Here’s a short list of what I recently pulled from the pockets of my kids’ ski jackets: Two Lifesavers (loose and sticky), a rumpled trail map, some loose change, one large screw (really no explanation there), crumpled tissues, lift ticket stubs, a pocketknife, a small rubber ball, a half-eaten gluten-free energy bar and some orange peels. There’s little on this list that I would like to be pulling out next fall.
I’ve left this pocket-purging ritual till October, and I can tell you it’s supremely unwise. Last summer was a crazy busy time for me, and I didn’t unpack the ski bags until ski season was upon us. At the bottom of one ski pack was a lunch box. The ick factor was high.
So, now that the ski and snowboard season is coming to a close, it’s time to clean and put away the ski gear, including your grubby technical apparel. Do yourself a favor, and resist the temptation to just hang it all up in the back of your closet.
That expensive expedition-worthy jacket with the water-repelling DWR coating? Washing it will improve its functionality. Waterproof-breathable materials can lose their water repellency when they get dirty. There’s an art to cleaning technical apparel, and it varies from jacket to jacket.
Herewith tips for washing and reviving waterproof outerwear for snowsports.
Step 1: Check the calendar. Are you really ready to hang up your boards? A-Basin is still open.
Step 2: Empty the pockets of the season’s detritus. (See above.)
Step 3: Close all zippers and fasten any Velcro closures.
Step 4: Check your jacket’s care tag for any specific instructions. Different companies will suggest different approaches, though all are in agreement to leave off the fabric softener and bleach. Gore-Tex says to wash its products in warm water with liquid detergent on the gentle cycle. The North Face recommends warm water and powdered detergent, as well as one or two extra rinse cycles, on its waterproof-breathables that are not Gore-Tex.
You can also use a detergent designed specifically for technical outerwear. Nikwax Tech Wash is a good one. Pre-treat any stains with the Tech Wash (or whatever gentle detergent you’re using). Toss the garments in the washing machine (wash just two or three pieces at a time) and wash, preferably on the gentle cycle.
Step 5: One way to revive waterproof-breathable jackets and pants is to wash them with a waterproofing product like Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In. (Yes, this is on top of Step 5; wash first, then waterproof). This will revive the garment’s water repellency, and you’ll be happy next season when your pants don’t wet out on the chair.
You can also choose to use a spray-on product like Granger’s XT Proofer Waterproof Spray or Nikwax TX. Direct Spray-on Water Repellent Treatment to revive water-repellency of technical jackets and pants. Patagonia recommends spray-on product for 2-layer waterproof-breathable garments and a wash-in product for 3-layer constructions. I can tell you it’s unwise to spray your jacket on a hardwood floor. Makes it real slick for next couple of weeks.
Step 6: Check your garment’s tags again. Some want you to line dry; others call for a gentle tumble in the dryer. Gore-Tex, for one, recommends touching up its fabric with a warm iron on the steam setting to revive the water repellency.
A note on your underthings: I’m going to assume most people have the common sense to wash their long undies and socks throughout the season, but make sure you also wash all those neck gaiters. They can get pretty nasty.