How to wash a waterproof jacket

Here’s the best way to wash your waterproof jacket ready for its next adventure.

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drying a waterproof jacket

Mild temperatures and rainy UK days make waterproof jackets a hiker-essential. These are often your main defence against wet weather and need to be in tip-top condition to keep you dry out on the trail.

But how do you wash something that’s designed to be water repellent? 

Waterproof materials in hiker essentials are more specialised than the standard synthetic or cotton fibres used in outdoor apparel. They need to be treated carefully to ensure they are cleaned properly and not damaged in the process. 

This Adventure Pending guide will take you through the best ways to wash your waterproof jacket. We’ll also explain how to dry and reproof your coat over time.

Editor’s notes

Unfortunately, waterproof layers lose their repellent nature over time. A jacket may also become dirty and worn out from heavy outdoor usage. In both cases, it’s a good idea to clean your gear to keep it looking great and functioning as efficiently as possible.

Tips for cleaning your waterproof jacket

Before you start cleaning your waterproof jacket, take a moment to examine it. Look for any labels and read the instructions – often these will hold information about the cleaning process. 

This is particularly valuable as it will be tailored to your specific item – you’re likely to find details about washing temperatures and whether to use/avoid certain detergents.

walking with waterproof coat

In most cases, you should avoid washing a waterproof jacket at high heat. Spot cleaning may be sufficient if you have patches of mud or dirt on your jacket, but this can deteriorate the waterproof coating in a localised area.

If you do notice dirt or markings on your jacket, try to clean it as soon as possible. These foreign objects disrupt the waterproof layer and cause moisture to seep through, which is why it’s important to stay on top of jacket maintenance. To sustain the waterproof layer on your coat, we recommend washing and reproofing it.

How to wash a waterproof jacket

Washing a waterproof jacket is similar to washing a sleeping bag or other outdoors garments. You can take your jacket to a dry cleaner if you’re nervous about washing it yourself, but there’s nothing to be scared of. In fact, it’s a good habit to form and learning how to wash your own jacket will save you time and money. 

How to wash a sleeping bag

Here’s how to wash your waterproof jacket:

  • Empty your pockets. There’s nothing worse than a tissue coating all your clothes in small fragments, or a phone getting destroyed by being left in a pocket. Make sure you double-check to avoid this issue!
  • Zip up the jacket and fasten any loose straps to stop them from getting tangled or breaking in the wash.
  • Brush off any obvious areas that are dirty – ie mud and other grime.
  • Place your jacket in the washing machine. Ideally, wash your jacket by itself or with other waterproof items. 
  • Add a washing detergent. Most waterproof jackets require specialised detergents – we recommend Grangers Performance Wash or Nikwax Tech Wash. Both these detergents will clean your jacket, maintain its waterproof coating, and ensure it retains breathability. 
  • Wash the jacket on low heat (30-40 degrees) and use a gentle-medium spin to allow it to clean properly. 
  • Re-spin the jacket to drain excess water before removing it from the machine to dry.

Please note: if you use a standard washing detergent, you may damage the waterproof layering on your jacket and block the breathable pores. Don’t add fabric softener or any additional chemicals like bleach.

Reproofing a waterproof coat

Your waterproof jacket has a Durable Waterproof Layer, also known as a DWR. This is the technical surface that allows water to bead up and roll off your coat and prevents water from soaking in. It also allows your jacket to be breathable, which prevents you from getting hot and sweaty in wet weather!

water beading on material

This DWR layer naturally decreases over time which means that after you have washed your jacket, you will need to reproof it. 

After washing your coat, reproof using a spray like NikWax – follow the steps on the back of the bottle to apply an even layer. Alternatively, use Grangers Wash + Repel to reproof your jacket during the cleaning process. 

How to dry a waterproof coat

Washing and reproofing your jacket is only half the job. Depending on the make and material of your waterproof jacket, you may have to follow a specific procedure to ensure it is dried properly. 

Some detergents require heat to re-activate the waterproof layer – in this case, you may need to tumble dry your jacket on low heat as advised. However, it’s best to avoid tumble drying unless specifically stated.

Here’s our guide to quickly drying your waterproofs:

  • Set up a washing line outdoors or in a well-ventilated laundry room. 
  • Hang the waterproof jacket out using clothes pegs to pin the arms wide.
  • Rotate the jacket every 30 minutes to allow it to dry evenly.
  • If you don’t have access to a dryer and you have a waterproof layer that needs to be reactivated, try ironing your jacket on low heat. Make sure to use a clean towel as a barrier and resist the temptation to make the iron too hot. 

Best waterproof spray for jackets

There are a number of great waterproof sprays out there to re-proof your coats. We recommend the Nikwax TX Direct Spray – just wash your waterproof jacket using Nikwax Tech Wash, then spray it with the TX Direct while it’s still damp. This saves you from having to do an extra wash to reapply the DWR.

north face coat

The TX Direct Spray doesn’t require heat activation which makes it easy to dry your coat afterwards. It is also free from damaging chemicals like fluorocarbons, which make it an environmentally-conscious product to purchase.

A similar product is the Fabsil Universal Protector. This spray is marginally cheaper than Nikwax and also protects your garment against UV damage. This spray is less specialised so can also be used on products like tents and walking boots. 

How to clean a waterproof jacket – conclusion

At first, cleaning your waterproof coat may seem overwhelming – but there are only a few additional steps from your usual washes and they’re pretty easy to master.

The first important step is to read the label on your waterproof jacket, then use a specialised detergent on a gentle wash. 

Next, reproof your coat and leave it to dry, adding low heat if required. If you take care to learn and follow these steps, you’ll have your jacket back to full functionality in no time!

Think we’re missing an important step to washing a waterproof jacket? Let us know over on Instagram @adventurepending and we’ll be sure to check it out!

FAQ: How to wash a waterproof jacket?

TLDR? Here’s our quick guide to washing your waterproof jacket, featuring all the basics you need to know. 

Looking for more tips on getting the best out of your waterproof gear? Feel free to reach out! Email ann@adventurepending.com.

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