How to properly care for and wash your rain jacket

Many people assume that they don’t have to wash or take care of rain jackets because they serve as protective garments.

However, rain jackets have water repellency treatments which can wear off over time due to constant use. And like normal pieces of clothing, you have to take proper care of your rain jacket otherwise it won’t be able to perform effectively in the rain. Its life will also be shortened.

In this article you’ll find a guide on how you should wash and take care of your rain jacket.

How DWR (durable water repellency) works

Your rain jacket is waterproof because of a coating called durable water repellent or DWR which is applied to its fabric. 

Good quality waterproof rain jackets are made from materials which allow water vapor to pass through but don’t allow big water droplets. The tiny pores present in your jacket prevents your body from retaining sweat. 

The DWR serves as a barrier between you and the rain. When water droplets fall on the outer surface of your jacket, they bead up and roll off the jacket instead of being absorbed.

These durable water repellents are often used in conjunction with waterproof breathable fabrics to prevent the jacket from being saturated with water.

After using your jacket repeatedly over time, the DWR coating begins to wear off. The water repellent properties of the jacket begin to diminish. The outer layer will also be exposed to impurities like oil, sweat and dirt which will affect the quality of your jacket and shorten its life.

You will also find yourself feeling wet in the rain since water will soak into the jacket.

Signs that your rain jacket’s waterproof coating is wearing off

So how do you know if your rain jacket’s waterproof coating is wearing off? here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Your jacket soaks up water If the outer layer of your jacket soaks up water, it means that the durable water repellent treatment has worn off. In order to fix this you can clean and apply DWR treatment.
  • Dirt and stains – It can get really muddy in the monsoon seasons, so your jacket might have visible dirt marks or stains. This means that it is time to clean your jacket.

One point to note is that you don’t have to revive your jacket’s coating every time you wash it. The DWR coating of a good quality jacket should last through several washes. You can find recommendations about the best quality rain jackets in this article.

How to wash your rain jacket

If your rain jacket needs a wash, here’s what to do:

  • Clean the outer layer of your jacket – Inspect your jacket for traces of mud, dirt and other debris. If the mud is wet, wait for it to dry. You can use a brush to gently brush off the loose debris off your jacket. You can also use a sponge and clean without rubbing.
  • Read your rain jacket’s care tag – Before you even start the washing process, make sure to go over the instructions in your rain jacket’s care tag. Follow them carefully and don’t do anything which is not mentioned to prevent damaging your jacket.
  • Wash your jacket – Avoid using standard detergent powders. Use gentle liquid detergents or specially formulated detergent like Nikwax Tech Wash which is the most recommended detergent for washing waterproof fabrics since it doesn’t damage the material.

If there are only a few stains on your jacket, use a sponge or cloth to apply the product directly. In case the entire jacket is dirty, you will have to put it in the washing machine.

Make sure you close all the zips and pockets before putting the jacket into the machine. Use a cold water wash on a gentle cycle and set the spin to minimum. This will prevent the interior of your jacket from wearing away.

Rinse your jacket thoroughly to get rid of all the detergent residue. Rinsing twice is highly recommended.

Keep the following points in mind while washing your jacket

  • Never add fabric softener to the washing machine while washing since it will stay on the fabric. This will affect the way your rain jacket performs.
  • If you have a top loading machine, add the detergent after the machine has filled with water.
  • Remove all the residue from the detergent dispenser before adding the Tech Wash in a front loading machine.

How to dry your Jjcket

You can dry your jacket in one of two ways:

  • Let the jacket air dry by hanging it on a hanger or a rack.
  • Tumble dry your jacket on low heat or a very gentle programme for about 10 minutes. After this you can hang your jacket.

Avoid ironing your jacket as it might damage the fabric.

Reactivating a jacket’s water repellency

There are two ways you can reactivate your jacket’s water repellency. The first is to use a water repellency liquid reactivator.

Wash your rain jacket with a special cleaner made for waterproof products to prepare it for the water repellency treatment. Soak your jacket in an after wash water repellency reactivator for 15 minutes. Then dry your jacket in the dryer at a low or medium heat setting. You can also use your hair dryer.

The second way is to use a spray on DWR treatment. You can simply use a DWR treatment spray on the outer layer of your jacket. Make sure you carefully follow the instructions given on the spray bottle and take appropriate precautions.

How to store your rain jacket

It is best to store your rain jacket by hanging it on a hanger or coat rack. You can hang it with the inner loop which is preset at the base of its neck.

While rain jackets are compressible for packing purposes, they should be unfolded and stored to prevent creasing of the waterproof membrane.

How to repair your rain jacket

If you see any small holes or rips on your rain jacket, make sure you fix them in order to prevent water from going in. You can easily fix them using repair tape:

  • First examine the hole or tear so you can measure the amount of tape you will need to patch it up. Cut a little excess of what you actually need to prevent the corners from going up.
  • Lay your jacket on a flat and hard surface.
  • Place the tape neatly on the hole or tear and press it to smoothen it out.
  • You can also use iron on patches like GORE-TEX fabric patches. However make sure you use the iron at its lowest setting to prevent damage to the fabric.

Res Marty, the founder of lives in Switzerland is an experienced hiker and world traveller. On his blog, he provides valuable information about everything related to hiking, camping and the outdoor world.