How To Wash Polyester Jackets and Outdoor Gear: A Guide

How To Wash Polyester Jackets and Outdoor Gear: A GuidePin

Everybody loves a quality jacket. A comfortable fit and great performance is all that we are looking for in a jacket.

Regardless of whether you are an avid sportsman or someone who needs a cozy jacket to wear to work, one of the most important aspects of owning a jacket is properly maintaining it so that it lasts for as long as possible and looks just as good as the day it was purchased.

We discuss jackets and parkas of all types here on this site and often delve into the best methods of cleaning and caring for a jacket.

Down jackets and designs from certain brands have all made it into our guides on maintenance and today is time to learn the proper steps of cleaning a polyester jacket.

Several weeks ago we compiled a guide on how to iron polyester without damaging it, in which we also discuss whether you should iron polyester to begin with. We highly suggest you take a look at that guide after you are done with today’s topic.

However, jackets is not the only thing we will discuss today, as we will take a look at another very useful outdoor gear, the backpack.

After learning how to wash backpacks by The North Face, today we will take a more general approach and discuss polyester ones.

It is now time to get down to business. Prepare you dirty gear in need of cleaning and let’s get started!


1. What is Polyester?

We would first like to go through some quick information on polyester and the type of material and fabric it is. If you would like a more in-depth read, then head on over here.

Polyester is a man-made material, or synthetic, either term is correct. It was originally developed in 1941 and consist of a long chain of esters, which is where it also gets its name that literally translates to “many esters”.

As a material, polyester is actually a highly versatile thermoplastic, which is so widely used that we come across it many times throughout the day.

As a fabric, polyester is one of the most durable fibers there is, and due to its synthetic nature it is not susceptible to moist conditions, mold or mildew, and it is highly resistant to chemicals.

It is a wrinkle resistant fabric, too, and it is one of the most used materials in outdoor garments due to its durability and moisture wicking abilities that make it a great choice for activities that will cause you to sweat.

person climbing mountain with polyester jacketPin

However, polyester is not solely used in the sports industry, as many other types of garments are made of polyester, including household textiles such as tablecloths, aprons, etc.

Now you may be thinking why would washing polyester require a guide since it is such a durable and sturdy material?

The reason is that it is susceptible to heat and can also shrink. It is also prone to holding on to oil-based odors (sweat!) and stains.

Due to that, it is essential to know how to properly clean your polyester gear or jacket to avoid damage.

2. How To Wash a Polyester Jacket?

First Things First

Before we begin, it’s important to mention that following the instructions on the care label is the most essential step in this process.

While a generalized guide can help you clean your jacket or backpack properly, the care label gives the precise temperature and method of washing, which will eliminate the risk of something going wrong during cleaning.

Pockets and Zippers

Regardless of whether it is a jacket or a backpack you are washing, make sure that all pockets and compartments are fully emptied out and give the whole thing a proper shake for good measure.

This will ensure that dirt and small particles that might be stuck in the tiny spaces will dislodge and fall out.

The reason why this is important is because if dirt, in particular, would get wet, it will spread and stick to the fabric much worse that it was to begin with.

After everything is emptied out, close all zippers on the jacket and turn it inside out. This will protect the shell from getting caught in the zippers and rip.

Machine Washing

Most polyester jackets can be washed in the washing machine, by making sure that you abide by the instructions on the care label.

If you cannot get any information on the water temperature from the label, then using a warm setting in the washing machine is the way to go about it to avoid shrinkage.

Using a front-loading machine is the best way to go and a gentle, preferably a sports detergent that is made to remove smells and stains without damaging the polyester fabric.

Another thing to look for in this regard is whether your jacket has been DWR-coated, which will require that you use the mildest detergent you can find, or one that is specifically designed for water repellent fabric, and avoid bleach or softeners at all costs.

If, after washing, you are still noticing a faint smell, then using baking soda to get rid of it is a proven method. You can do so by mixing it with the detergent and letting it do its magic.

You might also like: How To Wash a Gore-Tex Jacket: A Practical Guide

Hand Washing

When it comes to hand washing a polyester jacket, you can follow the same steps as those for machine-washing, but rely on cold water instead of warm.

First, you mix the detergent in the water. Do not pour it on the jacket directly to avoid it sticking to the fabric, clumping or even causing damage.

Rinsing is another thing to be careful with, as you must rinse the jacket until there is no sign of detergent left or any residue on the fabric.


Drying a polyester jacket can be done on a clothesline in a dry room, because hanging the jacket directly under the sun can cause the color to fade.

Using a dryer is not recommended due to shrinkage risk. The lowest setting on a tumble dryer can potentially work, but air-drying is the best and safest way to dry a polyester jacket.

Fabric Care Guide : Polyester | How to care for Polyester Clothing

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3. How To Wash Polyester Fleece?

Polyester fleece is a fabric developed to resemble natural wool in its performance and feel.

Read also: Fleece vs Wool: What’s the Difference? Which One is Better?

When it comes to fleece jackets, they are one of the most popular jackets to wear as they can be worn in a variety of weathers, temperatures and work great as part of layering.

Last year we have written a detailed guide on how to wash a fleece jacket here.

The quick rundown of it is similar to that of a regular polyester jacket.

Washing Machine

Care label!

But if that is useless, then the lowest temperature setting on your washing machine will work.

Turning the jacket, or other garment inside out will be the best way to avoid the threads catching on the zippers and also prevent pilling on the surface of the fabric.

When it comes to detergents, it’s best to use a mild one that contains no bleach, stain removers or softener as they will greatly affect the appearance and the way your jacket will wear.

Laundry Tips : How to Wash Fleece

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Hand Washing

Cold water and mild detergent in the water is the safest method if you must wash your fleece jacket by hand, or if the label recommends that you do so.

Again, make sure you rinse well in order to avoid detergent residue on the fabric, which will cause it to go stiff in time and damage it.


When it comes to drying you should use a dry room in this case too. Hanging it out to dry can also work, but it’s best to do so when the sun is about to set or has already set.

A tumble dryer is highly advised against due to fleece’s tendency to shrink in high temperatures.

4. How To Wash a Polyester Backpack?

Washing a backpack is a process that might not always be necessary. What we mean by that is that you can use spot cleaning to just clean the area that needs it, as opposed to washing the entire backpack.

Depending on the type of backpack you have, whether it has DWR coating or not, it is best to use as little water as possible in all cases, and preferably no detergent.

You can do this by using a towel soaked in water and wringed well and wiping down any areas that need it.

However, if deeper cleaning is required then you can soak the backpack in a sink or bathtub using tepid water and no detergent. This is a step that often works to fully clean a backpack and you will be good to go.

This should be done with all compartments and pockets open in order to allow the water to clean the interior as well.

Here you may use a soft brush to remove any dirt left behind in the zippers or smaller areas, and give the backpack a good shake to loosen everything that might be still inside.

Using Detergent

With that being said, if you must use detergent, although we would highly advise you to not proceed with this step, use the mildest detergent you can find.

Preferably a specialized product that is formulated for delicate fabrics is one you should go for, as it will pose the least amount of risk to your backpack.

In this step you should use tepid water as well and add the cleaner first, making sure it is dissolved, and then submerging the backpack to let it soak for a few hours.

You should check on it every 20-30 minutes to see if the stains have lifted, as the least amount of time the backpack spends in detergent water, the better it will be.

How to Clean a Backpack

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To dry a backpack is best to hang it upside down so that all the water can get fully out. It should not be hung outside or somewhere where it will dry fast. It’s best to allow it some time to slowly dry so that it does not shrink.

Dryers are not recommended because, aside from shrinkage, you risk also melting parts of the backpack.

5. FAQ

Can I wash 100% Polyester fabrics?

Yes, you can.

While some garments made of 100% polyester might require dry cleaning, you can do so at home for most of them by using cool water and low heat combined with mild detergents.

Always refer to the care label for best results.

Can I machine-wash polyester?

Of course! It is the best method to ensure that your garment will be completely clean. Our guide today will give you all the necessary tips and steps to properly wash your polyester jacket in the washing machine.

Can I wash polyester in cold water?

Absolutely! In fact, being a fabric that is susceptible to high temperatures, polyester does best in cold or tepid water when it comes to cleaning.

Can I put a 100% Polyester fabric in the dryer?

This depends on the care label and what it recommends. In general, you may use a press setting on the dryer, at the lowest temperature, to dry your polyester garment.

If your jacket is coated with DWR finish then a dryer may even be necessary to activate the coating.

How to soften polyester fabrics?

The DIY method is to use white vinegar during the final rinsing cycle of the washing machine.

After the cycle is finished, you should put your fabric in the dryer, at the lowest temperature setting and allow it to dry.

This will help the vinegar to “condition” the fibers better and making them softer.

6. Conclusion

With polyester being such a versatile and widely used fabric, learning how to best take care of your polyester garments is an essential step in ensuring that they last long and look good.

We hope today’s guide provided you with some help and that your jackets and backpacks are squeaky clean!

One Comment

  1. I have a fleecy polyester Sherpa jacket. It says do not wash, bleach, machine dry or iron. How do I clean it?

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