How to Reproof a Waterproof Jacket

There’s nothing quite like a modern waterproof jacket. Today’s shells and insulated waterproof jackets are built to withstand heavy downpours, while allowing sweat and moisture from your skin to evaporate, keeping you dry in the wettest of weather – unlike the old rubber rain slickers, which created an internal sauna. Also unlike rubber, modern waterproof jackets can lose their waterproof properties over time (as well as their wicking properties), so it’s important to properly maintain a waterproof jacket to get the maximum benefit and life out of it. Here’s how.

How to Wash a Waterproof Jacket

Washing your waterproof jacket and maintaining its repellent are key to its performance. Most modern waterproof jackets are treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, which covers the threads of the shell with a membrane that repels water droplets, while leaving holes small enough that only evaporated sweat can escape. Problems with this membrane (and the jacket’s overall water repellency and wicking ability) start when a jacket becomes dirty. Dirt and oil work against the DWR finish and allow water droplets to soak into the outer shell, while blocking the tiny holes that allow evaporated sweat out, causing the garment to lose both its wicking and water repellent properties.

So how do you prevent your waterproof jacket from losing its water repellency? The answer is simple, but may seem counterintuitive for a garment treated with a DWR coating – wash it. Washing DWR treated jackets removes the oil and dirt that can cause your jacket to lose its functional properties. Simply follow the directions on your waterproof jacket’s label and allow the garment to dry properly. Most DWR garments suggest washing in cold water with a gentle detergent and then drying on medium heat, but this can vary so make sure to check the directions.

Once your waterproof jacket has been washed and dried, you should see a renewed water repellency close, if not equal to brand new. Maintaining a waterproof jacket will help give it a long life, but eventually the DWR finish will wear away and you’ll need to reapply a similar finish.

Reproofing a Waterproof Jacket

The first step in reproofing a waterproof jacket is washing it as described above. This will remove any dirt and oil, allowing for the new DWR finish to bond directly to the jacket fibers.

Next, choose the proofing agent that is best for your garment. Some are built for hard shells, others for soft shells, and still others are specifically for insulated garments; for each of those you may have the choice between a spray-on or wash-on agent. A spray-on treatment tends to work best for insulated waterproof jackets, as it does not coat the jacket liner with waterproofing. For hard shell jackets, wash-on waterproofing will generally provide the best application of waterproofing to the fabric inside and out.

Once you’ve decided on a waterproofing agent, simply follow the directions and allow your jacket to dry; you’ll find its water repellency to be like new again and you can continue to maintain it through multiple wash cycles as described above in “How to Wash a Waterproof Jacket.”

A waterproof jacket is a necessary tool in everyone’s closet, whether you’re fishing in the wet weather of coastal Washington, or hailing a taxi in New York City. Properly maintaining a waterproof jacket and reapplying waterproofing when necessary can maximize the life of your garment with very little effort. Follow these simple steps and your favorite waterproof jacket will be with you for the long haul.

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