Your old coat might still have life left in it – find out how to reproof a waterproof or down jacket in our full reproofing guide.
How to reproof a waterproof or down jacket
It doesn’t matter how high-quality your jacket is, eventually, the waterproofing will wear off. That isn’t to say your jacket is no longer usable or that it’s a poor product, this is simply a normal response to repeated use of waterproof material.
To understand why you need to reproof a waterproof or down jacket, we should first look at how they work. Few materials used in outdoor apparel are intrinsically waterproof. Instead, they are impregnated/layered with a membrane or coated with a special substance to give them that waterproof sheen.
For example, most waterproof jackets are treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) layering. This is a hydrophobic material that repels water and causes it to bead up upon contact rather than absorbing into the jacket making it damp, cold, and heavy. Some brands, such as GoreTex, have patented their waterproofing technology but all the products work similarly.
It’s this waterproof layer that loses its efficacy, not the jacket. So you may have a perfectly good jacket that essentially requires a little TLC to bring it back to top working condition again. But how do you reproof a waterproof or down jacket to keep on keeping dry on the wettest of days?
How to reproof a waterproof jacket
The most common type of coat that will need to be reproofed is the traditional waterproof jacket or raincoat. These are the go-to garment when it’s raining cats and dogs and can take a beating in bad weather – that’s why it’s so important to take proper care of them.
When is it time to reproof a waterproof or down jacket?
The first step to waterproofing any jacket is to know when it’s time to give the clothing a fresh coat of waterproofing solution. The easiest way to tell when it’s time for jacket maintenance is when water stops beading up on the jacket surface and starts penetrating through the material.
This can occur if the jacket gets dirty or if it has been exposed to lots of intense rain over a long period (see: an English summer). Areas with seams (around the hood, shoulders, and cuffs) will likely be the first sections of the jacket to lose their waterproofing.
1. Clean the washing machine
Before you start the reproofing process, you need to decide how you’re going to wash your jacket.
Waterproof coats are commonly washed in either a sink or bathtub but this is typically unnecessary. Most jackets are fine to wash in a standard washing machine although a front loader is preferred thanks to its gentle spin (a top loader can cause the jacket to snag).
Run a quick cycle of water through the machine. Then take out the detergent tray and give it a good clean. This helps to remove any bleach or chemicals from the washing machine that can damage your jacket.
2. Prepare your jacket
Now it’s time to prepare your jacket for the cleaning and reproofing process. Start by carefully reading the instructions on the label inside of your jacket. Some waterproof jackets may advise avoiding machine washing or tumble drying.
If the jacket shows up any extra muddy spots, give them a quick sponge clean with warm water. Next, zip up your jacket and ensure the exterior of the jacket is facing outwards (in other words, don’t turn it inside out, just place it in the machine normally).
3. Clean your jacket
To reproof a waterproof or down jacket effectively, you should wash it first to clean the material from sweat, mud, sun cream, insect repellent, etc. This helps to remove foreign substances that may be preventing the DWR from functioning at maximum efficiency. Before you start the wash cycle, have a quick read of the label on your jacket.
Generally, it’s advisable to wash at a low temperature (30-40 degrees) and on a slow but long spin cycle. Set the time then add the detergent. You must buy specialist waterproofing detergent – not your everyday laundry cleaner. The Grangers Performance Wash and the Nikwax Tech Wash are both recommended.
Don’t forget to read the instructions on the label to add the correct amount of detergent.
4. Rewash using the reproofing product
This next step depends on the product you have chosen. For example, Nikwax offers a detergent and reproofing lotion as two different products whereas Grangers offers a handy 2-in-1 Clothing Wash that cleans and reproofs at the same time.
Simply add the reproofing liquid to the machine after the jacket has been cleaned and set it on the same cycle again. Alternatively, after you’ve washed the jacket, you can remove it from the machine and apply a reproofing spray such as the Grangers Performance Repel Plus.
5. Hang to dry or treat as required
Due to the low cycle speed, waterproof jackets will be very wet. Gently squeeze out any excess water in the drum. After doing this, remove the jacket and hang it to dry outside. You can then move it indoors to dry overnight if required.
Some reproofing materials require heat to activate the DWR layering (it will say on the product label if this is the case). You may need to tumble dry on low heat or iron the jacket through a tea towel to activate the waterproofing.
The best waterproofing spray for waterproof jackets
Waterproof sprays are a good alternative method of reproofing that are both amazingly easy to use and surprisingly effective.
However, even the best spray can struggle to offer complete protection. Zips, straps, and labels may also require waterproofing and it is much harder to penetrate these materials when using a spray over a washing solution. We would typically only recommend using waterproof sprays as either a temporary solution to a full waterproofing washing cycle or to be used for partial sprays.
If you are looking for the best reproofing sprays on the market, check out the Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On. It is a fast way of reproofing your jacket with a new waterproof and breathable layer. No heat activation is required. Alternatively, there’s the Grangers Performance Repel Plus which provides a durable coating on numerous fabrics including GoreTex.
To get the most comprehensive product, purchase the Grangers Clothing Care Kit. This package contains a performance wash which helps clean your jacket and a clothing repel spray which tops up the waterproofing. As an extra bonus, it contains an active wash for deep cleaning. This is the ideal set that contains everything you need to reproof a waterproof or down jacket.
How to reproof a down jacket
Down jackets are notoriously tricky to wash, all thanks to the traditional down fill made from natural goose feathers. This down is rated by its loft, which provides insulation and warmth.
Down jackets are great for keeping you warm in the dry, but the products have an Achilles heel in the wet. When down gets wet, the loft is ruined and the jacket ceases to be warm. To avoid any issues, here’s how to do it properly.
1. Clean the washing machine
It’s important to go through the same process of cleaning out the washing machine before attempting to reproof your down jacket. As usual, begin the process with a short, ten-minute rinse cycle then wash out the detergent tray before you start cleaning.
2. Prepare your jacket
Don’t skip this step as your down jacket should always be cleaned before attempting any reproofing. Go through a spot check of the jacket and dab-clean any particularly dirty areas.
Place the jacket loosely inside the washing machine with the zips done up and the exterior facing outwards – exactly the same as a normal waterproof jacket.
3. Wash your jacket
Again, make sure you read the label on your down jacket before attempting any cleaning. Further information will be provided that ensures your jacket avoids any damage.
These products are specially designed to maintain both the down loft and insulation. Turn your washing machine on to a low temperature (30 degrees) and give the down jacket a medium-length cycle with a slow spin.
4. Apply reproofing
You now have two options. You can either remove your jacket and apply a spray-on DWR (see Nikwax TX Direct), or you can wash it in a reproofing detergent.
Spraying the jacket is faster and is less stressful on the down but a second cycle does offer complete coverage throughout the jacket. The Grangers Down Care Kit is a brilliant solution as it cleans and reproofs your jacket in a single wash.
5. Dry your jacket
Most down reproofing products require heat to activate them. The down should also be dried thoroughly to ensure it regains its loft. This step is the most important for reproofing a down jacket and it is the biggest difference from washing a standard waterproof jacket.
Place the jacket in a tumble dryer. Clear the lint tray before you begin and – if your dryer has one – empty the water build-up tank. Place either new tennis balls or specialist drying balls (such as the ones included with the Grangers Down Care Kit) into the machine with the jacket. These balls work to restore the loft in a quality down jacket.
Heat the jacket on a low heat setting on a long cycle. Stop the cycle occasionally to check on the jacket and remove it when the drying process has neared completion. Finally, hang the jacket indoors in a dry place to remove the last of the moisture.
FAQ: How to reproof a waterproof or down jacket
TLDR? Here’s our quick guide to washing your waterproof jacket, featuring all the basics you need to know.
You need to reproof a waterproof or down jacket whenever water stops beading on the surface. This may be once a year, seasonally, or as required.
A down jacket should be cleaned less frequently, not more than once a year. If you wear an outer waterproof shell jacket, this can be reproofed instead on a more regular basis.
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