When I first started wearing Gore-Tex and other waterproof/breathable garments I was amazed at how well they worked. I could see the water bead up on the surface and run right off. This technology awesome! As time passed though I noticed that water no longer beaded up in the high wear areas (elbow and forearm areas, the shoulder area under pack straps). Eventually water didn’t bead up anywhere. I was afraid of washing my jacket for fear of damaging the waterproof membrane that made my jacket so awesome.

Well, fear not. I couldn’t have been more wrong! But there are a few things critical to laundering your waterproof jacket correctly.

  1. Use soap, not detergent! Detergent gets our clothes cleaner by using a wetting agent to get a deeper clean. That wetting agent leaves a residue which is specifically designed to attract water. You don’t really want to treat your waterproof garments with something designed to attract water do you? Gear Aid makes cleaners designed specifically to clean Gore-Tex and the like as do many other companies. We’ve found Gear Aid to be highly effective, cost roughly the same, but be more concentrated than the rest.
  2. Make sure to re-apply the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish! This step is critical in order to maintain the breathable aspect of your jacket. As noted above watching the water bead up and run off was awesome. What I didn’t know at the time was that water beading up had nothing to do with the Gore-Tex and everything to do with the DWR. Without a correctly working DWR your jacket is still waterproof but no longer breathable. You will notice almost instantly the next time it rains how much you perspire because it will end up as condensation on the inside of your jacket.

I had a similar reaction of amazement the first time I wore down. How could something this light be this warm? Trapped air insulates really well! And down is great at trapping air. Over time as the feathers get dirty they start to lose their loft and correspondingly their ability to trap air. The same goes if the feathers get wet but on a much faster scale.

Again, fear not, but you want to launder your down correctly.

  1. Use a soap specifically designed to clean down. Gear Aid makes a great one of these as well. It’s strong enough to wash the dirt away yet mild enough to not strip the natural oils away from the feathers.
  2. Wash your garment/sleeping bag either in the sink or bathtub by hand or better yet in a front- loading washing machine. The key to using a washing machine is to use one without a center agitator. The agitator will tear the baffles of your garment loose!
  3. When you dry your garment do so on low heat and use a few tennis balls. The tennis balls will break up down clumps and help the down re-loft.