How to Wash and Re-Waterproof a Rain Jacket

The milder mid-season has arrived and, as usual, it has brought temperamental weather along with it. That's why, at this transitional time of year, the lightweight and breathable waterproof, water-resistant or water-repellent windbreaker jacket really comes into its own, much like all other forms of waterproof gear! But if, in prep for those April showers, you're getting last year's much-loved waterproof jacket out of the cupboard again, you might need to consider re-proofing it before braving the elements. This is because, over time, the weatherproof performance of technical outerwear naturally starts to wane, either due to the presence of oils on the surface of your garment or due to the Durable Water-Repellent (DWR) treatment on its surface eroding. But don't let this be a cause for concern as, by caring for your waterproof clothing properly, you can both limit and reverse this. With our guide to how to re-waterproof and wash your rain jacket, we're here to help you keep your waterproof garments in good nick, so that you're ready for whatever the weather throws at you.

How do you know if your waterproof jacket needs re-proofing?

It's usually quite apparent when your waterproof jacket is starting to lose its water-repellency. You'll spot, little by little, that water beads stop building up on the surface of your garment and that your clothing item stays wet for longer. You may even notice your clothes underneath starting to feel a little damp. Ultimately, you'll be able to tell when your waterproof jacket is not quite as good as it used to be... The seams, cuffs and shoulders of a rain jacket are the spots where reduced water-repellency is most noticeable, often caused by friction from backpack straps and contact with the skin.
Water-repellent fabric
Waterproof material

How do you make a waterproof jacket waterproof again?

Re-proofing waterproof garments and returning them to their original state is actually pretty straightforward. You'll simply need to wash them and reproof them, using a product. And thankfully, there are lots of re-proofers on the market, from wash-in re-proofers to sprays. The former products tend to offer increased, all-over protection, while the latter are best for targeting and reinforcing particular patches of your garment.

Can you put a waterproof jacket in the washing machine?

Wondering how to wash your waterproof jacket? Contrary to popular opinion, it's fine to put your water-repellent and waterproof jackets in the washing machine. This won't impact their waterproofing and may actually enhance its effectiveness, by eliminating any contaminants that interfere with how well it works. The important thing to note, however, is that you should always put your waterproofs on a gentle 30-degree wash and rinse cycle. Avoid placing any normal laundry in the drum of the washing machine alongside your waterproof clothes, as oils that escape from your other clothes can actually make your rain gear dirtier! If running waterproof garments through the machine in order to re-proof them, you'll also want to limit the wash cycle to just a couple of items.
Washing machine
Washing machine

What washing liquid or detergent to wash a waterproof jacket with?

Generic, everyday washing detergents and fabric softeners are best avoided when it comes to washing waterproof clothing, as they can damage the waterproof membrane of your garment and even take off the DWR coating. While powder detergents tend to be okay, the best way to machine-wash your waterproofs is to use a detergent that is specifically designed for waterproof clothing. This is by far the safest option for ensuring your waterproof clothes last a lifetime. Alternatively, and to the same effect, you can use a wash-in reproofing detergent from the very get-go – cleaning and reproofing your garment in one bout.

How to clean and how often should you wash a waterproof jacket?

As we've indicated above, you can simply clean waterproof jackets and other waterproof items by putting them in the washing machine, avoiding the use of traditional laundry detergents. While the above information should be applicable for any waterproof or water-resistant item, be sure to read the specific instructions on each garment's care label. Another few top tips: before placing waterproof gear in the washing machine, make sure the detergent compartment is totally clean so there is no residue from normal detergent. You might even want to run a hot wash with nothing in the machine (or just a towel) to make sure your machine is totally free from detergent and softeners. It's also best practice to make sure you close any zips or hook-and-loop flaps on your garment, loosen any drawstrings and brush off any mud or loose dirt. It's worth noting that, after washing, some waterproof items can be placed in the tumble dryer at a low heat (usually 60°C) on a slow spin, while others are not intended for tumble drying at all. Dependent on the item, tumble drying or drying in a warm space can help reactivate the DWR coating.

When it comes to how frequently you should wash your waterproof items, the answer is surprisingly pretty regularly! Some experts suggest washing your waterproof jacket once a month, but ultimately it all depends on how often you wear your rain gear and in what conditions. As we've already mentioned, a buildup of dirt and oils reduces the efficacy of waterproof and water-repellent items' DWR treatment. So, regular washes will keep your weatherproof clothing clean, enabling the DWR treatment to do its job properly. 
Empty washing machine detergent compartment
Towel in washing machine

Using wash-in re-proofer

Wash-in re-proofer can be applied via a gentle wash, using the cleaning techniques laid out above. In order for them to adhere correctly to the product, a lot of proofers require heat. So, if the clothing care label permits it, either tumble dry your item, use a hairdryer on a low heat, or air dry it in a warm space.

Using a spray re-proofer

Proofing sprays are both easy to apply and great for maintaining your waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers and any other waterproof item on an ad hoc basis. Before application, just make sure you clean and dry your item first, following the steps suggested above. Then, hang up the garment and apply an even and thorough coat of proofer to its exterior, whether all over or just on the problem areas. Wipe off any excess product with a clean damp cloth and then simply leave the garment to dry.
Re-proofing spray
Men's water-repellent jacket
Men's water-repellent parka

Ready to embrace the rain

Armed with the above information, your waterproof jackets and other rainproof gear will be rejuvenated in no time, leaving you equipped to embrace the elements! While it's always important to follow your garment's care label, our reproofing guide gives you all the knowhow you need for waterproofing clothes and topping up your waterproof jacket's protection, so don't hesitate to put our top tips into practice today. Taking these measures will maximise the wear you get out of your favourite hiking, biking and adventure gear, and keeping your garments as good as new for longer is ultimately kinder on your wallet and the planet too. So, get reproofing and get outdoors!

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