There comes the time when your first waterproof jacket, on which you have probably spent a fortune on, starts to be less reliable. If this happens, the waterproofing part starts to sound more and more like wishful thinking. But fear no longer – learning how to reproof a waterproof jacket might be the thing you need!
If you own an older waterproofed jacket, you probably already noticed this happening on your latest hike. However, by reproofing the waterproof layer on your jacket, you could easily extend the life of your jacket and add years of use to it, saving both money and time.
In this how-to article, we will show you what we consider the best ways on treating your jacket. We will also give you some tips on how not to completely destroy it by doing so because there is little reason to reproof when you have a gaping hole in your jacket. First, we are going to take a quick look at how you should clean and maintain the jacket, and only then will we showcase the two most popular reproofing methods: spraying or wash-in proofing.
Clean It Really Good
The first step for doing pretty much anything consists of cleaning it first. This is even more so true when it comes to reproofing a jacket. If you do not have a clean one when you start the hard part, you simply should not even start to begin with, as the new waterproofing will probably fail.
So let’s take a look at how you should do a quick clean and wash cycle before the actual reproofing can start and you can have something that resembles your original product.
Prepare for the Dirty Work
First things first, empty every pocket of the jacket and do not leave anything, not even a small piece of paper in them. As soon as the pockets are empty, pull up the zippers and if possible put the end of them in the pockets.
It’s a bit tricky to close them this way but not impossible and if the material is not too thick you should be done with this in no time. Many people tend to leave their pockets open so they can clean the interiors as well. This is a really easy way to ensure that the fabric will either get torn apart or the zippers get ripped off.
If they are really dirty, later on, you can clean the inside of the pockets with some damp cloth, and if there are some tougher smudges on it, with a piece of cloth dampened in alcohol.
Generic Waterproof Brand
When it comes to generic waterproof fabric, the cleaning process is fairly straightforward. Most people (this includes us) would recommend using mostly liquid and not powdered ones. There are special brands as well out there, but they are usually a bit more expensive and the results are often nowhere near as good to warrant the price difference.
In most cases generic ones will do the trick, but if you already know and trust a certain brand and you are satisfied with the results you have with it, feel free to use that one.
Try to use water in the 105 Fahrenheit degree range. This seems to be the degree where the waterproofed materials seem to react the best way. Remember, this is not a generic jeans, this is a material that has some special waterproofing membrane and if you use warmer water this could destroy this membrane for good.
Also, try to take into consideration all the advice that the manufacturer provided on how to wash the jacket. If you are done with this, put the jacket out to dry. If possible leave it out in the sun, as that is the best way to dry most materials.
The Almighty Gore-Tex
If you happen to have a jacket made out of Gore-Tex, then congratulations. Why? Because this is arguably one of the best waterproof material that money can buy. Hence the higher than usual price tag. Reproofing this kind of jacket might make even more sense from a financial point of view.
The company prides itself on the quality of the fabric, but also on how easy it is to maintain. Because of this, they do have some recommendations on how to properly clean the material itself. Do take these recommendations into consideration because these are the ones that guarantee that your warranty is not void.
Skip the Hot Water
As with the generic one, never use water that is warmer than 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Always use liquid detergent and this detergent should by no means include fabric softener or stain remover. If possible clean the detergent dispenser as well, just to be certain that you won’t degrade the fabric.
Be Careful with the Machine
Try and wash it with no other chemicals if this is possible. If you need more quantity, add clothes that are not very dirty. If they are, they might harm the waterproofing on the jacket. Once done, rinse it twice with the lowest level of spinning. The lower the RPM setting is, the better for the fabric. This way you will usually get a less creasy jacket, one that does not need any ironing afterward.
For drying, use tumble drying that is set on warm and gentle cycles. It doesn’t matter if it takes some extra time, the results will be far better. To reactivate the outer waterproof coating, leave it on tumble-dry for at least fifteen minutes but if possible even half an hour.
All of these extra steps will result not only in a good cleaning session but in the long run it will help the Gore-Tex article have a longer than usual lifespan. Remember that with a little bit of extra patience you might actually double the functional lifespan of a waterproofed jacket.
Waterproofing in a Nutshell
So now you have a clean as a whistle jacket, but the problem is that the waterproofing is still only there just in theory, and you still won’t be able to use it outdoors. How should you proceed going forward?
Regardless of the brands that are out there, we usually talk about two major ways to reproof a jacket. We will show you both of them as generically as possible, as most of the brands that you can find on the market today can be used to reproof in the same way.
A solution in a Spray
Buying a spray-based solution is arguably the most popular option. This is a cheap and high-quality option and you can choose from several dozen well-known brands. They all pretend to have some extra benefit, but in all honesty, most work the same way and we haven’t noticed massive differences between them.
Here are some steps to help you out.
- After you have properly cleaned the jacket, hang it out somewhere where the material is as even as possible. Hanging it out on a chair (preferably one that you do not plan to use on your wedding day) or putting it on a washing line, either method will do just fine. You can also ask someone to hold it if you have a spare mask for him.
- As soon as the jacket is in the right place slowly start to apply the product, by keeping the spray head at six to eight inches’ distance. If you are not sure of what the result might be, you can also try to first use it on a less visible part of the jacket, just to be absolutely sure it won’t ruin the whole thing.
- Do it as evenly as possible and double, no, triple-check that there is not a single spot that was left untreated, otherwise reproofing it can defeat all purposes. If you are not sure that you have passed a certain part of the material once, do it again.
- If you think you have put too much of the waterproofer in one spot, you probably have. It’s not hard to see where the excess lies, as it will stand out from the fabric as an extra thin layer. If you do happen to be in this situation, do not worry, you can easily wipe off the excess chemical.
- The best way to do it is when it is still fresh, thus easily removable. Take a piece of cloth, dampen it in water and gently wipe it off a couple of times. We do recommend treating this part again, as the wet cloth might take off more than you bargained for.
- As soon as the whole jacket is treated with the proofing spray, make sure that you will leave the jacket to dry naturally. Never use a machine for this, and no, not even a hairdryer. By doing so, you might ruin the chemical compound and the waterproofing will be spoiled.
As much as possible, let it dry as naturally as possible. If you cannot do it in sunlight, leave it in the middle of the room, and wait it out. It usually doesn’t take a whole lot of time. Even if you think that it’s done in half an hour we would still recommend waiting at least 24 hours before using it.
In areas that are more prone to usage, like the elbows and shoulders, make sure that you use some extra coating. Do not do this during the first round. Wait for the rest to dry, and use the spray on it again. Yes, this will prolong the process, but this way you will most certainly have a better overall proofing.
The Wash-in Proofing
The second most popular method to re-proof a jacket and certainly one that can give you excellent results. Many people tend not to do it this way as it might not give them enough control of the process, but there is no denying, that this is the fastest possible way you can reproof a waterproof jacket.
- As soon as you are finished with the cleaning, you will have to start up the old washing machine. Put just as much proofer into the detergent compartment, as it is indicated on the label. Remember, not to wash it with other clothes doing this process, as this is specifically made for waterproofed items.
- When starting the machine, make sure that you use a full thirty-minute-long washing and rinsing cycle. Do not set it on either shorter or longer cycles as that might make the solution less reliable.
- If the jacket is of high quality, you can also tumble dry it. If this is something that is not recommended by the manufacturer, as soon as the washing cycle is finished, take out the jacket and let it dry in the old, natural way, and again, if possible, in sunlight.
If you have followed these instructions, you are now (yet again) the proud possessor of a great waterproof jacket, that you can take with you on your next trip.
The Jacket is Simply too Old?
This is one comment that we often hear. People tend to think that some jackets are just too old and they are not fit to be reproofed. They then proceed to throw it away and buy a new one.
This is a very wasteful approach, and you can save both time, by not going to the store and searching for a new jacket, and money by trying to revitalize it. There are some extra steps that you can take if you think that your jacket is simply too old for it to ever become usable again.
- Before cleaning the jacket, try and pre-treat every stain that you find on it. On newer jackets, this is not always needed, as the stains are usually newer and need less effort to get rid of them. But if you have some years old stains on the jacket, you will need to do this.
Old and stubborn stains tend to interfere with the porous nature of the waterproofing, making their main functionality far less reliable or in any way practical. You simply need to get rid of them.
- Once you are done try to wash the jacket with a technical cleaner. Yes, this might be a bit “rough” for the material, but it’s better to be able to use the jacket for one more season than not use it at all, right? As always keep in mind the manufacturer’s recommendations while washing it.
Once you are done with this, simply follow the reproofing steps as you would, for any other ordinary jacket. The biggest difference in reproofing an older jacket pretty much equals the fact that you will have to do a more thorough cleaning process. There isn’t really much more that you can try.
Water Me No More!
And with this, we pretty much managed to describe how we like to do waterproofing around here. There are plenty of tricks to it, as the process involves some preparation and for best results a mindset that you will have to take with you during every hike.
But for now, you know exactly how to do this necessary procedure both with the spray and the wash-in method. Which is the one you will use depends completely on you. Never forget, that you only get good at something if you manage to do it as often as possible.
But of course, these are tips that we to have learned from other people at one point. Most of them came from family members and friends, who have shown their most cherished reproofing techniques. So if you feel that we have left something out, or you would have some valuable tips and tricks, please do share them with us in the comment section below.