How To Wash Your Rain Jacket

Updated on:

The rain jacket is an essential piece of rain gear for every hiker. They can be costly but are worth every penny to those who hike in the rain. The problem is hikers don’t take the time to clean and re-waterproof their jacket, which causes performance problems. Use the following steps to wash your rain jacket.

How To Wash Rain Jacket Steps

  • Step 1: Check Manufacturer’s Care Label
  • Step 2: Prepare Your Rain Jacket For Washing
  • Step 3: Clean Your Washing Machine
  • Step 4: Wash Your Waterproof Jacket With Tech Wash
  • Step 5: Apply Nikwax DWR To Jacket
  • Step 6: Dry Your Jacket

Materials Needed To Wash Waterproof Jackets

  • Washing Machine
  • Dryer
  • Nikwax Tech Wash
  • Nikwax TX.Direct Wash In or Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On

Step 1: Check Manufacturer’s Care Label

Manufacturers know their product better than anyone. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions before doing anything to see if there’s any special instructions to do along with the rest of the steps.

For example, here are care instructions summarized for one brand’s rain jackets:

  • Washing Machine on Medium
  • Tumble Dry Normal Medium Heat
  • Do Not Bleach, Dry Clean, or Use Iron
  • Wash Separate of All Other Clothes
  • Close All Zippers Before Wash
  • Use a Double Rinse Cycle
  • Do Not Use Fabric Softener or Detergent
  • Do Not Leave Wet
  • Remove Immediately from Washing Machine and Dryer

As you’ll see below, many of the steps are similar, they just don’t utilize the DWR coating. However, you would use this to re-waterproof your gear after these steps. Always refer to the manufacturer first for guidance.

Step 2: Prepare Your Rain Jacket For Washing

Next, it’s important to make sure your jacket is ready to be washed. Make sure there’s nothing in the pockets, as we don’t want anything in there to damage our gear during the cycle.

You’ll then want to make sure all zippers are zipped so nothing is snagged and ripped in the washer.

Step 3: Clean Your Washing Machine

Before you can wash rain jackets, you have to make sure your washer is clean of all residue from ordinary detergent. These can damage your jacket and will make it more prone to wetting out.

Step 4: Wash Your Waterproof Jacket With Tech Wash

Now we’re ready to add the Tech Wash. You’ll want to read the instructions on the container. Add the necessary amount to your washer and run it on a delicate cycle to properly clean your gear.

If there is still soap after this, give it an extra spin cycle to get rid of the excess.

Step 5: Apply Nikwax DWR To Jacket

Important Note: this step will vary depending on your type of jacket. See each section below based on the liner you have:

No Liner

If there is no liner, we will use Nikwax TX.Direct Wash In. Add the proper amount of Nikwax to the washing machine and run your jacket through a delicate cycle again. It doesn’t have to be dry before doing this step.

For Down or Fleece Liners

If you have an insulated liner, you can’t put it through a cycle of the wash in DWR. Instead you’ll need to use the Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On. Once the wash cycle is done, lay your jacket flat on a clean surface and use the spray bottle to apply it evenly. Wait a few minutes, then dab the excess. Again, the jacket doesn’t need to be dry to apply the spray on.

Step 6: Dry Your Jacket

Once you’ve applied the DWR, you can choose to run it through a low or medium heat cycle in the dryer or air dry it. Just make sure it’s fully dry before you store it.

Need To Know For Cleaning Waterproof Jacket

Why Does Waterproof Clothing Need Cleaned

Waterproof clothing has an outer layer that is treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) which forces water to bead on clothing instead of absorbing into the outer material. Unfortunately as we use our gear, it gets dirtied and absorbs other substances that compromise its waterproof technology.

The sweat, dirt and other stains slowly erode the usability of our jackets to the point where they “wet out.” This means the material absorbs the water into the top layer which prevents the middle liner from breathing. When the middle layer can’t breath, we end up sweating through the bottom layers, leaving the whole jacket soaked.

Many think once this happens they need new gear. Luckily, a simple wash and reapplication of DWR coating is all it needs.

When To Clean And Waterproof Your Jacket

Simply put, the best time to clean and waterproof your jacket is when any part of it starts to wet out. Even if one small section is doing this, it will compromise your entire body in the rain. Be vigilant to keep your waterproof jacket clean when you notice any drop in performance or lack of beading.

Why Regular Detergent And Fabric Softener Are Bad

Fabric softeners and standard detergents can’t be used in this process because they will breakdown the waterproofing elements of our gear. They attract water to the garment (i.e. increases the wetting out of the gear).

Use These Steps For All Of Your Waterproof Gear

This same process will work on all of your waterproof rain gear. We put our pants through the same wash process.

The Layers Of Rain Gear

To understand how rain gear works, you have to know how the layers of material work together:

  • Inner Liner: This is the most comfortable layer because it’s closest to your skin. It also protects the important middle layer from the sweat coming off your body.
  • Middle Layer: Here is where the waterproof, breathable layer is located. This is what allows your body to breath without letting water get to your body. This is an important component as it keeps you dry but lets the sweat exit the body (all necessary to avoid “wetting out”).
  • Outer Layer: This outer fabric is the first line of protection from moisture. It is treated with a DWR to make the water bead up and run off the clothing. Take this layer away and the middle layer becomes blocked by moisture which prevents the escape of body heat.

As you can see, each layer has an important role to play in keeping us dry. If one of them fails, the gear becomes almost useless in the rain. That’s why we have to take care of our gear and take the preventative measures of washing to avoid any breakdown in the waterproofing.


Waterproof gear can be an expensive purchase for a hiker, but it’s an extremely important piece of our equipment. Wear them as much as you need to and if they begin to lose their performance, don’t worry. You don’t need to get a new one yet! Just follow the steps we’ve provided above and you’ll have all of your rain gear performing as brand new once again.