So, it’s the summer. It’s time to relax, it’s time to enjoy the warmth, and it’s time to prep for next ski season. There’s tons of knowledge about storing your skis, care for your boots, prep for your body, but, how about your clothes? Believe it or not, your ski jackets and ski pants are just as technical as the rest of your gear, but most often just get tucked into a storage bin or tossed in the back of the closet. All of that is fine, but before you tuck them away for the summer, you should make you’ve given them a proper cleaning and treatment.
Washing your ski jacket is important for many reasons. On the less technical side of things, it’s because you’re probably a smelly ski bum, but on the more technical side of things, it’s to improve breathability, longevity, and comfort. Fortunately, washing your jacket is easy enough, you just need some special soap called “non-residue detergent.” Here’s the breakdown.
When you look at your ski jacket under a microscope, the fabric has a lot of tiny pores in it (just like your face). Over time these pores get clogged up with dirt, oil, and grime. The purpose of these pores is to breathe out moisture to keep you dry and comfortable while skiing, but, when they’re clogged they obviously can’t do this leaving you with a damp, clammy feeling inside. Gross.
Getting a non-residue detergent like NIKWAX Tech Wash, Wool-lite, or Grangers helps to clean these pores out. It’s particularly important to get the fancy soap, so you don’t clog up the pores in the fabric with the residue left behind by the soap (yes, that’s a real thing).
The washing part is easy. Zip up all the zippers so they’re completely closed and loosen any straps or bungee cords. Also, make sure you relax all the Velcro that might exist around the hood or the cuffs. Find yourself a non-agitated wash machine and follow the instructions on the tag (hot vs. cold water, gentle vs. regular). One quick was with a non-residue detergent will get all the nasties out for optimum breathability.
The waterproofing is easy. You’ll need a spray bottle of Durable Water Repellency or DWR for short. The purpose of DWR is to ensure that your jacket continues to breathe without water clogging up the pores from above. This all gets a little confusing, so let’s take it slow.
A jacket is made by either taking a Polyurethane (PU) coating and applying to the inside of a polyester/nylon piece of fabric, OR, by bonding a polyester/nylon fabric with a waterproof fabric like GORE-TEX. The waterproof layer provides waterproofing while the polyester/nylon layer provides color, shape, durability, and breathability. On the outside of the polyester/nylon, manufacturers apply DWR to make the water bead up and drop off. Picture it like a car; the metal makes it waterproof, the paint gives it color and the wax protects the paint. DWR is the wax in this scenario.
Just like car wax, DWR needs to be reapplied every so often. Fortunately, it’s easy to do. Find yourself a spray bottle of DWR like NIKWAX TX-Direct or Granger’s Performance Waterproofer. Once your jacket has been washed, hang it on a hanger in an open air area. Apply the DWR by spraying it over the entire surface of the jacket. Let it stand for a few moments and then give it a good wipe over the whole piece to help remove excess DWR and ensure you’ve coated the entire jacket. Then, toss it in the dryer on medium to low heat for a full cycle. The dryer is important as the heat will help activate the DWR coating to ensure moisture beads off properly.
Once you’ve sufficiently washed and “waxed” your jackets and ski pants, they’re ready for storage. Make sure you store them in a cool, dry environment to protect them from mold and mildew. If you ever have any questions or are unsure about how to properly care for your jacket, it’s always a safe bet to contact the manufacturer.