Ten Gear Care 'Facts' - True Or False With Nikwax
Sponsored feature: Aftercare products company Nikwax on what's true and what's not when it comes to looking after your outdoor clothing and equipment.
- By Edward Greenland -
Will normal detergents damage your outdoor clothing? Is spray-on proofer the same as the wash-in stuff? And do you really need to re-proof your waterproofs every time you use them?
Yep, there's a lot of confusion around how you should care for your outdoor clothing and equipment with some of the information doing the rounds frankly completely wrong, so to give you the definitive truth on the best way to look after your gear, we teamed up with the experts at Nikwax.
We spent a weekend in Wales with Nikwax product guru Mike to find out which of the rumours flying around about washing and re-proofing your waterproof garments are fanciful myths and which are true - you might be surprised.
Scroll down the page to find out whether or not the 'myths' actually are myths.
1. You have to tumble dry after treatment - FALSE
Totally untrue. Nikwax treatments do not need to be heat-treated to work, which means that tumble drying or ironing isn't necessary after reproofing with any Nikwax water repellent product. It's one of the areas where Nikwax differs from most other aftermarket kit care brands, you can simply air dry your clothing and the repellent will work just fine.
The one exception to this is after cleaning and reproofing down products when Nikwax suggests using a tumble drier at a low temperature to ensure the down is completely dry with its loft and fill power restored. Find out more.
2. Nikwax might damage my jacket - FALSE
The sustainable, eco-friendly ingredients used in Nikwax treatments will not cause any damage to your clothing. Nikwax treatments are often recommended by outdoor brands themselves and have been developed to maximise the performance of your technical clothing not damage it.
The only real potential for damage is if you were to disregard the manufacturer's care instructions while washing the garment and even then it would be hard, washing at too high a temperature might, potentially dislodge seam-tape and using an iron or tumble drier can damage plastic trim or reflective badges, but then you don't need to heat treat Nikwax products anyway!
Nikwax's advice is to follow both the care instructions on the garment and the Nikwax treatment for maximum effectiveness. But in a nutshell, cleaning and proofing with Nikwax will not damage your garment, though if you don't use it as directed, it won't work as well as it might. More details, see the Nikwax FAQ.
3. Normal household detergent can reduce my jacket's effectiveness - TRUE
Ordinary washing powders and liquids won't make your jacket fall to pieces, but chemicals used in normal detergents like optical brighteners and wetting agents can remain on your clothing even after rinsing and reduce the water repellency of the fabric.
That means instead of water beading and rolling off the surface, it can soak the outer surface of the garment in a process often called 'wetting out', which reduces breathability and, because the fabric is wet, leaves you feeling cold.
Nikwax cleaners don't contain these chemicals, so will allow your clothing to work as designed and reduce wetting out. Find out more about the process.
4. Nikwax products are environmentally friendly - TRUE
Nikwax prides itself on its environmental heritage so from the very beginning of the company nearly 40 years ago, when founder Nick Brown mixed up the first batch of Nikwax in his flat, there were certain chemicals and delivery devices that we never used.
Nikwax has never used aerosols or CFCs and more recently it completely phased out the use of solvents in its products so everything now is water-based, which is much better for the environment. In particular Nikwax has never used Fluorocarbons and PFCs.
The company made that decision almost 15 years ago because there were doubts about the toxicity of those chemicals and more recently it’s been proved that they are persistent in the environment and potentially toxic to human life with Greenpeace in particular campaigning to ban their use.
5. Nikwax will ruin my washing machine - FALSE
No, Nikwax won’t have a detrimental effect on the washing machine. Nikwax has worked closely, and continues to work with Siemens, to make sure its products work in conjunction with their machines and those from other brands - no, you don't need a Siemens washing machine to use Nikwax.
In fact the most recent Nikwax consumer product trial involved 20 different brands of washing machine all of which emerged happy, smiling and unscathed with no detrimental effects recorded.
6. Nikwax spray is as good as the wash-in version - TRUE
Both Nikwax wash-in and spray-on treatments work equally well, the main difference is in ease of application and which types of garment they suit.
Traditionally spray-on treatments have tended to be used on clothing which has a separate wicking lining, as it's possible to reproof the outer face fabric without affecting the wicking action of the inner liner, while wash-in treatments are used for single layer fabrics without a separate liner.
In an ideal world, that's probably the way to go, but the ease of use of wash-in treatments - just like a normal wash cycle - mean that many Nikwax users will opt for wash-in treatments for all their technical outdoor clothing.
7. You need to clean the garment before you apply the treatment - TRUE
Yes, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure that you clean the garment before re-proofing. In many cases it’s not actually necessary to re-proof the garment as just cleaning will remove the dirt and residue that’s masking the DWR and that will often be enough to restore the performance of the DWR.
The latest version of Nikwax Techwash has actually been upgraded so you can use it more often without needing to reproof, how's that for altruism?
More about the Nikwax two-stage cleaning and proofing process.
8. You can only use Nikwax on waterproof jackets - FALSE
Nikwax has a full range of items that are specifically tailored to different garments so you can clean and proof all types of footwear as well as different types of fabrics and materials including weather-resistant, but not waterproof soft shells and windproofs.
Nikwax's top-selling products like TX Direct and Tech Wash are aimed primarily at waterproof garments, but the Nikwax range also includes products suitable for, say, fleece and down garments as well as Basefresh which is suitable for cleaning baselayers, both wool and synthetic.
Products are tailored to specific fabrics, so those aimed at baselayers, for example, don't add water repellency, though they will help maintain the original characteristics of the fabrics used.
9. You need to re-proof you gear after every wash - FALSE
It's hard to give a definitive answer, but as a rule Nikwax generally recommends washing between 3-5 times before you re-proof a garment using the current version of Tech Wash, though the new version of the cleaner due out this September will roughly double that figure.
It also depends on how dirty your garment gets - if you're a mucky pup, you may need to clean and reproof more often - but you certainly shouldn't need to reproof after every wash, just when your garment stops beading and starts to get soggy in wet conditions.
Of course Nikwax would sell more proofer if it said otherwise, but in reality, it shouldn't be necessary.
10. Washing / re-proofing will adversely affect the breathability of your garment? - FALSE
Some people are afraid to wash and reproof their expensive outdoor kit because they think it might ruin the performance, but washing and proofing are actual essential to keeping things working as they're supposed to, which is why many outdoor brands recommend using Nikwax.
Without reproofing, the outside of your garment will tend to get soggy - 'wetting out' - which impairs the breathability of the garment and doesn’t allow the water vapour to escape the garment as easily.
Often jackets returned to stores as 'leaking' turn out out to simply need cleaning and reproofing. Because they've been neglected, sweat has condensed on the inside of the jacket making the user wet and giving the impression that there's leak when there isn't.
Bonus 'fact': You can get are free samples of Nikwax - TRUE!!!
Sounds preposterous, but this really is true. Head on over to nikwax.co.uk and successfully complete the online web-quiz and Nikwax will send you a free sample of one of its care products. These change every two months, so you'll never get bored.