Over time, your rain jacket will start absorbing water, which is never a good feeling if you’re hiking or camping during the wet season. This simply means that your rain jacket is no longer effective in keeping water out. Does this mean that you should throw it away and get yourself a new one? Not necessarily, because you can still revive your old rain jacket by applying a new waterproof coating.
Waterproofing outerwear like your rain jackets is easy and a much cheaper alternative to buying a brand new jacket. If you’re wondering how to waterproof a jacket, then here’s our guide for you. But before that, let’s take a look at what DWR means, an acronym that you will often see when looking at waterproof jackets and outdoor gear.
What Is Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Coating?
Many outdoor jackets like Gore-tex jackets and Columbia jackets have DWR coating, which is what keeps your rain jackets (and another water-repellent camping tent, backpacking backpack, and other outdoor gear) from getting wet. It forms a barrier on the rain jacket that prevents water from seeping into the fabric. So instead of being absorbed by the fabric, water droplets form into beads and rolls away.
The effectiveness of DWR is measured by a spray test. That is, water is sprayed onto the waterproof fabric and is tested to see how much water or moisture sticks to it. DWR ratings are indicated by two numbers, the performance rating, and the wash frequency. For the DWR score, the higher the number the more effective it is. For instance, a DWR score of 80 means that the coating is 80% effective, with 80% of the fabric repelling water. The second number or the wash frequency means how effective the DWR coating is after how many washes. So if you see a DWR rating of 80/10 on the tag, then that means that you can expect the DWR coating to work with 80% efficiency even after 10 washes. A DWR rating of 80/20 means that the DWR coating will still have 80% effectiveness even after 20 washes.
In general, a DWR rating of 80/10 is considered to be good and is the general outerwear finish for most rain jackets and other waterproof outdoor gear. A DWR rating of 80/20 indicates excellent waterproofing, while a DWR rating of 80/50 and above is considered to be superior.
Waterproofing Your Jacket
Waterproofing outerwear like your rain jacket is rather easy. It will take some work, but it’s not that demanding and can be completed in a few hours, except for the drying part which can last for at least overnight depending on how quickly your jacket dries.
1. Inspect Your Jacket
The first step of how to waterproof a jacket is a thorough inspection. Take a look at your jacket and look for any signs of damage. Some damages can still be repaired at home, while some may require the expertise of a professional. If the damages can still be repaired, either by you or a professional, you’ll have to fix this first before waterproofing your jacket. If not, then perhaps it’s time for your jacket to retire and for you to look for a replacement.
Rain jackets are made up of two parts: a breathable membrane on the inside and a waterproof membrane on the outside. When inspecting your jacket, start with the inside. Take a look at the lining and look for any tear. Check the seams if any have come loose. If everything checks out, then you can go ahead and inspect the outside part.
When checking the outside part, take a look at the waterproof membrane and see how well it still works. You can do this by dropping some water on it. If the water beads and rolls away, then the waterproof coating is still good. If not, then that means that the original waterproof coating has worn out. This is a clear sign that you need to apply a new coating on the outside membrane of the jacket. Again, check the seams for any damage and fix them if possible.
2. Wash the Jacket
Washing your rain jacket is an essential part of how to waterproof a jacket. This is because dirt, oil, smoke, and every other contaminant that you may have acquired while hiking, camping, or whatever outdoor adventure you embarked on have certainly stuck to the outer membrane. These contaminants will make it difficult (if not impossible) for the new waterproof coating to stick to the fabric.
When washing your rain jacket, it is always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions which are usually indicated in the jacket’s tag. If you can’t find it there, head to the manufacturer’s website and look for the instructions there.
Generally, though, you’ll want to wash your rain jacket using a specially formulated detergent specifically designed for waterproof gear. If you don’t have any, you can use regular detergent. Just note that some strong household detergents can wash away the original waterproof coating.
To wash your rain jacket, simply load it in the washing machine and fill it with warm water. Warm water is recommended since it is more effective in melting and removing oils. Then, set the cycle to heavy or (or ‘synthetics’ if your washing machine has such a setting) and let it run.
3. Check the Jacket Again
After washing your jacket, go over it once more and check for any signs of damage. Look at the seams again, and check the inner and outer membrane for peeling, bubbling, or any other damage. If everything checks out, you can start with actually waterproofing it.
4. Apply the New Waterproof Coating
This is the step when we start waterproofing outwear, or in this case your jacket. When applying the waterproof coating, some manufacturers will require that you dry your rain jacket first after washing. If this is the case, then let your rain jacket dry first. If drying is not required, then you can go ahead and apply the new waterproof coating even if the jacket is still wet.
There are two ways to apply a fresh coat of waterproofing to your rain jacket. The first one is by spraying the waterproof coating directly on the jacket. This is the easiest and quickest method of waterproofing your rain jacket. The second method involves washing your jacket again, but this time with a wash-in coating. Simply add the wash-in coating into the washing machine after washing and rinsing your rain jacket and then let it run.
5. Dry the Jacket
Dry your rain jacket according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some rain jackets can be dried in the drier, while some will need to be sun or air-dried. If you dry your rain jacket in the drier, you’ll still want to let it air dry just make sure that every bit of moisture is removed.
Taking Care of Your Waterproof Jacket
Aside from knowing how to waterproof a jacket, you also need to learn how to properly take care of it. Rain jackets will suffer from wear and tear over time, especially about their waterproof coating. This coating will wear off and need to be revitalized through thorough cleaning, or will have to be treated again with the application of a new waterproof coating. However, there are ways that you can minimize the damage to your rain jacket so you don’t have to waterproof your rain jacket now and then.
Washing your rain jacket. Cleaning your rain jacket requires special attention to prevent the waterproof coating from wearing off easily. As mentioned earlier, certain household detergents are simply too harsh and will break down the waterproof coating of the jacket. Thus, you may want to spend a little more on specialized waterproof gear detergents. Considering how often you use it (which won’t be much since you don’t have to wash your rain jacket as frequently as your ordinary garments), a bottle of this will last you for several months.
Washing frequency. As with any type of clothing, washing your rain jacket more often than is necessary will have negative implications on the waterproof coating. In many cases, you’ll notice that the breathability and waterproof capabilities are starting to fade away. That said, it is recommended that you wash your jacket only after five uses. You can wash it more often if it’s dirty and it stinks. But if not, then don’t wash it that frequently.
Re-applying waterproof coating. Waterproofing outerwear like your jacket doesn’t have to be done very often. If you wash it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the original waterproof coating should last you a long time. Cleaning your rain jacket will revitalize the original waterproof coating, allowing it to work longer. If you find that you need to re-apply new waterproof coating more often than necessary, then you may want to try a different waterproofing product.
Ill-usage. Rain jackets see a lot of harsh environments since they’re practically used by outdoor enthusiasts. Because of this, rain jackets often see ill-usage which will naturally damage not just the waterproof coating but the jacket’s structural integrity as well. That said, avoid using your rain jackets inappropriately. For instance, don’t use them as padding for you to sit on while camping.
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Waterproofing outerwear like your rain jackets or winter jackets is important if you want to keep your outdoor gear working like new for longer. Learning how to waterproof a jacket will also save you money in the long run as you don’t need to buy yourself a brand new rain jacket now and then.
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