How To Wash Waterproof Clothing
It’s a grotty wet day; you’ve just picked your little one up from Forest School they have a great big grin on their face. They’ve had the “best day ever Mummy” running around in the woods with their friends and now they are happy, tired and caked head to toe in mud. You peel them out of their clothes and ask yourself “how am I going to wash these waterproofs?”
Regardless of the type of waterproofs you are washing, there are a couple of general rules:
- Don’t wash them too often. If you chuck a waterproof jacket in the wash every other week even if you follow all the care instructions on the label you’ll wear the waterproofing out.
- Never use fabric conditioner
There are basically two different types of waterproof jackets and trousers; we’ve called them PU waterproofs and technical waterproofs. At Little Adventure Shop we specialize in kids’ waterproofs however the advice below can apply to both adults and childrens’ clothing.
A technical waterproof is a breathable waterproof jacket or trousers, usually lightweight and often described as a shell. It typically has three elements that make it waterproof:
- The fabric has a waterproof membrane on the back (imagine it’s like a waterproof breathable wallpaper applied to the inside of the jacket).
- The seams of the jacket will be sealed, usually by a tape applied to the inside of the jacket. With cheap waterproof jackets, this is often the first point of failure as the tape will peel off.
- The outside of the jacket will be treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellency). This is the bit that makes the water bead on the outside of the jacket.
When you wash technical waterproofs you need to be careful to use the correct washing product. Definitely no fabric conditioner and no bio powders (even clean out the washing machine detergent tray before you start).
You want to wash in pure soap, several companies have their own specific washes (Grangers, Nikwax etc.), it’s always best to follow the manufactures instructions. Don’t go mad for washing, only wash the garment when you really need to.
The process of repeated washing will reduce the DWR so the water will stop beading on the surface of the jacket. To reinstate this you can buy wash in products that will reproof the outer fabric. Again, check the label, but often tumble drying the fabric or ironing it on a low setting will enhance the reproofing too.
The type of waterproofs often recommended for young children are PU (polyurethane) waterproofs. For example, Didriksons kids’ waterproofs are really popular with Forest Schools and they are made from Galon, which is a top quality PU waterproof fabric.
This fabric is thicker than “technical waterproofs” and has a slightly rubbery feel, the good news it’s fairly low maintenance to look after! PU fabric is 100% waterproof, there is no membrane or DWR required and the seams are often welded so there is no tape to worry about.
To get the mud off PU waterproofs just wipe them down with a cloth or hose down and leave to dry naturally. If you do want to wash them, follow the instructions, usually a 40-degree gentle synthetics wash with a normal colour washing powder or liquid but remember no fabric conditioner and no tumble drying or direct heat (hanging over a radiator).
In a nutshell, here’s what you need to remember to wash waterproof clothing:
- Only wash waterproofs when you need to, not as a routine.
- PU waterproofs: normal gentle synthetic wash – no fabric conditioner - no tumble drying or direct heat.
- Technical waterproofs: not a normal wash (follow care instructions) – no fabric conditioner – tumble drying can help.