Wet and wintry weather is just around the corner. But before you head out on a hike up Royal Basin in Olympic National Park or gear up to catch the rush of cold smoke ripping off the back of your skis, make sure your waterproof GORE-TEX® jackets are in top form for all your hiking, camping, skiing, snowboarding and climbing adventures.
To make sure the performance of your waterproof GORE-TEX® jackets and pants is ready for the upcoming season, ensure you wash and properly care for your prized threads using a high-performance waterproofing and cleaning treatment like Nikwax. But don’t just toss your GORE-TEX® jacket into the wash with your pile of dirty undies: Take a minute to review how to clean and care for it so you don’t find yourself reinvesting in jackets season after season.
Washing GORE-TEX Jackets and Pants – Why Bother?
GORE-TEX® fabrics are highly specialized. In addition to a unique construction, they are made with a DWR (durable water repellant) treatment on their face. This treatment penetrates the fibers of the fabric, which allows water to bead up and roll off the fabric’s surface rather than being absorbed. This ensures a high level of water resistance – an extra layer of protection in addition to the waterproof GORE-TEX® membrane below the surface fabric.
However, with heavy use and time this treatment will wash or wear out. Dirt, sweat and sunscreen are just a few of the things that can also decrease the effectiveness of the DWR treatment and cause your garment to “wet out.” “Wetting out” is when the DWR treatment on the surface of your waterproof apparel has worn off, allowing the liquid to saturate the garment above the GORE-TEX® membrane and making you feel clammy, damp or wet. Fortunately, proper care and washing can help restore both the DWR treatment and its capabilities.
Below: A GORE-TEX jacket in need of washing and revitalizing.
Dirt and oils from sweat – often found stained around the collar – can greatly affect the performance of your GORE-TEX® jacket; how often you use it and abuse it really dictates the frequency of cleaning. Keep in mind, proper washing can increase the garment’s performance and longevity. If you’re using waterproof jackets for hiking or high output activities like ski touring, we recommend you wash your jacket more frequently.
Time to Wash
When it’s time to wash, first close all the zippers – pockets, pit zips, main center zipper – and release any tension on the draw cords.
Pick a liquid, free-rinsing soap to use on your garment. (We recommend Nikwax Tech Wash®, a product specifically designed to clean waterproof fabrics and restore their technical properties.) Do not use powder detergents, and steer clear of products with surfactants, detergents, bleaches, softeners, conditions, perfumes – these can contain waxes or oils or can be hydrophilic, or water-absorbing. These ingredients have the opposite effect of the DWR treatment and will affect the performance of the garment by adhering to the fabric and reducing the ability to breathe and repel moisture. This even includes dryer sheets. If you only have normal laundry soaps to use, make sure you rinse the garment a second time to get rid of any residue from the cleaners.
Next, machine wash your GORE-TEX® garments – in a front loader, if possible – on a warm cycle with temps around 105 degrees; permanent press is an ideal setting. Choose a cycle that rinses the garment twice to ensure any oils or chemicals are cleared out of the garment and then line dry or tumble dry on a warm, gentle cycle for roughly 40 minutes. The heat from the dryer will reactivate the DWR treatment.
We recommend cleaning your GORE-TEX® at home, but if dry cleaning is necessary make sure to request a clear, distilled solvent rinse and a stray-repellant. Some GORE-TEX® garments, like those made with silk or wool, require dry cleaning only. On the other hand, do not dry clean GORE-TEX® garments that include down insulation. It will strip the oils from the down, causing it to lose its precious loft and warmth. For these products, machine wash in cold water and tumble dry on low heat.
Reactivating the DWR treatment on your GORE-TEX® Jackets
If you find your jacket wetting out, the original DWR treatment might need to be reactivated. First, tumble dry the garment for 20 minutes on a warm cycle or iron the garment on a warm setting placing a towel between the garment and the iron. This can reactivate the treatment – the heat encourages the activation of the water repellant properties.
Below: A restored GORE-TEX jacket with reapplied DWR coating
If that doesn’t work, it might be time to replace the original treatment. Before you ditch your threads for brand new ones, try to restore your garment’s functionality by applying a new water-repellant treatment – either a surface spray-on product or wash-in product. Again, we recommend Nikwax products. Nikwax TX Direct® Wash-In will easily restore the DWR performance of your waterproof shells. For Gore-Tex jackets or pants with insulation or a liner, use Nikwax TX.Direct® Spray-On.
For more information on caring for GORE® products, visit the GORE® website.
Top photo by James Q Martin.