When your go-to rain jacket fails you, it can make for a grim & soggy hike. Not nice. Why does it even happen?
Most rain gear will have had their exterior treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. This is the gear's first line of defence against precipitation. It does this by stopping the precipitation from saturating the gear's exterior. This is different from the role of a waterproof/breathable membrane like Gore-Tex® that will stop water from penetrating a rain jacket's interior.
After some time the unavoidable happens: although your jacket still keeps you dry, it looks like it's been soaked in water. Eventually, some of that rain gets inside and your base layers start getting damp. Why does this happen?DWRs's performances reduce because of a number of factors: abrasion, repeated laundering, dirt and body oils.
What can you do about it?
You can either attempt to revitalise the garment's DWR or apply a new DWR.
Revitalise existing DWR
Follow the cleaning instructions for the type of rain gear you own. Washing away the dirt and oils may be all that's needed to restore its DWR's water repellant properties.
TIP: If your garment has stains, first pre-treat with a stain remover, then wash in the machine with a normal detergent to remove stains. Afterwards, wash it again with a technical cleaner to clear away any dirt trapped in its waterproofing layers.
2. Apply heat
After washing, exposure to heat does the most to bring a DWR back to life. Place the garment in a dryer set for low or medium heat for up to 15 minutes. Make sure to check the manufacturer's instructions before placing in the dryer.
If that's not enough to revitalise your DRW, it may be time to retreat by applying a new DWR.
Applying a new DWR
You can reapplied a DWR via a spray-on or wash-in revival product. I like Nikwax water proofing products because they are are water-based, non-flammable, contain no harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are fluorocarbon free. Whichever product you choose to use, follow the instructions given by the manufacturer of your chosen product for best results.
TIP: Clean the detergent dispenser in the washing machine before treating your garment to avoid contamination and get the best results.
Do you have other gear you need maintenance tips for? Let me know in the comments and I'll get to them in a follow up post.