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The waterproofing secret other retailers won't tell you

The waterproofing secret other retailers won't tell you

You may have come across iconic manufacturers of quality jeans, Hiut Denim? They famously promote sustainability among their customers by advising them NOT to washing them.

But when it comes to waterproof layers, the secret to longevity turns out to be washing. Not every week of course, but once the beading effect becomes less effective and your jacket works more like a sponge, a wash may be just the thing needed. Chances are, dirt particles are lodged in the fibres, wicking water through your defences. If that doesn't cure it, a proper wash followed by a reproofing will almost certainly do the job.

But hold fire on the Persil! You need to do this properly to ensure it's effective.

We caught up with Yorkshireman, skydiver, outdoor industry expert, sustainability guru, and lecturer in performance sportswear design at Falmouth Uni, Charles Ross, to learn how to get this right.

Charles has, somewhat incredibly, been backing Gather Outdoors since Day 1. In fact, there would be no Gather without his sage advice and gentle encouragement in our pre-pre start-up days. We asked him once why he was such a keen backer of such a tiny business, given a lifetime of working with the biggest beasts in the industry. His answer made us glow with pride:

"The rest of the industry is fighting it out in a race to the bottom. You guys are racing for the top."
So here's the thing: your washing machine won't do a proper job unless you give it some love. One of the primary rules of longevity is to service and maintain your kit, be that climbing gear or cars. Turns out washing machines are just the same. Who knew?!
If you read the manual it will advise doing a 'service wash' something like every 50 washes, to clean the machine. One of the reasons for the failure of the Government's 'Wash at 30, unless its really dirty' campaign, was that people were trying to use machines clogged up with detergent gunk. That's the technical term for the stuff you find when you put your finger into the rubber ring of your door.
So before you wash jackets with a water repellent finish, apply a service wash to your machine first. This means a proper cleaning of the detergent draw (where most of the resident dried-on detergent is) and an as-hot-as-possible wash cycle. Preferably with nothing in the drum; Use a cup of white wine vinegar, or Sodium Carbonate crystals (aka Soda crystals).
Next, wash your jacket at the manufactures' recommended temperature (normally 40 deg), ideally with soap, not detergent, then rinse it a second time. One of the differences between the soap and detergents is that detergents leave a water absorbing finish on the garment to aid rinsing; perhaps the worse thing to coat a water resistant finish!
However if the garment is badly stained (oil deposit from grass/suntan oil/sweat) then a detergent wash works better; you need to follow this up with a pure soap wash.
A common problem is that most people throw their garment into a non-cleaned machine & put a reproofing solution in to get the beading effect back, even without cleaning it first. In the majority of cases just washing the garment in pure soap (with extra rinses) restores beading. But if not, reproofing should make those beads pop once again. Whenever possible (even though the care advice might say that the reproofing will air cure) put the garment into a tumble dryer & the durability of the beading effect will be enhanced many fold. So no need for this...
Sustainability savvy readers will probably be jiggling about with concerns about the microfibres released into the ecosystem by washing synthetic fabrics. The dense weave on waterproof layers does cut this down over many synthetics, and lets face it, you're washing it once a year tops, but if you're concerned we have a suggestion: The Guppy Friend washing bag stops micro waste, and was created, crowdfunded and spun out as a separate company by the good folk from Langbrett. In time we hope to have these in store, but for now you can buy direct.
The final point, as Charles is always at pains to point out, is that the best way to be sustainable is to buy things you love, and keep them in a condition that ensures you carry on loving them. Which is why we take pride in stocking a superb range of jackets from the masters of sustainable production Finisterre. We're here for you whether you need a new item or not, because that's how we roll.

Picture Credits in order:


Hiut Denim

Flickr Timlewisnm

Flickr Phil Long

Flickr NeilWilliamson

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