How to Wash Fleece Jacket: Best Cleaning Tips

Written by Kane Dane

Planning to go out for a backcountry adventure, amid inevitable inclement temperatures and climate, needs one to be well prepared with a durable and a clean fleece jacket. But then, it’s unlikely that your jacket will stay clean forever, no matter how dust-resistant it could be because of repeated wear. There could be some spills on it that might result in the toughest stains on the outer-shell.

Also an unpleasant smell due to frequent wear might be one of the reasons you should wash your jacket. And quite frankly, it can be tempting to think that you can wash the fleece jacket like any other fabric garment. The sad part is that, that step is a precursor to the destruction of your jacket. To help you avoid that, we’ve compiled the best cleaning tips on how to wash fleece jacket efficiently.

How to Wash Fleece Jacket

Whoever washes the softshell fleece jacket recklessly with other garments without any proper classification in terms of color or make, has no clue about the properties of the polar fleece. The fleece material was solely manufactured for the extreme outdoor temperatures and that’s why it was named polar fleece. This is a potential synthetic material that serves as the best competitor, or rather a replacement for the wool garments that were used in the past predominantly in extreme temperatures. The wool garments, on the other hand, are easy for one to take care of, but have disadvantages. If you need some  outerwear, take a look at our reviews of the best softshell fleece jackets for men.

Let’s compare these two fabric materials:

Fleece Jacket Wool Garments
Great insulating material Great insulating material too
Light weight Heavy weight
Breathable Breathable too
Moisture resistant and absorbs less Absorbs more moisture
Easy to dry fast Take long to dry fast
Doesn’t fray or pill that easy Notorious of pilling and forming some tiny fiber balls
Water repellent Absorbs water

Knowing the properties of fleece will surely serve as a guideline for you to wash it accordingly. Bear in mind that there are various types of fleece jackets. Nevertheless, our cleaning tips discussed herein are all-inclusive of any material. But some variations and exclusions can apply. For instance, you might find out that a certain fleece jacket is suitable to be ironed with low heat, whereas the other fabric prohibits the use of the iron.

This stresses the importance to look for the tag of any garment to see the cleaning/care instructions as recommended by the manufacturer. Often in those garment labels, manufacturers warn the wearers with things that can degrade the garment’s quality. With regard to the fleece fabric materials, things like heat and friction are to be restricted.

man hiking in forest wearing a fleece jacket

In addition to the manufacturer’s recommendations and restrictions, you need to be well-taught about the properties of fleece that compel people to wash it vigilantly. Let’s discuss some of them.

Properties of Fleece Jackets

Water repellent

One of the main characteristics of fleece jackets is the water repellent feature that helps outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the wilderness damp conditions. So, instead of moisture or the morning dew being absorbed, the garment will repel most of it and absorb only less. Subsequently, the part of the fabric that has absorbed minimum moisture will dry fast. There’s therefore no worry about getting cold due to the aftermath of the heavy downpours because a fleece jacket will keep you warm.

It is this water repellent that prompts people to wash the jackets gently and meticulously. The jackets are coated with highly sensitive waterproof coatings that could deteriorate prematurely if exposed to, among others, an unbearable heat. For example, if you decide to wash your softshell fleece jacket using the washing machine, make sure that you set it on a cold water cycle because the warm water is bad news to the garment.

Woman wearing a stretchy, soft, water-repellent and wind-resistant fleece

Fleece is a synthetic fabric that is predominantly made of polyester materials. It is likely that the fine fibers of the garment can get melted if exposed to heat. Consequently, the water repellent property will be compromised. What would be the use to continue using the garment for inclement temperatures then? Of course, no more use if that transpires

Light weight

Being as lightweight as it is, you are advised not to mix heavy weight garments with the lightweight fleece jacket. Failure to do so will cause friction between the garments and it could be bad news to the durability of your fleece. It has finer fibers that can be easily affected by other garments. Eventually, that fuzzy softness will be diminished. It won’t feel as comfortable as before when wearing it. Even the insulation properties might be compromised.

Close-up of Mountain Hardwear fleece jacket

Having mentioned this, you’re advised to classify your light garments from the heavy ones, particularly if fleece fabric materials are included in the washing machine or washing tub.

Color Integrity

The enticing part about fleece is that it can be designed in many ways and be coated with numerous colors. But, its color integrity could be compromised with ease if not being attentive to other garments you mix with. Our take is that, same colors should be classified and be washed separately. Save your beloved fleece jacket from other unwanted colors that could be taken from other garments that lose power when in reaction with water.

Fleece jacket on the ground with different colours

These are the minimal properties of the fleece materials that could help guide you that how to clean the garments. The main problem with some people that wash the garments recklessly is that they are clueless about the properties. Each fabric has got its characteristics and demands a special treat. What makes the fleece special is what and how it’s made of.

How is the fleece made?

As emphasized above, the fleece is a man-made fabric material that simulates the functions of the wool fabrics except with a few deviated properties. For instance, the fleece garments have a fraction of weight compared to wool materials and dry faster. The synthetic materials that were used in crafting fleece include the recycled plastics and other polymers. That’s why there are various types of this fabric.

But the main characteristic is the insulation quality that all the fleece jackets provide for outwear adventures. Further details on how it is knitted are beyond our scope here. It’s a subject for another day. The main aim is to care for the fabric and know how to clean it efficiently.


We believe that you now probably have a clue that what to do to wash the fleece jacket. Knowing the properties will help you prohibit other generic ways of washing ordinary garments. As we emphasized yet again, check the garment label to see some guidelines as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Below we will unfold the easy way to wash the fleece jacket.

How to wash and care for the fleece jacket?

Firstly, let’s name the accessories that you need to wash and care for the jacket depending if you decide to hand-wash or machine-wash. Either way chosen, the end-results are the same.

What do you need to wash the fleece outdoor jacket?

  • Machine washer or washing tub
  • Cold/lukewarm water
  • Mild detergent
  • Dryer with the lowest temperature settings
  • Clothing rack

Washing a fleece jacket

Washing the fleece jacket

  • Simply prepare water in a washing tub or a washing machine. If using a washing tub, pour lukewarm water or simply cold water. Using warm water will degrade the quality of your fleece jacket and its waterproof coatings in a long run. The jacket will then be ineffective in water repellent feature, and that might prompt either another purchase or recoating of the jacket if that easy and possible. The same applies with the machine washer, set it to cold water gentle cycle.
  • Use a mild detergent soap to wash your jacket. The use of other chemicals and household bleach or fabric softeners can be detrimental to the jacket’s quality and durability. They could affect its waterproofness. Your jacket might lose its softness and comfort. So, no matter tough the stains are, find a way to repeatedly wash it than to add strong chemicals.
  • If you are using a powder, mild detergent, we reckon you mix it with water first to prevent the remaining of residues.
  • Pour the detergent in water before putting your jacket. Remember to turn the jacket inside out to prevent pilling. If mixed with other lint-producing garments, it might start to pill and have some fiber balls formed. To remove that is another effort.
  • Remember to separate the fabrics according to color and weight.
  • If after washing there’s pet’s hair remaining on the jacket, use some wet rubber glove to wipe down the jacket to remove that.
  • After washing, rinse the jacket in a machine or in your washing tub. Also use cold or lukewarm water to do this. If there are visible residues left on your softshell jacket, repeat the rinsing activity until is perfectly clean.
  • The subsequent step to rinsing the jacket is to dry it. You should also be careful with dryers when drying the jacket. It is sensitive to too much of heat as it might affect its effectiveness and waterproofness. That being noted, use the lower settings of the dryer to reduce heat to as low as possible. Be tolerant of the longer it might take when following the lower settings.
  • We’d advise you to air-dry the fleece jacket just to stay on the cautious side of heat. However, you need to monitor its drying process if the sun it out in full potential. Remove the jacket immediately after it has dried completely because longer exposure to the sun can also degrade the jacket’s quality in a long term.
  • After drying the jacket, it’s time that you store it safely. When storing it, you shouldn’t mix it with other lint-producing garments such as the wool towels. Also beware of the wrinkles because the iron is prohibited.
  • Do not iron a fleece jacket unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer for low-setting irons. But generally, do not iron the jacket unless you want to melt the polyester fibers. The good thing is the fleece garments have resilient finer fabrics that will not easily cause wrinkles after washing.

The aforementioned is a simple yet extremely helpful procedure of washing your fleece jacket perfectly. Do not be like others who have degraded the quality of their great fleece jackets by washing them recklessly.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

You need to adhere to the prohibitions as stipulated by the manufacturer or as per the properties of these garments. We’ve discussed some prohibitions in a nutshell below that you should avoid when treating this fabric material.

Warnings when washing the fleece jacket

  • Do not use hot water when washing the fleece jacket
  • Do not use household bleach or fabric softeners as they degrade the waterproof qualities
  • Do not mix the garment with lint-materials such as the cotton towels because they might form fiber balls on the shell
  • Do not use a hot dryer. Rather use an air by hanging the garment on the clothing rack
  • Do not iron the fleece jacket. The polyester materials can end up melting and thus affect the softness of the jacket
  • Do not wash with heavy jackets to avoid friction
  • Do not wash the jacket before reading the garment tags that could possibly show you more prohibitions

You probably have noticed that the fleece jacket has many warnings than other ordinary garments you used to wash it with.

Close-up of the North Face fleece jacket

If you’ve fallen for the negligence of washing this jacket with the disregard for these warnings, it’s time you change.

Additional recommendations & advice

Your ticket to excelling in washing fleece fabrics is to listen to expert advice to avoid repeated purchases for one thing. And the way you care for the jacket is the way you want it to be preserved. No fleece garment, no matter how tremendously durable it is, it can withstand a reckless abuse. So, you need not only take care of how you wash, but how you wear it.

We advise you not to wear the fleece clothing more than it’s needed. Although there are no strict limits to that, we reckon you wear at most twice per 5 day outdoor activities. When you limit that, you will be limiting the dirt and the stains that might later prompt a vigorous washing. Bear in mind that the more you wear the jacket and wash it promptly, it is the more the softness and the waterproof qualities are being diminished. So, the best way, provided you have enough budget, is to purchase a few fleece jackets to interchange, rather than focusing on only one garment. For more guidelines and tips on how to layer clothing for winter, see our link for more options.

Fleece lined pockets are comfortable and help keep you hands toasty

In case it rains, do not dwell in the rain for the main reasons that the jacket is waterproof and can dry quickly. The fact is that it will eventually absorb some water, although not as much as wool garments do. And the longer exposure to the rain diminishes the waterproof property as well. So, you must be vigilant about that. We reckon that you take rain-shell jackets when heading out to your outdoor activities if it rains. The fleece jacket can be worn as the inner layer for almost any other jacket because of its softness and unparalleled comfort. Doing this cuts the need to dry the jersey after it had rained on it. It also extends its durability.

Even if you’re going to do the construction job, we advise you to use the fleece jacket as the inner layer not the outer. Exposing the fleece to that job might lead to the formation of stains and too many stains which will be hard to remove when washing. You might be tempted to resort to bleach and other chemicals which will then diminish the water repellent property even further. Avoid this by wearing the fleece garment underneath your construction overalls.

The Gamma MX has fleece lining throughout that is comfortable and cozy.

When traveling to your desired backcountry location, please store your fleece garments far from wool garments to avoid pilling. The fleece is sensitive to lint fabrics as the lint balls might remain on the jacket shell even after numerous washes unless you use the et rubber glove to remove them. You might consider a separate small bag for them.

Final thoughts

Having your fleece jacket cleaned is a requirement for every outdoor enthusiast who love a good smelling jacket with retained softness. Because these jackets have good insulating properties, we are often subjected to body perspirations in spite of how breathable the jacket is. As a result, we end up experiencing some smells when we continue wearing the jackets for longer periods. The odor could worsen if the jacket is worn repeatedly without being washed properly. But as we’ve advocated above, a proper cleaning procedure is paramount to retain the jacket’s quality. You can also check out our article containing reviews of the top breathable fleece jackets to help you.

We have compiled the best cleaning tips for all the fleece garments. Fleece is commonly used in pants, jackets and blankets, among other apparels. With our cleaning tips, you can clean almost any fleece-made garment to preserve it for a long time.  What matters a lot when cleaning these garments is to take into account the highly sensitive properties of the polar fleece. Among them, water resistance is likely to be degraded by a negligent washing. For example, hot water and other strong chemicals should be totally eliminated in the washing tips.

Man wearing the-north-face-denali-2

We believe that you are now in a better position to clean that dirty fleece jacket that you’ve worn in your recent outdoor activities. If you’re in the dark, always check the instructions on the garment labels. Even when following our guidelines, confirm with the manufacturer’s requirements/recommendations of washing your jacket.

For the best fleece jackets that you can use for camping, see our article for more information.

Have you ever done this before? Then share with us how you managed to wash your fleece and for how long. We’re ready to respond to any questions in the comment section below.


Kane Dane


  • I got a fleece jacket for my birthday last year and will admit to only washing it once since then. When I washed, I didn’t look up any directions and threw it in with my normal clothes. Since there were too many heavier items in the washer, my jacket didn’t get clean enough so I figured I shouldn’t wash it anymore. Now I know better. Thanks for the article!

  • Excellent guide to washing fleece jackets! I followed the steps to clean my North Face jacket last night and this morning it’s fluffy and smells great. I can’t wait to take it back out on a hike, it feels just like new. Great to read tips about how to take care of fleece in general, too.


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