Bead Up, Don’t Wet Out: How to Wash Your Waterproof Jacket

Look at the surface of your waterproof jacket next time you’re out in the rain. Does the exterior soak up water like a towel? This phenomenon is called “wetting out.”  Wetting out is an indication that your performance jacket isn’t working to its full potential. The solution to this is remarkably simple: Clean your jacket.


Waterproof, breathable jackets have been one of the key outdoor gear developments of the last 40 years. For outdoor enthusiasts, these jackets make being active in inclement weather a comfortable proposition. However, over time their performance can be hindered. Dirt, oil from your skin and sunscreen, and other contaminants will cause water to soak into the outer fabric, hindering breathability and preventing the technology (such as Gore-Tex®) from working as it should.

The key to keeping waterproof, breathable products working properly is to keep them clean with an appropriate technical cleaner like Nikwax Tech Wash®. Household detergents leave behind a residue that attracts water to the surface fabric, which can cause wetting out. By cleaning with the right cleaner, the water-attracting contaminants are removed.

Many people are intimidated to wash their expensive technical jackets. Don’t be. Let’s walk through two signs that you need to wash yours—and how to do it.

The signs:

  1. Wetting out: When water soaks into and spreads across the surface of the fabric, it prevents the breathable layer from working. This is a sign that the durable water repellent (DWR) surface treatment has been compromised. This is when a good cleaning—and possibly re-waterproofing—can improve your experience.
  2. Visible dirt and stains: Outdoor life is messy, which is often part of the fun. Luckily if your rain shell gets muddy in camp or doused with your morning mochaccino, you can clean it to remove the crud.

To Clean: Read the care instructions on your garment and those on the Nikwax Tech Wash package. Top-loading and front-loading washers use different quantities of water, so dosage will depend on the type of washer.

Follow these easy steps:

  1. Wash: To start, clean any residual detergent from your washing machine soap dispenser. Read garment care instructions and the Nikwax label for dosage. Close zippers and hook-and-loop Wash and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Waterproof: If after a wash cycle your jacket is still wetting out, you may need to re-waterproof the garment. Start a new cycle with Nikwax TX.Direct® Wash-In. Read the Nikwax label for dosage. Cycle and rinse thoroughly.
  3. Dry: Review the manufacturer’s instructions for care of your garment. Nikwax does not need heat to activate, so using a dryer is optional.
  4. Get back outside.


Nikwax wash solutions are effective on either warm or cold wash settings, whether garments are hung up to dry or tumbled dry on low (refer to care instructions). And, users can rest easy. Because of the company’s strong environmental philosophy, Nikwax does not use PFC chemicals in any of its products.

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