Washing and drying your technical jackets and waterproofs with a little care and attention can make all the difference – they’ll come up like new and last a long time if you follow a few simple rules and guidelines.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wash dark colours separately – colours can still run, even at low temperatures. Do up all zips and fasten any Velcro on jackets, tops and breeches before washing, as zip teeth and sticky Velcro can damage other items in the same load.
Modern waterproofing techniques mean that most gear can be machine-washed. Follow these simple rules to ensure you get the best results:
1. Check the recommended wash temperature. Most jackets can be washed at 30°c or 40°c, but a quick look at the label will confirm the correct setting – washing certain materials at too high a heat can damage the fabric.
2. Never use biological washing powder or liquid, as chemicals in these detergents can interfere with the fabric’s waterproof coating. Nicola Withers, Marketing Assistant at Nikwax, says: “Use a non-detergent or pure soap to maintain the performance of wet weather gear, and wash three to four times per year.”
3. Fabric conditioners can adversely affect the breathability of your garment, and perfumes in them can also damage the waterproof coating.
4. Most garments will have a label indicating whether they can be tumble dried. If they can be put in the drier, use the heat setting indicated. Some waterproof coatings are re-activated by heat, and tumble drying is the best way of doing this. If the garment cannot be tumble dried, natural heat is best, however, never drape garments over radiators, boilers or hot pipes.
5. Don’t iron waterproof jackets or overtrousers unless the label indicates that this is suitable.
There’s not usually any need to re-proof waterproof garments every time you wash them. You can tell that your jacket needs treating when water stops forming droplets on the surface of the material and starts to sink into the fabric.
Nicola suggests: “When the water repellency starts to fail, give the garment a good clean and re-apply reproofer in the washing machine or use a spray-on version”.
If you’re careful, down-filled jackets will come up looking like new after a wash. With the wrong treatment, they can end up smelling like a wet dog, with all the padding clumped together and looking misshapen! Here’s how to look after them:
1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions (usually a gentle 30°c cycle). Then hang the jacket to dry naturally, in a warm, well-ventilated environment, away from direct heat.
2. Once it is dry, put the coat in a tumble drier along with two tennis balls. This will re-distribute and ‘fluff-up’ the down/feather mix. Nicola advises that “specific cleaners are available, but the most important thing is to introduce plenty of heat and fluff up the down.”