How to Wash and Reproof your Waterproof Jacket

Text and Images by Angus Whitby.

Washing your waterproof jacket regularly will ensure your jacket will keep you dry and protected for years to come.

Your waterproof jacket is a very important piece of equipment in ensuring your comfort and safety in the outdoors during inclement weather. It is likewise an expensive bit of equipment and as we enter the warmer months, there has never been a better time to clean and refresh your waterproof jacket to ensure long lasting service.

In today’s blog post, the Open Air team will provide some background knowledge on why it’s important to look after your waterproof jacket as well as answer some common customer questions that are directed their way.

Durable Water Repellency

Your waterproof jacket has what is known as a Durable Water Repellent coating applied to the outside. Like water off a duck’s back, this treatment causes water to bead and roll off the surface of the jacket. Without this layer, water will soak into the outer-most layer of your jacket, preventing moisture vapour (your perspiration) from being able to ‘breathe’ and pass through the fabric (be it GORE-TEX® or an equivalent membrane or coating). This results in a clammy or damp feeling due to the reduction in breathability. DWR is not a permanent feature and degrades with use and time so it’s important that it is maintained by regular washing to ensure your jacket performs at its best!

Captured by Angus Whitby
Like water off a duck’s back.

Washing your Jacket

We recommend you clean your waterproof jacket in a specific outdoor garment wash like Grangers Performance Wash or Nikwax Tech Wash. Both products are specifically formulated to break down dirt, sweat and body oils without affecting the waterproofing layers. This is not only important for protecting existing DWR treatments but ensures your jacket is clean for future re-proofing treatments. Normal household cleaning detergents should not be used as they are too harsh and likely to damage your jacket.

Step 1: Before cleaning, consult your jacket’s care instructions for any specific wash requirements.

Step 2: Ensure your washing machine’s soap dispenser is clean and free of any previous detergent residues.

Step 3: You can apply Grangers Performance Wash or Nikwax Tech Wash directly to your jacket to treat tough stains using a sponge or soft nylon brush.

Step 4: Follow Grangers’ / Nikwax’s directions for the quantity of cleaner to use as well as their recommended wash cycle / programme.

Step 5: Allow your jacket to dry naturally or tumble dry on low-heat if the manufacturer’s care instructions permit.

Reproofing your Jacket

We recommend re-proofing your waterproof jacket with a specific outdoor garment-reproofing agent like Grangers Performance Repel or Nikwax TX Direct (available in either a wash-in or spray application).

  • Before re-proofing your waterproof jacket, ensure it is clean and free of any contaminants. Spray-based re-proofers are best applied to a damp garment so it’s best applying your preferred re-proofing product after washing whilst the fabric is still wet (no longer dripping but still damp to touch).
  • If using a wash-in product, follow Grangers’ / Nikwax’s directions for re-proofer quantity as well as preferred wash cycle / program. If using a spray-based product, hold the spray bottle approximately 15cm away and apply the product evenly to the waterproof jacket ensuring no areas are missed.
  • Remove surplus product with a damp cloth.
  • Allow the jacket to dry naturally or tumble dry on low-heat if manufacturer’s care instructions permit.

Alternatively, you can also use Grangers Wash + Repel 2 in 1 Cleaner and Re-Proofer to do both cleaning and re-proofing jobs in one washing cycle. Otherwise the steps are pretty similar.

Waterproof Jacket Care Q and A

Q: Do I need to wash my brand new jacket?
A: No. With a factory-fresh DWR coating, it’s unnecessary to clean or re-proof a brand new jacket.

Q: How often should I wash my jacket?
A: Often.

Dirt, body oils and other contaminants wreak havoc on waterproof garments. These not only degrade the water resistant layer on the outside of the fabric but if left unchecked, can cause the layers and seams to become unbonded.

There is no hard and fast rule on when to wash your jacket given that everybody uses their jackets in different ways but as a guide, we’d recommend jackets that are used daily should be washed every 3-4 months and less frequently used jackets washed every 6-12 months.

Note: You can typically wash your jacket in either Grangers Performance Wash or Nikwax Tech Wash numerous times before reproofing is required. If washing alone does not rejuvenate the water repellant treatment on the outside of the jacket, it’s time to reproof the jacket. You can test the water repellancy by flicking water at the jacket. If water beads off the surface, the treatment is present.

Q: I hear you can iron or tumble dry your jacket?
A: Many modern re-proofing polymers are heat-activated and require the heat from an iron or a tumble dryer to help bring it to life after being applied. Owing to the use of reflective trim and delicate logos on many garments, we would recommend using a very gentle heat and tumble-drying over ironing but it’s best to consult the manufacturers washing instructions to see what is recommended for your jacket.

Q: My expensive jacket is leaking. Please explain?
A: It is possible for the fabric to be damaged, or the seams to be leaking, but, more often than not, the wetness you experience on the inside of a jacket is your own perspiration. When the water repellency on the outside of the jacket stops working, rain stops running off the surface and starts to soak into the outside fabric of the jacket, causing it to ‘wet out’. Once the jacket has wetted out, the tiny holes in the waterproof membrane (which give the jacket its “breathability”) become blocked and prevent the moisture vapour from your sweat escaping the jacket. This condenses on the inside of the jacket, making it appear as if the jacket is letting water in. Usually a thorough wash and re-proof to restore the fabric’s Durable Water Repellent coating will rectify the issue, however aged jackets that have never been washed might very well be beyond recovery.

Q: I have a small hole / tear in my jacket!
A: We carry a number of different DIY patch solutions. Alternatively, we can direct you to a trusted equipment repairer to professionally patch and repair your jacket.

McNett Gear Aid Gore-Tex patches – a cost-effective repair solution for small rips and tears.

Of course, if that all sounds too hard, you can always consider having your waterproof jacket professionally laundered. These services are offered by:

If you have any questions regarding the cleaning and care of your waterproof jacket, we’d be only too happy to provide assistance. Once we reopen, you can visit us in person at our store on Green Street, Cambridge; in the meantime contact us by calling, emailing or using LiveChat.

Thanks for reading!

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