Do you remember the orange tag that was attached to your eVent jacket when you bought it? The one that said, Please Wash Me Often.
It sounded like a good idea then, but I never seemed to get around to it. That finally changed this week. My jacket was noticeably ripe on my last backpacking trip, so I finally gave it a wash yesterday, and now I'm thinking I really should do this more often.
Check the DWR
If your eVent garment is still relatively new, chances are good that its DWR (Durable Water Repellent) layer is still in excellent condition. You can determine this by simply spraying some water on the outside of your jacket or garment. If it beads up and rolls off easily, the DWR is still in good shape.
Avoid Hard Detergents
If you plan on washing your garment at home or at a laundromat, it's important to make sure that there are no harsh detergents lingering in the washing machine that can damage the DWR. For example, if you use powdered detergent at home, hand-wash the tray you put the detergent in, and run an empty load to remove any powdered detergent residue. Definitely do this in a laundromat. Powdered detergent is very tough on DWR coatings.
Use Unscented Soap
Next, put your garment in the washing mashing and set the dial to use cold water. Pour in a small amount of regular unscented liquid detergent which is dye and perfume free. This part is real important. You don't want a bear coming to investigate your coat at night because you washed it in Honey-scented detergent.
If you want, you can also use a special soap like Nikwax Tech Wash to clean eVent clothing. Tech wash is a very gentle non-detergent soap made especially for outdoor gear that will not affect your garment's DWR.
Whatever you do, don't use any fabric softener or bleach, don't dry clean your eVent garmet, don't steam it clean, or and don't iron it. All of these methods have the potential to damage the fabric and the waterproof eVent membrane.
Manufacturer's Washing Instructions
Before you wash an eVent garment, check the manufacturer's washing instructions in case they have any special recommendations. If you've lost these, go to their web site or call their customer service number.
For example, Rab recommended that I close all of the zippers on my jacket before washing it, that I wash the jacket a second time without soap, and then drip dry it. I followed their advice.
If the DWR on your jacket is shot, you can restore it in one of two ways: you can spray on a water repellent treatment like Nikwax Tx-Direct or you can wash it in with a specially formulated wash-in version of Tx-Direct that you apply in a washing machine, after you've washed your garment.
Before you do either of these you can also dry it on low heat in a dryer which can sometimes revitalize the original DWR coating.
I've used the spray-on version of Tx-Direct successfully on a Gortex-Pro shell in the past and had good success with it. Once clean, you simply spray Tx-Direct on your coat, let it drip dry, and then dry it on low heat in a regular clothes dryer.
I haven't used the wash-in version and would personally be cautious about using it on a garment like a rain shell that really needs to vent moisture efficiently. The potential problem I see with a wash-in application of DWR is that it will coat both sides of the jacket fabric: the one closest to your skin and the one facing the rain. Anything that blocks the transfer of moisture from your body to the inside of the coat can't be good and I'd avoid this method of application, unless someone else can vouch for it.
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