How to reproof your waterproof gear.

Having a coat that’s lost it’s breathability and soaks up rain 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, to have rain bead or “rest” on the outside and that’s without even taking in to account your gear getting dirty. 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 with Nikwax.

Rain beading on a waterproof jacketThere are two things you can do to get your jacket working as good as new. 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. In many cases simply washing your jacket will have it back performing near it’s best. 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 attract water to make your gear “wet 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;

  1. Clean your detergent dispenser. Very 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. Wash a maximum of two items. Simples really, ensures that your stuff gets properly clean.
  5. 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.
  6. Allow to dry naturally. This is really important if you are using a spray on reproofer later.
Nikwax at Webtogs

Just in case you didn't know what a washing machine looked like.
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 easiest solution and best for fabrics without a backing scrim such as Paclite, Marmot’s Membrain or Montane’s Atomic DT etc  as it means you won’t iss any spots. With 3 layer fabrics, Gore-Tex themselves recommend a spray on solution to stop the scrim becoming water repellent. Either way 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;

  1. Maximum of two items. Same as above
  2. Follow your clothes care instructions. Delicate or synthetic wash on a slow spin thanks people.
  3. 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 which still has us chuckling away. Take a look below if you want some full on Finnish German bearded reproofing madness!

Have any of you folks reproofed your gear recently? If you have any tips for reproofing or keeping your waterproofs in good nick, post up in the comments below!>

3 thoughts on “How to reproof your waterproof gear.

  1. The guys from Gore recommend spray-on over wash-in reproofing! The explanation is simple. Most jackets are constructed with 3 layers. The outer one to protect the membrain and to repell the rain. The middle one, this is the membrain which makes most waterproofs waterproof. And the inner layer. This may be laminated directly to the membrain (classic 3-layer-laminate) or it could be a simple liner hanging loosely in the jacket.
    Both these inner linings serve the purpose to soak up any sweat and to push it through the membrain to the outside. If one uses a wash-in reproofer this lining will get waterrepellent, too. And this will result in a reduced sweat transfer!
    A spray-on reproofer doesn’t affect the liner (as it’s noally used on the outside only).
    Waterproofs with a 2,5 layer construction (as e.g. Paclite) can be reproofed with a wash-in. As it’s not using a textile liner on the inside the reproofer won’t affect the sweat transfer.

    1. Fantastic comment Basti, did you go to the Gore-tex summit recently? We’ll have a quiet word with them as their website currently recommends a wash in over a spray on, but what you have said there makes perfect sense when it comes to the backing scrim. In fact, I’m going to amend the text above to make sure it’s clear :-)

      1. Been to the 2011 Blogger Summit. Their website recommends a wash-in as it’s easier to use. But talking to the developers at Gore directly they recommend the spray-on for the better performance.
        I guess it depends for what someone is using his or her garment for. As a edc jacket mostly worn in the city a wash-in is the fastest and easiest sollution. For the ambitious mountaineer or backpacker who seeks maximum performance the spray-on is the way to go.
        Both will still be waterproof. But the spray on will result in a better (less sweaty) climate inside the jacket.

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