Care instructions for softshells

Table of contents

People with different jackets sitting in a row.
How do you wash which one?

By now, softshell textiles have already found their firm spot in almost every outdoor wardrobe. No matter if you’re on the bike, skiing or climbing in the mountains – due to their great and wide ranging properties, it would be hard to imagine outdoor trips without them.
Comfortable and stretchy, they allow for great freedom of movement and are moreover for the most part almost entirely windproof and water repellent. But here we are at the big distinction from hardshell clothing, which are always fully waterproof.

What is softshell

Green arc'teryx softshell jacket.
Washing softshell correctly

Softshell is more of a generic term than an exact definition of material. There are diverse softshell materials, which sometimes have a windproof membrane, such as Gore Windstopper.

Generally, softshell textiles are made from synthetic fibers, which deliverexcellent transfer of moisture vapour whilst delivering good isolation and protection from wind. Like this they combine the outer and middle layer, which causes the advantage of having less weight.

Usually, softshell material is constructed with three layers.

On the outside, there is usually a water repellent material, which consists of a abrasion-proof and robust outer fabric, which absorbs as little humidity as possible and has been given a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment.

The soft material on the inside causes a pleasant wearing sensation and quickly carries humidity, like sweat, away from the skin. The intermediate layer in the middle is the one that causes the special properties and the fitting intended purpose of a softshell textile: either, the focus is on it being windproof, on the breathability or on it being as water repellent as possible.

Furthermore, the different thickness of material means that some textiles better isolate against the cold than others, which are therefore better suited for warm days. There are, for example, softshell jackets, which are almost windproof in the front and side areas to provide ideal protection from getting cold. In the back area, where one often carries a backpack, the wind protection is forgone in favour of a breathable material. A perfect combination for high energy trips when you’ll always be on the go.

How and when do I wash softshell

Softshell proofed liquid detergent by Nikwax
Softshell proofed liquid detergent by Nikwax

For softshell textiles, there are basically no guidelines. With softshell jackets, you can therefore follow your own washing habits. Although: the more often the jacket or trousers are washed, the sooner/more often the DWR treatment has to be renewed.

Simple stains, like dried mud, can be cleaned fast and easily with a soft brush. But if the stains are of a bigger nature, or if the jacket has been worn for a long period of time, you’ll need the washing machine.
But no problem, whether you have trousers, jacket or gloves made from softshell material, there are no differences and everything can be machine washed without worry. If you follow this advice, it will be easy:

  • Before washing, always take a look at the sewn in care instructions
  • All hook-and-loop fasteners and zippers should be closed and the garments turned inside out
  • Preferably use a liquid detergent, like Nikwax Tech Wash for example, since washing powder clogs the pores of the garments and can therefore ruin the breathability
  • Under no circumstance use fabric softener, it destroys any membranes
  • Choose a delicate cycle with a low temperature (30°/40°C)
  • Thoroughly rinse the garments with clean water, choose the “extra rinse” function of the washing machine.
  • If possible avoid spin-dry or select the lowest rpm and for the shortest possible period of time.

Drying and care

To dry garments from softshell material, it is completely sufficient to put them on a line while they are wet and leave them to dry. As soon as the garment is completely dry, the DWR treatment can be easily regenerated. To do this, you put the garments into a tumble-dryer and use a delicate cycle. The warmth will reactivate the DWR treatment. If you don’t have a dryer at hand, you can easily achieve the reactivation with a flat iron. Just use a low heat without steam and carefully go over the material while using a cloth as protection from direct heat.

  • Just let it air dry on a line when damp.
  • After drying, just reactivate the DWR treatment in a tumble-dryer or with a flat iron.

Renewing the DWR treatment

Toko DWR treatment spray for softshell
For easy treatment with a spray

When the dry treatment eventually becomes too weak and can’t be reactivated, it is time for a renewal. Only a good DWR treatment lets softshell clothing become a versatile piece of clothing, which can be used in almost any weather. For this reason, a reliable DWR treatment is essential. The renewal of the DWR treatment can be achieved in two ways. The simplest way is the treatment with a spray that is simply sprayed onto the outer material from the outside. The other option is applying a liquid DWR treatment, which is washed into the clothing according to the respective instructions. We would recommend the spray.

  • Renewing the DWR treatment is possible without any problems.
  • Ideally with a spray: the handling is simple, you can target specific spots or leave them out to achieve a higher breathability

In our article “Correct dry treatment of hardshell jackets”, you can get further information on the topic of DWR and the reactivation of dry treatments.

What else do I have to look out for?

Softshell garments are made from synthetic fibers, which, like all these materials, are very susceptible to heat. When using a cooker or open fire, caution is therefore necessary when wearing clothing made from softshell material.

Apart from this, there is not much to look out for – of course, we naturally recommend you should keep a distance from pointy thorns and sharp rocks, but that’s it. Softshell clothing is extremely versatile and easy to clean und precisely due to that it is very popular all around – be it on tour or on your way to work. And if the advice and care instructions are followed, it will last you a long time and many days of in the hills!

If you have any further questions, our customer service team are happy to help. You can contact our customer service during the week from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

Softshell care in our shop >>

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Alpinetrek-Expert Simon

Alpinetrek-Expert Simon

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  1. I bought my Scandinavian Explorer softshell jacket in Oslo while on holiday. I have just washed it in the machine on a 15 min. cycle. Short slow spin. I am devastated! When I took it out I noticed white clumps of down inside with flat fabric all over. Will it be ok when dry? How do I fix this?
    Please help!

  2. Hi,
    I am just washed my Bergans softshell microlight jacket for second time and apply tokko softshell impregnator for first time.
    I washed, hang to dry and after that apply tokko spray. After drying I noticed some spots with dark colors everywhere. Imediality I washed again but the spots are there. What to do? Thank you for help 🙂

  3. I have reproofed my Jack wolfskin coat with Nix wash and then the waterproofer. But now have a big problem with static whenever I wear it.
    Any help to cure this would be gratefully received.

  4. Hi Andria,

    I am sorry for the late repsonse and to hear the jacket did not come out of the washing machine as hoped for. Please note that a different washing process is required for down products, you can read more about this in the following article: Down clumps together when it gets wet and loses its insulating capacity. Proper drying is key and could help in this case. My advice is to dry the jacket in a dryer with some tennis balls for quite a long time – 3-4 hours. This should help putting the down back in place.

    Hope this helps.

    Best regards,

  5. Hi Valetin,

    I can only guess, because it is very difficult to say without actually seeing the jacket. But I would say that it can be for one of two things, either too much proofer had been used or its as a result of hang drying, rather then tumble drying. It will come out after a wash with normal detergent. You would have to wash the jacket then again in something like ‘Nikwax – tech wash’ and follow up with another reproof (with for instance ‘Nikwax – TX direct’). Dry in a tumble dryer if possible!

    I hope this helps.

    Best regards,

  6. Hi,

    I would recommend, that you wash the jacket again without impregnating it again. This should help with your problem.

    Kind regards,


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