Athletic pursuits in all weathers – from cycling and running to hiking, sailing and more – require specialist clothing that can stand up to the rigours of rain and wind, keeping you warm and dry while at the same time allowing moisture to escape from the inside (breathability).
If you want to stay dry in all weathers, you need modern technical outerwear with a water-repellant treatment which will keep out all moisture and still allow the garment retain its ability to breathe. However with time and use this coating will degrade and require replacement.
Read on to find out more about how to clean and care for your technical sports fabrics and how to restore the water-repellant properties of textiles to have them again working like new.
In recent decades synthetic technical jackets, gilets and jerseys etc. have evolved to become highly specialized garments which protect the wearer from the external elements but also work to regulate heat and moisture generated during exertion. This is in large part down to the development of breathable microporous membrane fabrics such as Gore-Tex and eVENT etc. – that stop rainwater from getting in but allow moisture vapour to escape – and has led to a new generation of light and versatile outerwear that is a far remove from the stiff and sweaty waterproofs of old.
Such fabrics are measured in terms of their waterproof rating (the amount of rain the fabric can handle in 24 hours before it soaks through) and their water vapour transmission rate (the breathability of the fabric in mm per 24hrs).
Most water-resistant outerwear – from light showerproof gilets to fully waterproof jackets and trousers – are treated with a coating called a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) which will keep out all moisture. The DWR consists of a chemical solution which is hydrophobic, meaning it is actually repels water and prevents the outer layer of the fabric from becoming saturated (a process known as ‘wetting out’). This will enable moisture from outside to get in, as well as affecting breathability and so allowing buildup of internal moisture
However the DWR will wear off over time, reducing the garment’s water-repellant properties and shortening the time in which it wets out. This means that you will need to use special non-soap detergents to wash such clothing, so maintaining the original DWR as long as possible, and very so often re-apply a chemical solution that restores the DWR (when you notice the garment wetting out, or according to the manufacturer’s guidelines).
These are available in two formats – wash-in solutions that are added to the wash, and spray-on solutions that, as the name suggests, are simply sprayed onto the garment.
• Wash-in: This is a non-detergent soap which can be used regularly to clean waterproof clothing and equipment without damaging the DWR coating. Use this product instead of detergents or washing powder when you are washing waterproof clothes, in order to prolong their life and maintain the original water repellency.
• Spray-on: Spray-on solutions restore the garment’s DWR, reviving breathability and water repellency. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use and combine with wash-in products for subsequent cleaning in order to prolong the DWR life.