In the ‘Kit Care’ series I look at how to rejuvenate and re-use well worn kit; saving you valuable money compared to replacing favourite pieces of cycling apparel. In this post, I consider the frequent question of how to re-waterproof and restore a waterproof cycling jacket.
Waterproof shell jackets using fabrics such as GORE-TEX, Polartec NeoShell, and eVent are designed to last. With proper care and attention there is no reason the waterproofing and performance of a jacket cannot last for many seasons. The key is how to wash and treat these waterproof jackets.
GORE-TEX and other similar waterproof fabrics such as Polartec NeoShell, eVent and Conduit use an advanced waterproof membrane to provide a waterproof and breathable layer within a garment. This fabric is often coated on the outside with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish—to provide the ‘beading’ of water that you see on the surface of a jacket.
Two problems occur when using a waterproof jacket in challenging conditions, and over an extended period. Firstly, dirt particulates and perspiration salts block up the ‘pores’ on the waterproof membrane—reducing the breathability. Secondly, the DWR coating layer ‘flattens’ and eventually begins to wear off. To overcome both problems you need to understand how to wash and how to re-waterproof a garment.
Washing a Waterproof Cycling Jacket
Washing a waterproof garment removes the dirt and salt from the surface of the jacket, therefore improving breathability. Here is how to wash a GORE-TEX, Polartec NeoShell or eVent jacket:
- Before washing your garment: zip the front, pockets, and pit zips completely, and fasten all flaps and straps
- Machine wash on a warm cycle (30º C) with just the waterproof garment(s) in the machine. Use a small amount of liquid detergent such as Nikwax Tech Wash — do not use powder detergents, fabric softeners or bleach as they damage the fabrics and taped seams
- Rinse twice and minimise spinning time to reduce creasing
Drying a Waterproof (GORE-TEX) Cycling Jacket
- Either line-dry your jacket in a light breeze or tumble dry on a warm gentle cycle
Reapplying DWR Durable Water Repellent Treatment to a Cycling Jacket
Over time, the DWR coating on the outside of a jacket wears off—especially in high abrasion areas. This does not mean your jacket is not waterproof any more, it simply means that the water-repellent surface on the outside is no longer causing water to bead up on the surface (the waterproof membrane underneath is still waterproof).
To reapply (often termed ‘re-waterproofing’) the DWR coating, use either Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On Treatment or Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In Treatment:
- Clean the item first with Nikwax Tech Wash as outlined above (there is no need to dry the garment before re-waterproofing)
- Remove all detergent build up from the detergent dispenser
- Place maximum of two clean garments in washing machine
- Use 100 millilitres of Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In Treatment per garment
- Run machine on a 30°C cycle with a slow spin
- Remove and dry as outlined above
- To apply with Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On Treatment: hang the garment in open air and spray the TX Direct onto all exposed outer surfaces, holding the spray can 20 centimetres away from the garment—then dry as outlined above
With these care instructions you can keep the effectiveness of your waterproof cycling jacket or trousers intact for far longer.
Remember — ‘Rejuvenate and Reuse’ rather than replace