Hardshell trousers and jackets offer us daily protection against the elements. They do a lot for you when it comes to staying dry in rough weather. On a trip to the mountains this is already half the battle.
To keep this up our clothing needs a bit of care and maintenance. After each tour we clean our equipment, do the necessary mending and check if we are once again well prepared for our next adventure.
An important part of our equipment is the waterproofing treatment of our hardshell jackets and trousers, as it is what keeps us dry and warm. In any case, you should recondition dry treatments on a regular basis. In this post, we will explain to you when and in what way you should do it.
Waterproof treatments have a dual effect
Depending on the kind of jacket you are wearing, dry treatments have two different effects. For one thing, they ensure that the water drips off the jacket and does not make its way into the fabric.
If we move a lot and start sweating, it is very important that our clothing can transfer the moisture from the inside the jacket to the outside. Manufacturers use different methods to achieve this. What the methods have in common is that they help transfer the vapour through the fabric to the outside, normally through different membranes*.
This, however, is only possible when the fabric is dry. The water would block transfers to the outside and trap the vapour inside the jacket. The consequence: we are protected against the rain that comes from the outside, but get wet from our own sweat, which comes from the inside. Eventually, both of these options lead to the same result.
The dry treatment does not only protect us against the rain. It also helps our clothing to breathe. Therefore, functioning dry treatment of our clothing is of very high importance. Fortunately, you can easily renew or recondition waterproof treatments.
*For the sake of readability we refer to all systems of hardshell jackets as ‘membrane’. This includes coatings.
Why does dry treatment wear off?
Dry treatments are applied to different materials and are then activated. If the dry treatment does not function properly any more, this can mean that you need to reactivate it or that the waterproofing substances have gotten washed out of the outer material.
How do I realize that the effects of the dry treatment are wearing off?
In order to see if the dry treatment is still working properly, you can just add a few drops of water to the jacket and observe what is happening. A sound dry treatment won’t let the outer material of the jacket absorb the water. Instead, small drops will form, which will roll off the jacket or can be shaken off easily. If these pearl-shaped water drops do not form and the jacket takes up the water, it is time to recondition the dry treatment. It’s best to check this in the spots that are the most important ones when you are on the way, namely the shoulder section and outside arms. They are the parts that get affected to the highest extent. In any case, you should check more than one spot.
Flaws in the waterproof treatment do not mean that the jacket is not waterproof anymore. In the case of most jackets it is the membrane that protects you from water – not the dry treatment. The membrane is located below the outer material. You will find more information regarding the issues around waterproof here.
Reconditioning dry treatment
Particularly when your clothing is new, it can be sufficient to reactivate the current dry treatment. To do this, put the jacket at a medium temperature into the tumble-dryer (program for functional clothing) and let it run for about 30 minutes. The temperature will reactivate the dry treatment.
If you don’t have a tumble-dryer, you can just as well use an iron, but do make sure you put a piece of cloth between it and your jacket. Steam should not be used! If you have the choice, go for the tumble-dryer, as it applies the warmth more evenly to the jacket. In any case, you should be careful not to expose the jacket to high temperatures. Particularly membrane jackets can get damaged by heat quite easily. Reading the manufacturer’s recommendations will definitely keep you on the safe side here.
Renewing the waterproof treatment
If it’s time to renew the dry treatment, you can definitely take care of it yourself. First, you need to choose between a dry treatment that gets washed into the fabric in the washer or a spray, which you need to apply to the fabric from the outside.
Manufacturers such as Sympatex, GORE-TEX or Polartec do not seem to have any preferences there.
We recommend the spray-option for the following reasons: there are a large variety of membranes which function in very different ways. For some of them, wash-in waterproof treatment would damage their breathability. The application would actually create a water-repellent layer on the inside. Some jacket systems will not have this problem. The decisive factor is which membrane is combined with which kind of dry treatment (manufacturer). As plenty of combinations are possible, you need to know exactly what kind of membrane can be combined with what kind of dry treatment. There are many traps here and you can easily change your modern and comfortable jacket for the worse.
You can use the spraying option with any kind of membrane. Apart from that, you can easily apply a larger amount of the treatment to the sections that get more affected than others. This means that you will give the best possible treatment to your jacket without any risks.
The first step is to wash the jacket or trousers according to the instructions. The second step is to let the program run once again, but this time add the dry treatment just like you would add fabric softener.
Wash jacket and trousers carefully according to the instructions and then apply the spray. Whether you need to do so when the fabric is wet or dry you will learn from the manufacturer’s instructions. The easiest way to spray the jacket is by spreading it on the floor. If you apply the treatment to a jacket on a hanger, quite a bit of the spray will get lost. Some treatments need to get rubbed into the fabric. In this case, you should read the instructions carefully.
Waterproof treatments based on a fluorine compound might be flammable. So please be careful!
In the case of most brands, the dry treatment needs to be activated after its application (see above). The instructions will tell you if this is necessary,
Looking after the environment so we can all continue to enjoy it is important to us and you. Nowadays there are a number of eco-friendly waterproof treatments for rainwear, such as the products by Fibertec or Nikwax. Toko also offers an eco-product line.