Water Repellents: The Current Story (rev. 2016)

Recommended procedures have changed several times over the years. For Aerostich suit refurbishing services (#255), we start by removing the TF impact armor and the contents of all pockets. Then we close vent zippers and machine wash using the regular cycle, and a "warm" water setting and the washing machine's standard measured amount of a mild, scent-free liquid detergent. Then, before adding a wash-in repellant we run the complete wash/rinse cycle a second time with no soap. Some machines provide a setting: 'warm/cold, double rinse' which works well. The extra water-only rinse insures that all residual soap has been removed.

Next we apply a wash-in DWR product following the manufacturer's directions. DWR = Durable Water Repellant. We use Nikwax brand unless otherwise specified. All washes are warm/cold, not hot/cold. Lastly we dry the garment in a clothes dryer set on medium temperature.

A few outdoor gear companies still recommend only the use of spray-on water repellents for renewing the DWR repellent finish for all breathable/waterproof fabric garments. They have concerns about some wash-in repellents interfering with the overall breathability of the garment. We have not experienced this with the wash-in repellants we use, and which are applied according to the manufacturers directions.

Wash-in water repellents were first invented around twenty years ago. During the first fifteen years of our business we recommended only spray-on treatments. After wash-in repellants were introduced we were slow to recommend them. After a few years of good in-use reports we started recommending wash-in DWR treatments for two reasons: (1) They are far easier to use, and (2) the wash-in method allows the product to fully penetrate all of the smallest hidden areas of the garment. Applying a spray-on repellent so it really gets into and all the little places...is a lot of work.

The mis-use of some types of cleaning and washing products can damage seam-taped and glued-on components. These aggressive cleaning products weaken adhesives used to secure seam-tape and hook-and-loop so it pulls loose or tears out. Using too much of any cleaning or laundering product, or the formulation of the product itself, may be damaging. Avoid and do not use any 'specially formulated, non-detergent' soaps.

After cleaning and using a wash-in DWR repellant, hang dry or machine dry the garment at a medium temperature. Tumble drying in a medium or warm dryer setting for about 20 minutes helps reactivate the original DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment and stabilizes all wash-in repellants. Do not use any type of anti-static product when drying.

Lastly, reinsert the TF armor. Elbows are easier if the underarm zip vents are open. Also note that Velcro® fasteners will pick up lint if you wash suit with towels. Stains may be spot-treated in small areas using any consumer-formulated spray on stain removal product. Citrus based cleaners work well for cleaning oil stains. Test in an inconspicuous area first.

Do not dry clean unless the dry cleaner business uses the 'CO2 process' technology, which is also known as 'Green Dry Cleaning'. This newer process does not harm Gore Tex or seam sealing, but it does remove all DWR treatments. This environmentally safe technology is fairly recent and is not available everywhere, so ask. Most neighborhood dry cleaners are drop-off locations only and send items to be cleaned to a central processing facility somewhere else, so sometimes you'll need to make a telephone inquiry to that facility. Counter workers at many dry cleaning businesses don't know what process is being used.