At the time of writing this I am at home like millions of other people around the world as we wait for the shadow of Covid 19 to pass. In an effort to do something useful with the time I have been obsessively laundering every piece of clothing in the vicinity and have now reached the family’s communal pile of raingear. Like most people we don’t wash and re-proof our wet weather gear anything like often enough so I decided to do a major sweep of the lot of it and at least have one moment when it was all pristine again.
Washing and re-proofing is an endless necessity because the exterior water repellency of rain jackets gets worn off or smeared with dirt which means that the face fabric of the garment can absorb water. This is called ‘wetting out.’ When the surface is wet the breathability of the fabric is reduced to practically zero. It is little enough to start with so any reduction in performance is very quickly noticeable. When the repellency is fully functional then rain tends to bead and roll from the fabric. This allows sweat to escape more easily and everyone feels a bit more comfortable. Most raincoats, depending on usage, should get washed every month or so and re-proofed every three months. If you use your jacket once a week then you need to do this much less often than the person who wears a raincoat every day but most of us don’t manage more than once in every blue moon.
The demonstration rainwear for this article belongs to my daughter because it was, as you can see from the picture, extraordinarily manky. She has been helping with lambing on the farm for the past month and her gear looked like she’d been rolling around in a swamp.
The first step was to wash it and get rid of the dirt. We usually recommend Tech wash from Nikwax. This is pure soap and cleans the dirt without damaging whatever original water repellent coating is still on the surface of the garment. I could also recommend things like Lux soap flakes or one of the many other pure soap products out there on the market. I do not recommend detergents. They clean off dirt better but they clean off the water repellency better as well. You may have been told that Woolite or a non-bio detergent is OK but non-bio detergent is still detergent and soap is much better.
1. Clean the soap drawer of your machine. Pull it right out and get rid of all the stuck soap powder that clings around the drawer as well as inside it.
2. Close the zips on your jacket and do up any Velcro tabs. Wash up to two garments at a time.
3. If you have a half load setting on your machine then use it.
4. Add two capfuls of Tech Wash or possibly a little more.
5. Select a gentle cycle at thirty or forty degrees.
6. Press start.
Nikwax recommend two capfuls of soap. If you don’t have a half load option you may wish to add a smidgeon more but don’t go mad.
Once the cycle has finished you have a couple of options for re-proofing. Once again, I would recommend a Nikwax product; TX Direct. There is a spray option so you can hang up your slightly damp garment and skoosh away until it is entirely covered. Ideally do this outdoors or be prepared to have to clean up after yourself. I don’t normally use this for a couple of reasons. One is that I am lazy and it takes a while to be sure that I have covered every last bit of jacket and the second reason is that I may well not have properly reached every last bit of jacket. To have to go back later to get a bit that I missed would be less than ideal. Therefore, I use TX Direct in the wash-in version which covers the entirety of the garment with no extra effort on my part. The process is the same as for the wash listed above.
1. Don’t bother unloading the machine.
2. Use the half load setting if you have it.
3. Add two capfuls of TX Direct or a little more if you don't have a half load option. Shake the bottle before pouring.
4. Gentle cycle at thirty or forty degrees, again.
5. Press Start again.
When the cycle is finished hang your jacket up to dry and you are done.
This is possibly the greenest proofing chemical on the market and the company have a load of awards and certificates to prove it. However, there is one other reason that I choose this over the competition and it is that this is the only proofer for breathable waterproof garments that works well and which doesn’t require you to heat the jacket. All the fluorocarbon compounds that I know, need you to tumble dry or iron the jacket after proofing in order to activate the proofer. You do not have to tumble dry any Nikwax product to get it to work. The result isn’t improved by heating at all. Not all garments like the heat of a tumble dryer anyway and I am allergic to irons so greatly appreciate the simplicity as well as the non-toxic nature of the chemicals involved.
Almost all waterproof, breathable rainwear, all softshells and all shower resistant garments require cleaning and reproofing in order to maintain the performance. If we are prepared to put up with not looking after our rainwear then we have to put up with it not working particularly well. Clothing needs washed generally and there is no reason for expensive, technical garments to be any different. Nobody is wandering around proudly in a pair of three-year-old, unwashed boxers.
If you have any questions then drop me a line via the Charles Camping Facebook page or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
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