If you haven’t washed or treated your waterproof-breathable jacket, and it’s seen a few seasons of use, you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t keep you as dry as it used to. One of the biggest misconceptions with waterproof jackets is that you should never wash them. If you don’t wash them, your jacket’s pores can clog and it will no longer be breathable. The oils from your skin can also lead to delamination in the liner of your jacket.
There is a simple process for washing your jacket and revitalizing its waterproofing that will help you get more out of your jacket and help to extend its life for a few more seasons.
A Note on DWR
When you’re buying a rain jacket (here’s our guide to the best rain jackets available) or any outerwear for that matter, you’ll often come across the initials DWR, which stand for durable water repellent. DWR is a coating applied to fabrics that lets them shed fluids, and they’re commonly used in conjunction with waterproof membranes. DWR works by making the surface of the exterior fabric spiky at a microscopic level, which forces water and other liquids into round, beaded forms. That helps them roll off the garment instead of saturating it. DWR isn’t permanent, but it can easily be revived.
How To Re-Waterproof Your Rain Jacket
Take a look at your jacket. The first step in the process of getting your rain jacket ready for spring is to take a thorough look at it. Start with the inside. If the lining is peeling or bubbling and separating from the membrane, it’s time to retire your rain jacket. The next few steps will help to prevent this from happening to your new jacket. Secondly, apply some drops of water to your jacket. Does it bead and roll off? If you shake it does it come off? If so, you’re all set. But if the water sits on the fabric and starts to seep into the fibers (the fabric will darken), then it’s time to revive your DWR.
Wash your jacket. To wash your jacket, use a specially formulated detergent. We recommend Nikwax’s Tech Wash, though Grangers also makes a suitable wash. Place your jacket in the washing machine. In a front-loading washing machine, make sure to remove any buildup in the detergent dispenser, then add the Tech Wash. For a top-loading washing machine, add the detergent once the machine has filled with water. A good rule of thumb is one capful of detergent for each jacket. (In hard-water areas, Nikwax recommends adding an additional capful.) Set the cycle to heavy (or synthetics if your machine has it) and warm water.
Dry your jacket according to the instructions on its tag. If the waterproofing hasn’t been revitalized, move on to step three.
Wash your jacket again using TX Direct. After you have finished washing the jacket, wash it again following the same guidelines, this time using Nikwax’s TX Direct Wash-In. This will revitalize the waterproofing in your jacket’s membrane and add fresh DWR.
Dry the jacket. To dry your jacket, tumble dry it on low heat for no more than ten minutes. This will help to shake off most of the water and start the drying process. Take your jacket out of the dryer and hang dry it overnight.
Inspect your jacket for holes and tears. Look for any tears, pinholes, or abrasions in your jacket. If your jacket has a pinhole or tear, use Gear Aid’s Gore-Tex fabric patches to patch the hole. Cut the patch in either a circular or oval shape to reduce the chances of peeling. For a stronger bond, use an iron on its lowest possible setting for a few seconds on the patch to bond it to the jacket. (Be extremely careful using an iron. If the iron is too hot, it will melt your jacket.) For abrasions, use Gear Aid’s Tenacious Tape to cover the abraded areas. Again, cut the patches in circles or ovals to reduce the risk of peeling.
What You Need
Nikwax Tech Wash ($10)
Gear Aid Gore-Tex Fabric Repair Kit ($7)
Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In ($13)