Back to non-astronaut membranes: GORE-TEX® textiles have a couple lines of defense between you and the downpour that you will inevitably get stuck in, miles away from any form of shelter. First is the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) on the outer surface of the fabric, which helps the water roll off of the fabric before it even has a chance to soak in. The second line of defense is the actual membrane sandwiched between the garment’s outer fabric and the lining. This layer does the real work to make sure that water droplets don’t get in, but that your heat that builds up from sweat can get out. To allow both of these lines of defense to do their jobs, it’s incredibly important that you care for your garment in the right way.
One of the most common questions we get in the Softgoods Department is: Am I supposed to wash my GORE-TEX® Jacket??! Answer: Yes, you absolutely can and SHOULD wash your GORE-TEX® garments regularly to keep them performing well. Here’s how:
1) WASH YOUR STUFF! It will help your outerwear perform properly and keep you from being “The smelly kid”
Dirt and oils from sunscreen, lotions and your skin – if left on your garment for too long – can be incredibly harmful for the critical membrane layer mentioned above. That is why it it super important that you wash your GORE-TEX® garments regularly – i.e. more than once a season (I know we are all guilty of that).
- GORE-TEX® garments should be washed on the WARM or COLD (water should not exceed 105°F) setting of your washing machine. Use the gentle or permanent press cycle if it’s available on your machine. You can really use any type of LIQUID detergent – but make sure it doesn’t have any fabric softeners or bleach in it. These chemicals can damage the DWR on the fabric’s surface.
- Once the normal wash cycle is finished, it is best to send the garment through another rinse cycle to make sure all of the detergent is out – soaps and detergents left on the surface of your garment will make it a lot harder for the DWR molecules to repel the water.
2) DRY YOUR STUFF! Contrary to popular belief, you NEED to dry your GORE-TEX ® outerwear.
Tumble dry your GORE-TEX® garments on WARM or LOW setting of your dryer. Just like above, use the gentle or permanent press setting if it is available on your dryer.
If you don’t have a dryer, you can line dry your garment, but you will want to follow the extra step below to make sure your DWR gets re-activated (you’ll need an iron, so if you don’t own one: 1. Time to start adulting and 2. This would be a good time to go find one).
3) DRY YOUR STUFF …AGAIN! Yes, you read this right- after it’s dry, dry it again!
This is arguably the most important step to re-activating the DWR that is on the surface of the fabric. Over time, the DWR molecules can get lazy and stop repelling water (don’t worry, we’ll get real nerdy and fully explain DWR in a later journal article). A common term for this is “wetting out”. Essentially, water droplets will start to spread out and soak in instead of beading up and rolling off of your garment. If this is happening to your trusty shell, stay calm – we are going to tell you how to fix it.