So you finally have that coveted North Face or Canada Goose down jacket. If you're like most people you've probably paid a small fortune to stay warm and comfortable in style this winter. Maybe you've bought your jacket in blue or red or god forbid, white. Whatever the color, you're eventually going to have to wash the jacket.

Because down is a natural product it requires special care. So much so that most companies like Canada Goose and other makers of quality parkas insist that their garments are dry clean only. This is a costly specification both in terms of money and environmental impact. Note that while companies like Canada goose insist that not heeding the dry clean only label will void the warranty on your jacket, if done properly, it will not ruin your coat.

Down jackets are filled with pockets of tiny feathers. These feathers are plucked from the breast of waterfowl like ducks and geese. The air that is trapped between the feathers is what keeps these birds – and you – warm.

Since it is the lightness or loft of the feathers that makes your down jacket so toasty warm, this is what you're trying to protect when you wash the coat.

Here's how you do it:

1- Prepare the coat. Lay it out and make sure that the pockets are empty and any loose dirt or dust is removed.

2- If the jacket has a removable fur ruff take it off. If it is not removable, tape a bag around it using clear packing tape and a plastic grocery bag or any other thin plastic. If the jacket has Velcro fasten it so it doesn't hook onto anything.

3- Pretreat using the gentlest detergent you can find. Rub a bit into any stains or discolorations and let sit for a few minutes.

4- Place the jacket evenly into a washer without the centre agitator. This is very important because the centre agitator or spindle as it is sometimes called is very rough on the feathers and zippers of the coat. If you don't have one of these washers at home, most laundromats do.

5- Add gentle detergent. Down detergent is best but if you cant find this, use less detergent and make sure it's very gentle. Set the machine to a long gentle wash with warm or cool water. Avoid using hot water as it can damage the coatings on the jacket and the down itself. It may be beneficial if you have a white or light colored coat to wash it twice, once using just warm water and the second time using warm water and detergent.

6- Remove the jacket after spinning the jacket should be damp but not dripping. If there is too much water left over, squeeze it out with a towel. Remove the plastic bag and tape from the fur ruff if

7- Place the jacket in a dryer set to cool or tumble dry. You may wish to add a few clean tennis balls to help break up the clumps of wet down. It is very important that you set the dryer to cool as too much heat could burn the quill of the feathers and ruin the weather coatings on the jacket's fabric.

8- Once the coat is halfway dry, about 40 minutes on the cool setting, you may wish to hang it up for a day to minimize the stress from tumbling around in a dryer for hours on end. If it still isn't dry after a day, pop it back in the dryer for another 20 minutes and it should be dry. You may also wish to hand fluff the jacket as you would a down pillow.

At this point your prized coat should be ready to wear again. Always remember to store your down garments in a cool dry place away from any sources of moisture that could cause the down to become mouldy. Treat your winter coat right and it will keep you warm for many winters to come.