Essentials: Protect That Shell

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1995

Essentials: Protect That Shell
By Bob Howells

A durable water-repellent finish on your shell is like a wax job on your car: It'll bead water when new, and when it wears out what's underneath will suffer. That means your jacket's water-resisting fabrics, coatings, and membranes will have to work harder to do their duties. Here are a few hints for caring for or reviving your jacket's DWR finish--no buffing required.

Maintain a Clean Environment
Dirt on the DWR finish actually attracts water, giving the finish more work to do and consequently wearing it out faster. Wash your jacket before the grime builds up, using a powdered detergent and running it through the rinse cycle twice. (Liquid detergents and most soaps tend to leave a harmful residue. One soap that proves the exception is Nikwax's Tech Wash.)

Keep the Heat On
Unfortunately, washing also gums up the DWR finish. You can revive it by ironing the outer material (use a cool setting, such as silk or wool) or by putting the jacket in a warm dryer. The heat will reactivate the fluorochemicals in the DWR finish and won't harm the shell's coating, membrane, or liner.

Start Over Again
After lots of wear, several washes, and a few sessions on the ironing board, it's hard to resuscitate the DWR finish. But you can apply a new one. Wash-in finishes, such as Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In, will get every nook and cranny. If your jacket has a liner, you might opt for a spray-on finish, such as Tectron Fabric Protector or Nikwax TX Direct spray, which puts the protection right where you want it.

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