Waterproof gear doesn’t last forever, eventually it will begin to let water in and peeling and bubbling in the lining of your coat is when you’ll know its time for it to go. At this stage, or maybe slightly before, the jacket will begin to soak up water, known as “wetting out”, as opposed to usual beading of the water on the jackets surface. If wetting out occurs but there is no peeling or bubbling, your jacket just needs a wash and treatment.
So, how to avoid this and increase the life of your gear? Here’s how to re-waterproof a rain jacket:
Always check the manufacturer's instructions, but generally you’ll want to pop your jacket in the washing machine with some fabric or waterproof jacket specific detergent, such as Nikwax Tech Wash. This will unclog elements caught in the jackets (usually) breathable membrane such as dirt, oil and smoke. It will also allow you apply extra durable water-repellent coating (DWR) to the jacket, free of any contaminants (such as the above), which will stop the DWR from sticking. It is very important you don’t use household detergents, as they will leave behind a residue which will attract water to the surface fabric, leading to “wetting out”. Always close all the jackets zippers before washing.
You can usually machine dry jackets, but again, always check the manufacturer's instructions first. Heat even revitalises the water repellent treatments on the item. If specifics aren’t given as to the machine dry temperature, play safe and use a medium-low heat cycle for 20 minutes. After that, you can hang it on the line or indoor dryer, but stay away from radiator heat.
Now its treatment time, use a spray-on DWR product such as Nikwax TX DIRECT. While some recommend a wash in product such such as Nikwax TX DIRECT wash-in, which will see you wash the jacket a second time using the product, this doesn’t control where the re-proof treatment is applied to your coat. The treatment only needs to be on the outside of the jacket. For down jackets, check out Nikwax Down Wash Direct, specifically designed for feather-insulated items.
# Dry Again
You need to plan enough time so your DWR solution has time to dry. Many people spray the treatment on their jacket soon before leaving on a hike or camping trip, don’t do it. DWR can take up to 24 hours to dry, but this can be sped up with a machine dryer. The same applied here to machine drying the jacket after the first wash – if there are not clear instructions, medium-low heat for 20 minutes, then onto the line or drying rack if still wet.
Follow this guide to keep your waterproof jacket in tip top condition. You’ll even save money by increasing the life of your jacket by paying attention to its condition. You don’t need to overdo it. But, by ensuring your gear isn’t wetting out and taking action as soon as it does, you’ll avoid having to replace the jacket (once more serious peeling and bubbling occurs). Hike dry, hike warm, hike happy.