This is something fairly important to me after working for a couple of years in outdoor retail, kit maintenance and care. I can’t tell you how many customers I get that say:
“I’ve had this jacket for a couple of years, it’s been very good but now it leaks. I thought Gore-Tex was meant to be waterproof?”
The conversations usually plays out like so:
Me: “Have you washed it in anything?”
Customer: Either “No” or “Yes, in detergent like everything else”
Me: (At this point my expression drops a little) “OK, well you need to wash it properly in order to keep it waterproofed”
and so on…
So many people are oblivious to proper care of their waterproofs (WP), they all need a level of attention in order to survive and keep the weather out. The Nikwax products are the most effective that I’ve come across and instructions easiest to follow. Just bung two WP items into the washing machine that has a clean dispenser tray, add the correct measure of Tech Wash in and stick it on a 30 degree synthetic cycle with slow spin. Same with the TX Direct and then allow to drip dry, no tumble drying!
The reason detergents are bad for any and all WPs is that they work by drawing water in and through fabrics, this works great for regular ‘non-technical’ clothing like cotton t-shirts and jeans. The killer is that it strips off the water repellent treatment and leaves a residue on the WP membrane which allows water to ‘wet out’ (not beading on the surface as normal), this wetting out blocks water vapour (sweat) from escaping the jacket; resulting in condensation forming on the inside of the garment, which gives the impression of leakage for the wearer.
Cleaning and proofing your waterproofs is a part of the jacket’s life that is often overlooked but must be done in proportion to how often the jacket is used. All WPs will eventually need some attention; the bacteria that builds up in the pores of the WP membrane eats away at it, degrading and destroying your beloved piece of kit. A pure soap such as Tech Wash flushes out the membrane, rejuvenating the fabric and restoring a good deal of breathability which anyone can appreciate.
Nikwax has spent years refining their product and not only is is waterbased making it environmentally sensible but it also works very well. Tech Wash should always be on hand near the washing machine when the time rolls round to give your WPs some love. There is a wide range of Nikwax products to cover all kit, from WPs to tents, to climbing ropes, and all have ‘recommended for…’ printed on the packaging.
The general rule of thumb for a WP that receives regular use is: For every 3 washes, reproof it. A simple guide that keeps a jacket going strong throughout it’s, hopefully, long and exciting life.
Available in measures of: 100ml, 300ml, 1L, 5L and up to huge vats of the stuff!