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How to reproof your waterproofs

You’re cycling in the rain. When you get home you notice that the sleeves of your sweater are a little moist, or wet even? You walk to the supermarket and your jacket soaks up every single drop of rain? I can hear you think: “time to get a new rain jacket…” Not really, though! Let me explain how you can reproof your waterproof jacket!

When you notice that your jacket gets heavy when it rains, or your skin gets a little clammy, chances are that the DWR-layer of your jacket has worn out. This doesn’t mean your jacket is no longer useful. It can be resolved with a dual treatment: washing and reproofing.

NO H2O

You’ve got two kinds of water resistant clothing: water repellent and waterproof clothing. Water repellent clothing will keep you dry in a light drizzle, but it won’t keep up in a shower. Waterproof clothing makes sure you’ll stay dry in any wet situation.

There are several components which make waterproof clothing actually waterproof. First there’s the membrane or the coating on the inside of the jacket. Secondly there’s the DWR-layer (Durable Water Repellent) which is applied to every single waterproof and water repellent item. The task of the DWR-layer is to let water pearl up and drip off the fabric.

Because of wear and tear the DWR-layer will loose it’s efficiency in time. When you notice your waterproofs take up more water than they drip off, it’s time to wash your items and reproof them. This will up the game of your waterproof clothing again, and restore its performance.

WASHING

Before reproofing your jacket, you have to wash it. Otherwise you will fixate all the (invisible) impurities in your waterproofs. In this article you can read how to clean your waterproofs.

REPROOFING

Reproofing is the technical term for ‘make it waterproof again’.  You don’t have to do that after every washing, by the way. But when your item doesn’t repel water anymore, it is absolutely time to reproof it. When the performance of the DWR-layer is substandard, the outer layer of your jacket will start soaking up water. The benefits of a (more expensive) jacket will be lost. Your jacket gets heavy and that also influences the breathability. Dirt, for example the oil of your skin, sweat, and mud won’t be repelled anymore and your outfit will get smelly.

After washing out all the impurities, your waterproofs are ready to get a new DWR-layer. Those kind of products exist in a spray, like Nikwax Spray-On, but also in a wash in product, like Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In.

SPRAY
  1. Spray the product all over your jacket, or on the spots you want to reproof.
  2. Wipe the product open so you won’t get stains on your item.
WAsh-in
  1. Pour the recommended amount of product in the dispenser of your washer.
  2. Wash your waterproofs in the same cycle as you did before when washing them.
  3. Put your waterproofs in the dryer (if it is allowed by the washing prescriptions in the clothing tag!) on low or medium heath. If you can’t put it in the dryer, you want to add some heat by using a hairdryer. The warmth will activate the water repellent layer.

Have you ever tossed out a jacket that didn’t seem waterproof anymore?

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How to wash waterproof clothing

Your faithful waterproof clothing: rain pants, your daily raincoat, your dear 3-layer trekking coat and your skiing gear have two things in common: they are waterproof and they suffer from intensive use. If they are dirty or don’t smell very clean these pieces of clothing have to be washed. “Washing? Waterproof clothing can’t be washed?” “Yes, it can, and yes, you should!”

WASHING PRODUCTS

Before you start, STOP, and read this blog post to the end. Don’t just throw your jacket in the washer, put detergent in and add softener, just don’t. Waterproof and technical clothing need  a separate treatment and products. You should never ever use your daily detergent, and certainly no fabric softener.

Technical clothing, like a waterproof jacket, skiing gear, rain pants, but also a cycling outfit and thermal underwear should be washed with great care. This means you should use a product that is specifically made for washing technical clothing. These kind of products will not harm the technical and waterproof properties of your garments.

In outdoor stores, and even on amazon you can find these special products. Two examples of these washing producs are Nikwax Tech Wash and Grangers Performance Wash. You could also use a soft, fluid (!!) washing product you might also use for wool and delicates. These products don’t contain corrosive or bleaching ingredients that will harm the technical properties of your clothing. Down jackets should be treated separate and require special detergents.

WHAT ABOUT STAINS?

Laundry detergents that are suited to wash technical and waterproof clothing will clean your garments of (invisible) dirt. Usually they’re not strong enough to remove actual stains from your garments. If you think you’re dealing with a persistent stain, you should treat that spot with stain remover before actually washing it. A natural stain remover like ox-gall soap, won’t harm the technical properties of your waterproof clothing.

Example washing instructions clothing tag

WASHING WATERPROOF CLOTHING

  1. Before you throw your clothes in the washer, make sure there’s no clumps of dirt sticking on it. Up all the zippers and close all pockets. And carefully read the clothing tag with washing prescriptions.
  2. Make sure there’s no leftover detergent or fabric softener in the dispenser of the washing machine. As mentioned above, those products are harmful for the technical properties of your waterproof clothing. If you are not sure whether your washer is clean of products, let it wash a hot cycle once more. This will clean your dispenser and washer.
  3. Pour the recommended amount of product in your washer – if you’re using a special product for technical fabrics, there will be a user manual on the back of the bottle.
  4. Put your clothing (preferably 1, maximum 2 pieces) in the washer. Don’t wash your waterproof clothing with other ‘normal’ clothes.
  5. Let your washer go through the entire cycle. The cycle you choose depends on the washing instructions on the tag in your clothes, but washing it on 30°C and low tumbling are standard instructions that shouldn’t harm your clothes.

After washing your waterproof clothing you’ve got three options
1. Hang your clothing on a hanger (in the shower) to let it leak and dry.
2. Put your clothes in the dryer on low temperature (if the washing instructions on your clothing tag allow it).
3. Impregnate your clothing to make it fully waterproof again.

WHAT IF I HAVE WASHED MY PRODUCT INCORRECTLY, I.E USING WASHING POWDER?

Washing your clothing with washing powder or biological detergent can damage the fabric’s breathability and water resistance. This doesn’t necessarily mean you ruined your item, but you might have to work hard to restore it. You might have to re-treat the item several times to regain its performance. Damage can be more severe if washed several times in wrong detergent.

IMPREGNATION

If your waterproof jacket is relatively new, washing will do to restore the technical properties. For the somewhat older pieces, that have been washed a couple of times, it might be necessary to restore the waterproof properties. You’ll notice it’s time to do so if the outer layer of your coat absorbs more water than it repels. This means it’s time to impregnate. What, how and why you’ll read in this article (clickity click).

water repels

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I WASH MY WATERPROOF CLOTHING?

How often you should wash your waterproof clothing depends on various factors. Skiing gear could use a washing after a week of intensive use on holiday, before you put it in storage for another year. A waterproof winter coat could use a rinse before you put it away in spring. If your beloved canine jumped up with muddy paws, it’s a good idea not to wait too long to get the stains out.

Almost all technical clothing has properties of breathability. A typical indicator for a much needed washing is when you, more than before, break a sweat while wearing your jacket. This means the pores of your coat are clogged. A washing will free those pores of invisible dirt like sweat, air pollution a.o.

Hopefully this article gave you some clear instructions on how to take care of your waterproof clothing. If you have any extra questions, don’t hesitate to comment below or send us an e-mail!