Reproofing and waterproofing your jacket

1 July 2012

When it comes to waterproofing and cleaning waterproof jackets I've never known men discuss ironing so much down the local on a Friday night, here's what I heard last week:

'After I've reproofed, I always iron my waterproofs, it's basic physics isn't it?'
'Two pints of Cumberland Ale, please?'
'Adding heat to a chemical reaction increases the energy of that reaction.'
'Do you want some pork scratchings?'
'Yes please. You see, heat helps the fluorocarbons in the proofer bond with the molecules in the original fabric.'
'Bloody 'ell, it's gone up in here since I was last in'
'You see, ironing provides the heat so when you're finished, your DWR coating will be as good as new'
'Shall we sit over there?'
'But make sure the iron is not too hot though, just a steam setting of warm will be more than enough…'
'Really,' followed by long sigh.
'…and make sure you have distilled water in the water reservoir…'
'Look, shut up or I'm going home…'
Reproofing and waterproofing your jacket
We get a lot of questions about how to care for your waterproof jackets and when you look online (or go down the pub) you get a lot of different theories. In order to show off next time I'm in The Red Lion I have gone to the manufacturers to get to the bottom of all this. But first a little reminder about DWR.
Durable Water-Repellent CoatingsDurable Water-Repellent Coatings
Gore-Tex, eVENT, Omni-Tech and just about all jackets with breathable membranes have a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating on the nylon outside of their jackets. DWR is what causes the water to bead on the outer surface and roll off. Keeping the surface of the jackets free of water and dirt does not effect the waterproofing of the jacket but it does affect its breathability and its weight.

Over time the DWR coating wears off, which makes you think maybe they should drop the 'durable' and just call it WR coating. When this happens, water no longer beads on the surface and it soaks in. Don't worry, like I said, the membrane underneath will still keep you dry. The main problems then are condensation and breathability.
If water has soaked into the jacket it lowers the overall temperature of the fabric, this can cause warm air on the inside to condense on the inner surface of the jacket. You don't want that, because then it feels like the jacket is leaking.

So, the DWR coating is an important part of the jacket therefore it's worthwhile reproofing regularly.
Nikwax or Grangers
There are two main companies who supply the UK with outdoor clothing cleaning and waterproofing products. Here's a brief explanation of the differences.
Nikwax treatments coat the fabric with a network of elastic TX.10i water-repellent molecules. They bond to anything that is not water-repellent, but leave the spaces between fibres open and breathable. Nikwax treatments can flex and move with the fabric. Unlike fluorocarbon products, you do not need to heat garment to activate the waterproofing treatment.
Granger's products, specifically their proofing technologies, replicate the water-repellency applied by fabric manufacturers. This is a fluorocarbon-based process that positions molecules on the surface in a way that allows the fabric to actively repel water. All waterproofs should be tumble dried after washing to maximise water repellency.
Instead of: 'Look, shut up or I'm going home…' what you need to add is this:

'Actually, very boring friend, adding heat after you've reproofed depends on the waterproofing products that you are using. Granger's 30 degree Cleaner or XT Proofer admittedly does require the application of heat but the non-compulsory guidelines are to tumble dry as opposed to ironing.' Don't stop for a breath or a drink for god's sake or he'll but in again. 'However, if you use Nikwax products, the elastic nature of the chemical bonds created during the binding process does not require the application of heat of any description. In this case, air drying is adequate… so shut up or I'm going home…' You may take a sip now.
So let's quickly go back to The Red Lion:
General Waterproof Care
For waterproofs that don't have a Gore-Tex or eVENT membrane, the main problem is 'wetting out'. All this means is the DWR coating has worn off and needs to be replaced. Your jacket will feel wet on the outside and it will feel heavier, but it will probably still be waterproof.

All you need to do is wash it, preferable using soap flakes, Nikwax or Grangers, rinse it out thoroughly and then Spray-on some proofing product like Nikwax TX Direct. You can also use the Wash-in version of this and then tumble dry on a low setting.

After that the rain should again bead on the surface and the jacket's breathability should be restored.
eVENT FabricseVENT Fabrics
I called Montane and this is what they told me about caring for their eVENT products

Firstly, if you are a regular wearer you need to wash the jacket regularly. If the jacket is clogged up with dirt it will not be as breathable.

They have been putting in the 'Wash me often' label in with their garments just has a bit of a reminder. I've tied one of these labels to my 5 year old daughter's hair.
Here's what Montane recommend:

Every 3 months whether it looks dirty or not wash in Soap Flakes or Nikwax Techwash
Every 6 months spray on some TX-Direct to keep topping up the DWR finish.
If it's filthy give it a soap flakes, tech wash and TX-Direct mega-wash. They didn't say mega-wash; I just thought I'd add that to make it sound really clean, in fact, mega-clean.

As for the ironing - not really, but if you absolutely, seriously want to, then set it at a low temperature.
Gore-Tex FabricsGore-Tex Fabrics
As with all jackets, keep Gore-Tex clean and it will last you a long time.

The washing instruction for Gore-Tex are easy:

1. Machine wash in warm water with powder detergent
2. Don't use fabric softener
3. Tumble Dry on a medium heat.
Warmth after washing can reactivate some of the original DWR coating, so you can iron if you want. You will still need to top up the DWR regularly though.

Gore-Tex don't give specifics about how often you should wash your jacket or reapply the DWR. So I would follow the Montane guidelines for eVENT. If you're like me and muck loves you, then definitely wash every 3 months and TX Direct every 6 months.
Helly Tech and Omni Tech
I don't want to become as boring as the guy in the pub because I know you get the message now. Helly Hansen's Helly Tech and Columbia's Omni-Tech are pretty similar.

Regular cleaning with the technical cleaning product of your choice (e.g. Nikwax Tech Wash - because we don't sell Grangers), shove it in the tumble dryer on a low heat for 15 -20 minutes. Spray on the re-proofing agent of your choice (Nikwax TX Direct - more subliminal advertising), let it dry and go and climb the highest mountain of your choice.
One final rinse and repeat
If you've paid a lot of money for your jacket, then wash it regularly and re-proof it regularly. This will ensure the jacket remains breathable and no water will condense on the inside. If you want to iron it, then iron it. There's nothing I can do about that. Some people like ironing, and if you're one of those people, there is no way I would deny you your steamy, un-creased pleasure.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young
One final rinse and repeat

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