18/12/2012 | by Tom Copsey
TLC For Your Shred Threads
You wouldn’t expect your board to keep on ticking without a service from time to time, so why would it be different for your tech outerwear? Here’s the whys and hows of keeping your jackets and pants up to scratch.
As you’ll no double know, a technical fabric consists of two parts – a waterproof/breathable membrane, and a face fabric coated with a durable water-repellent (DWR) treatment. The membrane allows sweat to transpire through it while preventing water droplets getting through, assisted by the DWR treatment that makes water bead and run off the fabric. The result: when your outerwear’s new you’re kept dry and comfortable.
Over time, though, dirt, oil, and regular wear and tear have a negative effect on the DWR causing the outerwear’s outside to absorb water – known as ‘wetting out’. This messes with your jacket or pants’ performance as breathability is reduced which can lead to your inner layers becoming wet and clammy. You might think it’s ‘lost its waterproofness’ but in fact it’s more accurate to say it’s lost its breathability (the clammy feeling within is from your sweat not making it out rather than water leaking in). Semantics aside, this doesn’t mean you have to trash your threads – a little bit of TLC should breathe new life into your outerwear. How often will depend on how much you use it and in what circumstances – a weekend warrior who sticks to trails will need to wash less often than the devoted park rat pushing their limits on a daily basis. The rule of thumb is if your outerwear’s wetting out it’s time to give it some love.
There are a variety of tech wash products out there that are made to clean and/or re-waterproof tech outerwear – ask at your local outdoor store. You can use a regular detergent but it must be a non-bio, mild, and have no scents or conditioners as they’ll wreak havoc with the DWR; in short to be on the safe side you’re best off using a proper tech wash. If your gear’s dirty and wetting out you should definitely wash it and, if the wetting out persists, re-apply a DWR coating.
First and foremost, check your garment’s washing instructions and adhere to them. Then do up all the zips, poppers and Velcro, whack it in the machine with the tech wash and follow the instructions – generally they say to wash it warm (30-40º) with a good rinse cycle. Now for some shazam shit. If the label says it’s Ok to tumble dry, do it. Why? 30-40 minutes on a medium heat will re-invigorate the DWR and give your jacket’s performance a new lease of life.
If, after doing this, the fabric still wets out, get yourself some spray-on or wash-in re-waterproofing product to give your outerwear another coating of DWR. There are combined cleaning/rewaterproofing liquids to consider, too, but we’ll leave that ease vs effectiveness discussion between you and the store guy.
These are trickier to clean yourself, but not impossible. If in doubt take it to a professional recommended by the manufacturer, but for the DIY-types you can again buy specialist cleaning products – you either spray clean it for cosmetic dirt or hand wash (or machine wash if the label allows) if its been used a bunch to clean the down feathers. If you hand wash, luke warm water and slow, gentle cleaning motion are what you need to remember, and to never scrunch the jacket as this could damage the feathers. Then (again, if the label says Ok), it can be tumble dried slowly – this can take several hours. A handy tip is to throw in a couple of tennis balls to puff up the feathers and prevent them clumping.
Should your outerwear get ripped or punctured, you can either contact the manufacturer to enquire if they have a repairs program (many do for a fee) or drop in to your local snowboard or outdoor sports shop where you should be able to pick up a fabric repair kit – pre-cut adhesive shapes of waterproof/breathable fabric – and follow the instructions. These are not intended to be a permanent solution, though.