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When Outerwear Wets Out

We told our marketing team to close their ears for this one:
Your waterproof outerwear can, and will, get wet. Wait... what?

"If my gear gets wet, doesn’t that mean it’s not waterproof?"

Well no, not exactly. Keep reading.

When the outer layer of your waterproof outerwear starts to soak up water, a phenomenon called “wetting out,” it’s your gear’s way of telling you that it’s in need of some maintenance. No, you don’t need to make a service appointment or call in an expert – you just need to clean it.

"I actually have never washed these pants as i have owned loads of waterproof gear and know not to wash them."

Pause. Record scratch.

That’s a real quote that came to our warranty team. And the worst part? We know that’s a common misconception shared between new and experienced riders alike. We get it, though. The outerwear industry is to blame for not educating. The good news is if you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

With all the tech packed into waterproof gear it’s easy to think of them as being unique and different from your regular clothes or believing the myth that you might “wash” off the waterproofing. At the end of the day, though, that’s what they are – clothes. And you’re regularly cleaning your clothes, right? Right???

The key to keeping waterproof, breathable gear performing to the best of its ability is by keeping it clean. Every time you put on your jacket, bib, or pants, the waterproofing elements of your gear are being compromised. Body oils and sweat accumulate on the interior, breaking down seam tape and waterproof membranes, while dirt and other contaminants like sunscreen and smoke (and that adult beverage you spilled in the parking lot) collect on the exterior and eat away at the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish.

Your gear “wets out” when the DWR finish has been stripped away and leaves the fabric surface exposed to take on water. Why is this bad? Besides an undesirable appearance, the soaked fabric slows or altogether halts the breathability of your gear, preventing moisture from passing from the inside to the outside. As a result, you will feel wet inside your gear. This might seem backwards, but it’s true: You’re not going to feel wet because water is getting through your jacket*, but instead because the moisture your body creates isn’t getting released. That’s a trap that no one wants to get caught in.

*If you're sporting a 10K jacket with critically taped seams in a slushy downpour, then you’re going to get wet for real. But that’s for different reasons we explain in this journal.

So, what to do if you’re wetting out? We can’t stress enough that this is normal. DWR does not last forever, and it will wear away at varying rates. The good news is it’s incredibly easy to maintain and restore. We’ll tell you how:

1) Wash your gear after several uses or at the first sign of wetting out with Nikwax Tech Wash (or a similar solution). This will get rid of dirt and contaminants without leaving a residue. It will even remove the harmful residue left behind by regular laundry detergents if you tried those first.

2) If after washing you find that your gear is still wetting out, then it's time for re-waterproofing. Using a wash-in or spray-on re-waterproofing solution like Nikwax TX.Direct will restore DWR and revive breathability time and again to keep your gear as close to optimal performance as possible.

3) Wash regularly and re-waterproof as needed. Rinse and repeat.

For a thorough breakdown and step-by-step directions for proper 686 outerwear care, visit our 686 Outerwear Care Page.

Written by: JMO
Nikwax TX.Direct® Wash-In
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Nikwax Tech Wash®
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