Outdoor gear expert Chris Townsend gives a few pointers on how to look after your waterproof jacket and make it last longer.
Looking after waterproof jackets can be trickier than a normal piece of clothing; they require a certain amount of upkeep if they are to continue to keep you dry and perform well for a long time.
Dirty jackets don’t let body moisture through very well, so you get damp from condensation building up inside the jacket as you sweat quicker. The Durable Water Repellency (DWR) treatment on the outside of most waterproofs that causes rain to bead and run off rather than soak in can also wear off and need replacing over time. This also leads to condensation as the garment is then less breathable.
So how do you look after your waterproof jacket? There are two main elements to waterproof jacket care: washing, and restoring the jacket’s DWR treatment.
If you’re looking for a new waterproof jacket altogether, check out our guide to the best waterproof jackets. If you’re working to a budget then you can also take a look at our best budget waterproofs.
1. How to wash your waterproof jacket
The first thing you need to learn in how to look after your waterproof jacket school is, to know how to wash your waterproof jacket properly. When washing your waterproofs don’t just chuck them in the washing machine with your usual detergent. This can actually make them less effective.
That’s because detergent is so efficient. This may seem contradictory but whilst detergent will certainly clean your jacket it can also damage the DWR and leave residues that attract moisture. Detergent works so well because it pulls moisture through a garment, good for cleaning but not good for maintaining waterproofness.
Most garments can be machine washed but do check the care label. Hand washing is less harsh. Here’s how to wash a waterproof jacket so its performance is enhanced, not reduced.
- Wipe off mud and dirt with a damp cloth. This may be all that’s necessary.
- Empty pockets – it’s easy to wash a compass or map if you don’t! Or find a sticky congealed candy bar sticking to the inside. Do up zips and fastenings.
- If using a washing machine remove and clean the detergent dispenser and run a rinse cycle to ensure there’s no detergent left in the machine. Check the care label for the correct temperature setting.
- Wash the garment in a pure soap product or, ideally, in a specialist cleaning product such as Nikwax Tech Wash, Grangers Performance Wash, or Storm Care Apparel Wash.
- Air dry or tumble dry the garment (on a low setting). Again, check the care label.
2. How to restore your Durable Water Repellency
Your waterproof jacket’s DWR treatment is a key part of the jacket’s effectiveness. However well you care for the garment, the DWR treatment will start to wear off eventually.
Dark patches appearing on the outer of the garment where rain is soaking in are a sign that the DWR layer is in need of restoring. This doesn’t mean the garment is leaking – the waterproof membrane or coating inside will still keep out rain – but it does mean the breathability will be impaired. The garment will also take longer to dry. Renewing or restoring the DWR can make a big difference to how a garment performs.
Here are the steps you need to follow to restore DWR…
- Water repellency can be revived with heat, which melts the original DWR and spreads it over the fabric. This can be done in a tumble drier, by ironing, or even with hair drier. Keep settings low though. Too much heat can damage the fabric and fittings.
- If heat alone doesn’t restore the DWR a wash-in treatment is needed. These are often called waterproof treatments but they’re really water repellency treatments. If the garment is leaking because the coating or membrane is damaged these products won’t fix this.
- Wash the garment in one of the products mentioned above to ensure it is clean.
- Repeat the wash process using a DWR treatment such as Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In, Grangers Clothing Repel, or Storm Care Eco Proofer Wash in.
- If the garment has a separate liner it’s better to use a spray-on treatment – the three products above are all available as sprays – and just treat the outside of the garment so the lining doesn’t stop wicking moisture.
- Air dry garments or tumble dry on a low setting (check the care label).
If your waterproof jacket is n need of repair and you’re looking to do it yourself, check out our tips on how to repair your waterproof.