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How To Clean & Re-Waterproof Your Rain Gear
That cold, soggy time of year is almost upon us. If your rain jacket has been in the back of your closet since last season, we suggest you pull it out now so you’re ready for the inevitable day when the skies open up and the rain comes down. It’s time to check and re-waterproof your jacket so you can enjoy the shoulder season for years to come.
Why Should I Re-Waterproof My Jacket?
Part of the benefit of buying high quality, long lasting gear is that it lasts so long. But if your jacket is wetting out everytime there’s a threat of rain, you might be tempted to buy a new one. Don’t. It’s easy to get your waterproof breathable (WPB) gear revived for the task of keeping you dry and comfy. Here's how:
How do you know if your jacket needs some TLC? Put it to the test - the water test, that is. Grab a spray bottle (or a shower nozzle on a gentle flow), and spray it on your gear. If the water beads up and you can shake the moisture off, you’re good to go. But if the water soaks through the fabric (known as “wetting out”), then you know it’s time to give it some love. Pay particular attention to any areas like seams, or those that see a lot of friction, like shoulders where you might have straps from your pack rubbing. And it goes without saying, if your gear is visibly dirty, you should probably wash it too.
A waterproof breathable jacket is usually made up of two components - a waterproof membrane, and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Dirt, oil, sunscreen and other materials can clog the membrane, reducing its breathability and wearing away the DWR. A simple wash can be all that’s needed to get rid of those contaminants, reviving your jacket so it works optimally again.
- Clean out your washing machine’s detergent compartment. Regular laundry detergent can leave a residue that will further impair the WPB technology from doing its job.
- Read the washing instructions on the jacket’s label. Whatever instructions the manufacturer has recommended is the way to go. If there are no instructions listed, read on for our suggestions.
- Make sure to use a technical wash product that is meant for waterproof outerwear (like Grangers or Nikwax) - this stuff is gentle on the finish and will remove residue.
- Zip up all the zippers, close all the buttons and connect any velcro closures - you don’t want these damaging the coat during the spin cycle.
- Set your washing machine to a warm (not hot), low spin cycle with an extra rinse. Again, if the label says something different, go with the manufacturer recommendation.
Many DWR products reactivate with a little heat. Check your product’s tag first, but if there are no specific instructions, go with a warm (not hot) tumble for approximately 20 minutes.
If your jacket is still wetting out after a wash n’ dry, it’s time to reapply. DWR applications come in both wash-in or spray-on formulations. Wash-in formulas are easy to use and give an even coverage all over the garment. Spray-on DWR allows you to target areas that are more likely to wet-out (shoulders for example), and are useful for spot treatments. Whatever you choose, follow the instructions included with the product.
Yes, you have to wait to go out and enjoy the weather just a little longer. Let your DWR application dry thoroughly, so that it isn’t rubbed or washed off before it has time to set in. Read the product’s label to find out how they recommend drying.
That’s all there is to it! Now your gear is so fresh and so clean, and you’re ready to go enjoy the outdoors no matter the weather. Happy adventuring!
Need a primer on waterproof jackets and how they work? Check out No Rain: How To Choose Rainwear on The Journal.