How to reproof your waterproof gear
Having a coat that's lost its breathability and soaks up rain like there's no tomorrow makes for a seriously uncomfortable day out. After our guide to washing down products, we've had a fair few requests from folks whose waterproofs have started to be, well, slightly less than waterproof! All jackets slowly lose their ability to repel water and have rain bead or "rest" on the outside. That's without even taking in to account getting dirt on your gear from a weekend out on the hills, which also blocks breathability. So if have been wondering just how to get that new jacket performance back, we've put together this guide on how to get your togs repelling water, and breathing easy again.
There are two things you can do to get your jacket working as good as new again. First up Washing. You need to wash your jacket first to ensure it is clean, and in case it's necessary make sure any reproofing can go on easily. It isn't just a case of washing in normal detergent though as that will make things worse for technical outdoor gear. You need a specialist wash that will get rid of any residues that block breathability and keep the jacket "wetting out". There are a few products that will do this, but we really like Nikwax Tech wash for the washing bit. Not only does the hippy in me like it (it's water based and environmentally friendly man) but it won't damage the water repellent treatments on the outside of your jacket, nor any waterproof membrane either. To get the best results we reckon our foolproof instructions below will have you covered;
- Clean your detergent dispenser. Sooper dooper important this bit, if there is any gunk left from your day to day washing, it'll clog the pores of your gear, stop it breathing as well as stopping any reproofer from going on effectively afterwards.
- Run your washing machine on it's hottest wash with nothing in it. This is doing exactly the same thing as cleaning your dispenser by getting rid of the gunk inside. If you have a really grotty machine you might want to do it twice :-) As a side note, our resident Dorset washing repair man Laurie reckons you should do this once in a while anyway to stop stuff building up that can damage your washing machine.
- Get your gear ready. Loosen all draw cords and close all zips and Velcro so the jacket doesn't catch. If there are any really filthy bits, rub a bit of neat Tech wash directly on to the affected area(s).
- Wash a maximum of two items. Simples really, ensures that your stuff gets properly clean.
- Follow your clothes care instructions. Most washes should be on a delicate/synthetic wash with a slow spin to stop abrasion of your gear, follow the instruction label on your gear first and foremost.
- Allow to dry naturally. This is really important if you are using a spray on reproofer later.
Most times simply washing your jacket will bring back the ability for water to roll off your gear. If it doesn't though, you'll need to head on and take a further step, reproofing your jacket to bring water repellency back to "shiny brand new coat" time. There are loads of old wives tales about what you should wash your jacket in for this bit. After an article in Trail recently, Fabric conditioner was shown to be a great reproofer, with water beading sweetly on the outside after a wash. However, breathability of the jacket was then transformed in to something similar to a plastic bag! There are a few options but again we like our mates at Nikwax, specifically their TX Direct stuff. There are several options from spray on to wash in, we reckon that wash in is the best solution as it means you can't miss any spots. As with the Tech wash it's earth mama time, having no flurocarbons, solvents or bad stuff that will damage planet earth.
Assuming you have followed the instructions above for washing your gear, you won't need to clean out your washing machine again so it's just the following;
- Maximum of two items. Same as above
- Follow your clothes care instructions. Delicate or synthetic wash on a slow spin thanks people.
- Warm dry your coat. This last bit isn't critical but we find that heat ensures that repellency treatments lasts longer. Our order of preference for most effectiveness is tumble dry on a low setting if your garment allows it, shoving it on a hot radiator, popping in an airing cupboard, putting it out to dry in the hot sunshine, or (and be very careful here...) Ironing it on a very low setting.
And there you have it. The Webtogs easy peasy guide to getting your coat back in to full weather battle mode once again. Our buddy Hendrik over at Hiking in Finland did a great review of the Nikwax stuff.