I don’t know about you but I was totally unprepared for the wet and dreary day we’ve just had. Out came all my wet weather kit along with the realisation that it needed a some maintenance.
Like cars, quality waterproofs require regular servicing and definitely an annual MOT if you want them to serve you well for several years. They have two waterproofing systems:
- A waterproof membrane (such as Gore-Tex®, eVent™ and HyVent™) whose job it is to let water vapour (i.e. our sweat!) out and stop rain water coming in; and
- A DWR (durable waterproof repellant) coating on the surface. This enhances the performance of the jacket’s outer fabric by encouraging water to bead up and roll off the surface.
Over time and use dirt accumulates on the outer surface and instead of the rain rolling off, the fabric begins to ‘wet out’. This is the sign that the DWR has stopped working.
If you do nothing about it, the waterproof membrane won’t be able to do its job properly and you’ll begin to feel damp (and probably cross because the very expensive piece of kit you bought isn’t performing properly!). In fact, chances are that the waterproof membrane is ok, it’s just that when the fabric is sopping the membrane is no longer able to wick the sweat away – so you’ll feel damp in the same way as if the jacket was letting water in.
Here’s what to do to maintain your waterproof:
Preparing for washing
- You have to wash your jacket before you can re-waterproof it, although some high tech detergents do both in one go.
- All high tech jackets can be washed in a washing machine. I have a Pategonia and a Rab jacket and they are both washable at 40º C.
- Make sure all zips are fully zipped up and fasten all flaps and straps.
- Brush or wash off any mud and rub a small amount of neat detergent into any stains.
- Thoroughly rinse your washing machine’s detergent dispenser and, if you want to do a belt and braces job, run the machine empty through a washing cycle to ensure there’s nothing that might ‘contaminate’ the wash.
- You can either use a regular liquid detergent (Gore-Tex® recommends this) or a specialist fabric wash such as Nicwax or Grangers. As I’ve mentioned already, some specialist detergents have a ‘wash and repel’ detergent, which both wash the jacket and apply a DWR repellent in one go.
- Do not use powder detergents or any products that contain fabric softeners, conditioners, stain removers or bleach as they will affect garment performance.
- You’re supposed to put only one or two garments in at a time. Nicwax recommends a maximum of two. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about this – it’s not exactly environmentally friendly to run a whole washing machine cycle for one piece of clothing! You can hand wash instead if you like.
- Again, if you’re wanting to do a proper job, you should rinse twice and minimise spinning to reduce creasing.
Apply the re-waterproofing
- Once you’ve got a spanking clean jacket, you can proceed to the next stage – that of applying the re-waterproofer. Of course, you may have used the all in one ‘wash and repel’ in which case you just need to dry it.
- You can either use a wash-in repellent or a spray-on repellent. Go Outdoors advise that the wash-in variety is best for jackets with waterproof membranes. I have no personal opinion on which is best but I’ve always used the wash-in variety as it saves me time and hassle – with a spray I’d worry that I might miss a bit.
- If you use a wash-in repellent, you don’t generally need to dry the jacket first – you can just run the washing and re-waterproofing processes back to back.
Once you’ve applied the re-waterproofing there’s still one last thing to do! To improve it’s activation you need to apply heat. This means either tumble drying your jacket or ironing it (on a low setting of course).
Then – phew – you’re finished and ready to go out and enjoy walking in the rain again. Or to turn your attention to re-proofing your shoes…