Nikwax Polar Proof: How to Waterproof Fleece Gloves

Nikwax Polar Proof

Nikwax Polar Proof

I like wearing fleece gloves for winter hiking because they’re inexpensive, they are warm, and quite breathable. The problem is that snow tends to stick to them and they wet out when the warmth from my hands melts it. While I am very careful to brush off any snow that gets on them, it’s a loosing battle, and I end up bringing multiple pairs along so I can switch them out during the day.

Snow Sticks to Fleece Gloves

Snow Sticks to Untreated Fleece Gloves

But what if you could make fleece gloves, hats, fleece sweaters and jackets waterproof? That would be a game changer in so many ways because it would reduce your dependence on expensive soft shell apparel. It would also increase your safety margin on long winter hikes or backpacking trips since the fleece insulation you wear would stay dryer, longer, and be easier to dry because it isn’t soaked through.

Wash-in Waterproofing

Nikwax Polar Proof is a milky white liquid that you add to water and wash into your fleece gloves and garments. You can add it in a top or front loading washing machine or wash it in by hand. When finished, dry your garments by hanging them or or drying them in a drier.

Here are a few tips to get the best results when Polar Proofing fleece gloves:

  1. Polar Proof works best with gloves that are 100% fleece without leather or faux leather fingertips or palm grips. The gloves should be new, not have any holes in them, and be free of wear or thin spots.
  2. Wash your fleece gloves, hats, or garments before you Polar Proof them using a gentle detergent like Woolite or Nikwax Techwash that doesn’t leave a residual coating on your garments.
  3. When waterproofing fleece gloves, be sure to clean out any residual lint in the fingertips by turning your gloves inside out and removing it. Turn them right side out before you Polar Proof them.

Evaluation

Polar Proof works great on fleece gloves and will keep the outside of your gloves from getting wet even if they come in contact with snow or water. Any snow you do get on your gloves will gradually drop off, leaving the exterior of your gloves clean. The same holds for water and rain, which will bead and run off the surface. Some residual drops may still be trapped on the fleece surface, but they won’t soak through, and can be easily shaken or brushed off.

When you Polar Proof a pair of fleece gloves, both the inside and the outside of your gloves receives the protective coating. This is worth noting because it prevents liquid moisture from wetting out the fleece sandwiched in between which would be quite difficult to dry using body heat alone. This is good on multi-day hikes because it means you can dry your gloves out at night more easily in your sleeping bag or turn them inside out to dry while you are hiking.

That’s a game changer as far as I’m considered because it means I need to carry fewer pairs of fleece gloves on long hikes and because they become far easier to dry while retaining their warmth.

Disclaimer: Philip Werner received a free sample of Polar Proof from Nikwax but was under no obligation to review the product. 

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17 Responses to Nikwax Polar Proof: How to Waterproof Fleece Gloves

  1. Ben January 30, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    Phil,

    What a fantastic product thanks especially for the video. Seems like a great thing to have in the maintenance kit. I might suggest washing fleece in Basewash before Techwash as well, considering the recommended use by Nikwax for each product. That being said, I wash all my fleece/wool with a little detergent like a crazy person.

  2. Blitzo January 30, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    Wicked cool!

  3. JimC January 30, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    VERY interesting, also well timed (for me). It appears to be available at a local retailer and I’ll be snowshoeing in deep snow this weekend … I might give it a try.

    But we’ve seen water”proofing” treatments with excellent laboratory effectiveness that has not survived the transition to use in the field (dirt and body oil soiling defeat the treatments). Please followup sometime later with a long term field test report.

    • Earlylite January 30, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      I am interested in how long it will last long term, but I did test it before writing about it. Always do. That’s why I know to use it on gloves that are new and have little abrasion, etc. I’m get to be the idiot so you don’t have to be. :-)

      Turning your gloves inside out to let the inside dry really works, I might add. Crazy idea. but that what you get if you use a product instead of just repeating the marketing material.

  4. JJ Mathes January 30, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    I’m with you Philip this could be a game changer. It will be interesting to see if any breathability is lost. I’m not sure how that would be determined since everyday on the trail is different, more/less humidity and such. I will be getting a few free samples in the next couple of weeks for testing.

    • Earlylite January 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      That is my concern too, but something I plan to test out in the coming weeks. If you apply Polar Proof to a fleece sweater or pants, there’s a chance that it won’t wick the way you want or expect it to. But you need to keep the difference between liquid sweat and water vapor in mind. I suspect that Polar Proof permit vapor to pass through a fleece sweater or pants, but not liquid. In certain cases that can be very good – for instance if your rain shell wets out, Polar Proof would prevent the migration of condensation in the shell from wetting out a fleece sweater worn underneath it. But the question still remains whether the Polar Proof will interfere with a technical fleece like R1 or Powerfleece which has a special weave that is supposed to soak up liquid and wick it out. For the moment, I’d stick to using Polar Proof on fleece gloves. I’ve applied it to an R1 fleece sweater and will be testing it out on major hikes in the coming weeks.

      • JJ Mathes January 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

        I’m thinking I might test my Melanzana Micro Grid fleece hoodie, possibly treat the left side of torso, arm and shoulder, realizing some with seep over toward the right side, but keeping the majority of the right side free of treatment. Then start wearing the hoodie on hikes. That’s about the only way I can think of for real world testing. I’m open to other ideas.

        • Earlylite January 30, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

          That’s certainly one way. I’ve been using this R1 fleece for going on 4 years so I have a pretty good memory of how it performs.

  5. Steve M January 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    I wonder how this would work with lightweight synthetic glove liners? I have been looking for a rain mitt alternative for 3 season hiking – paying $50-$70 for the commercial options available is a little steep for me. However, I always pack a light liner glove, and if it could also shed water like you demonstrate in the video, that would be pretty sweet.

    • Earlylite January 30, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      It definitely works – I tried it on some glove liners too – but really advise you to use it on a new pair instead of an old pair. If the fleece is abraded and pitted, the treatment is less effective.

  6. FTIR February 1, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Phil,
    Any thoughts as to why the fleece companies don’t do this themselves?

    • Earlylite February 1, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      It would ruin the softshell business, maybe?

  7. Marla Holmes November 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Looks like a great product. Any idea if it would impact the effectiveness of “tech tip” gloves (the ones that work with a touchscreen)?

  8. Philip Werner November 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Why don’t you call the manufacturer and let us know. Thanks!

    • Marla Holmes November 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      I got this response from the manufacturer: “By using Nikwax Polar Proof on your gloves, the tech tips will not be negatively affected.”

  9. Louis Brooks December 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Wish I had seen this before my last hike. I kept getting my fleece gloves wet when getting water. I will have to give this a try.

  10. Grandpa December 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Ordered some from REI and it arrived today. I will give it a try, especially since the grandkids’ gloves are all fleece or knitted.

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