wool,” or “gentle” settings.
- Avoid overloading: Don’t overload the washing machine, as this can cause excessive rubbing and potential damage to the windbreaker.
- Skip the spin cycle: After the wash cycle is complete, skip the spin cycle or set it to the lowest speed. Windbreakers are lightweight and can be damaged in high-speed spins.
Remember, you should only put your windbreaker jacket in the washing machine if the garment care label says it is appropriate.
The care instructions will also provide more specific information on water temperature and spin speed recommendations.
Do Windbreakers Shrink in the Washer?
Windbreakers are typically made from tightly woven synthetic materials like nylon or polyester, which are less prone to shrinking compared to natural fibres like cotton.
However, there is still a risk of shrinkage in certain situations if improper washing practices are followed.
For example, using hot water in the washing machine can cause synthetic fabrics to shrink. Always use cold water or, at most, lukewarm water when washing a windbreaker.
Overloading the washing machine or using an aggressive cycle with a lot of agitation can also put stress on the fabric and potentially lead to shrinkage.
Additionally, cheaper or lower-quality windbreakers may be more susceptible to shrinkage, as the materials used may not be as durable or heat-resistant.
Always follow the instructions on the jacket’s care label to minimise the risk of shrinkage.
If you’re uncertain about the care instructions or are concerned about shrinkage, handwashing the windbreaker is a safer option.
Can You Put a Windbreaker in the Dryer?
It’s generally advisable not to put your windbreaker in the tumble dryer. The high heat from a dryer can damage the synthetic fabric, cause the jacket to shrink, and potentially affect any water-resistant or waterproof coatings.
Instead, we recommend air-drying your windbreaker, as per the previous instructions.
To recap, the key points are as follows:
- Gently press the windbreaker against the side of the sink to remove excess water.
- Hang the jacket on a clothesline or hanger to help maintain its shape.
- Hang the windbreaker in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
- Be patient—depending on the humidity and airflow, this may take a day or longer.
If you must use a dryer due to time constraints or other reasons, use the lowest possible heat setting and closely monitor the jacket to prevent overheating and potential damage.
However, air drying is still the safest and most effective method for preserving the quality of your windbreaker.
How Do You Remove Stains from Windbreakers?
Removing stains from windbreakers can be a bit tricky. The fabric is often water-resistant or waterproof, and harsh stain-removal methods can damage these properties.
If there are any stains on your jacket, we recommend tackling these before starting the general washing process.
The most effective stain removal method depends on the type of stain you’re facing. However, to avoid damage, Whirlpool recommends first attempting to remove the stain using a mild detergent and water, which is effective on various stains.
Here’s how to use detergent and water for stain removal:
- In a bucket or sink, mix a solution of mild detergent and cold water.
- Gently scrub the stain with a soft-bristle brush or sponge dipped in the soapy solution.
- Rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove any soapy residue.
Apply the paste to the grass stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes before gently scrubbing with a soft-bristle brush.
Rinse with cold water and wash the windbreaker according to the care label.
More Tips for Washing Windbreakers
- If your windbreaker has a removable hood or other detachable parts, consider removing them before washing to prevent damage or tangling.
- Avoid hanging the windbreaker on a wire hanger to dry, as it may leave marks or stretch the shoulders. Instead, use a padded hanger or one specifically designed for jackets.
- If you must iron your windbreaker, use the lowest heat setting and a pressing cloth to protect the fabric from the high temperatures.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.