On my way out to work yesterday, my wife wrinkled her nose at me and told me that my Gore-tex shell, a 9 oz. Outdoor Research Celestial Jacket, was really smelling bad. I wear this coat all year round as a multipurpose wind shirt, rain jacket, and vapor barrier for winter hiking. It seems that my coat was overdue for a wash.
When I wash Gore-tex garments, I never use soap because I don't want to clog up the breathable pores that let water vapor pass through the Gore-tex membrane. I also don't want the garment to smell like detergent which a bear might interpret as a food item. My goal in life is not to become a satay stick.
If the outside of the garment is dirty, I wash off the dirt using a wet cloth or sponge. Next, I soak the garment in cold water and agitate it gently to dissolve the accumulated sweat and any remaining dirt. You can also do this in a washing machine on a gentle knit cycle. Front loading washing machines like you see in laundromats are the best for this because they don't have an agitator.
Before I wash the garment, I unzip all of the zippers and turn it inside out because this is where the smells accumulate. When washing manually or in a washing machine, I rinse the garment repeatedly, and then simply hang it up on a hanger and let it dry. Don't stick it in a dryer to expedite the process: you could melt the seam taping that makes the garment waterproof.
Once the garment dries, I lubricate all of the zippers with McNett Aquaseal Zip Tech to make them easy to open and close. After applying the lubricant, I run the zippers up and down a few times and wipe off any excess.
I don't apply any additional waterproofing to the garmet after I wash it: it just seems pointless to me. Gore-tex doesn't let water pass from the outside of your jacket to the inside, so why bother. I have heard that you can bring the original DWR on your jacket back to life by drying it in a dryer set to a very low temperature, but air drying works fine for me.
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