Hard Shells, Soft Shells, and Wind Shells Product Care

An Arc’teryx Alpha SV Revised hard shell made out of Gore-Tex Pro Shell material.

So you’ve just spent your hard earned cash on that shell that you’ve been lusting after and you’re wondering, how do I care for a technical shell?

Caring for a technical shell is a bit different than your usual jackets. They need specific care so that they remain water repellent and breathable.

If you notice that your shell no longer beads water, it’s time to wash it. It’s recommended that after 6 to 8 washes or 40 days of use, that the DWR (Durable Water Repellency) finish should be reapplied. First of all, don’t use any detergents or fabric softeners. You have to use specific soaps that won’t degrade the DWR finish of your jacket. You should use warm water in a gentle wash cycle. Brands like Granger’s G-Wash Cleaner Plus, Nikwax Tech Wash or McNett Xtreme Wash will not adversely affect the DWR finish. The goal is to remove the dirt that masks the fabrics water/stain repellent finish. The most effective cleaners for performance fabrics remove dirt, contaminants and odors without leaving water-attractive residues behind

Once washed and thoroughly rinsed, the garment is ready to get it’s Gore Revivex, Granger’s Spray On, McNett Spray On Water Repellent or Nikwax TXDirect Spray On used on its outer face. These will restore the DWR finish. Then, it’s time to tumble dry at medium heat. The heat will reactivate the DWR finish. Excessive heat will damage the finish, so it’s important not to use too much heat. That’s 50 minutes on medium heat (perma press), which equals to 130F (50C).

Arc’teryx recommends Granger’s products for use with their jackets. Most interesting is the Spray On UV Waterproofing from Granger’s, which adds UV protection on top of waterproofing.

Most fabric manufacturers state in their washing instructions that outdoor garments can be machine-washed in powdered detergent, and in principle this is true. However detergent residue in technical fabrics degrades the durable water repellant (DWR) finish, and will negatively affect the performance of laminates (which includes most waterproof-breathable and windproof fabrics) to the point where their waterproof/watershedding performance is seriously impaired.

Therefore, if you intend to wash a shell garment in common household powdered detergent, it is essential that the garment be rinsed extremely thoroughly. Top-loader washing machines not only rinse poorly, they also contain significant amounts of detergent residue internally. At the very least, run several rinse cycles if you machine wash one of these garments.

Another alternative is to use a special cleansing product such as Nikwax Tech Wash or McNett Xtreme Wash. These products will not leave any performance-degrading residue in the fabric, and they will not adversely affect the DWR finish.

Do not use a fabric softener of any kind on shell garments.

Most fabric manufacturers state that technical garments can be tumble-dried, and in principle this is also true. It can even lead to an improvement in the performance of a DWR finish as the chemical compound is released out of the fibers of the face fabric by the heat. However, excessive heat will damage laminates and may lead to de-lamination of the seam tape.

If you are uncertain of how accurate your tumble dryer heat control is, play it safe by air-drying your garment.

The DWR finish can be degraded by normal wear and tear, as well as exposure to contaminants such as oil, dirt and detergent residue. (Detergents strip the DWR finish by leaving water-attractive molecules in the face fabric.) When a DWR finish is degraded the garment will not shed water as effectively – it will no longer cause water to “bead” – therefore wetting-out faster, making it feel cold and clammy.

Using after-market treatments such as Nikwax TX10 or McNett Thunder Guard can restore water-repellency. These are wash-in treatments and can be applied in a washing machine once the detergent residue has been rinsed out. In the case of fabrics with wicking or insulating liners (like polyester or fleece), it is better to use a spray-on DWR finish such as Gore-Revivex or Nikwax TXDirect Spray On, which you should use only on the outer face fabric. If the wicking or insulating layer is also treated, its wicking performance will be reduced.

These after-market products contain no fluorocarbons – so if you have read that waterproof treatments might cause health problems, you can rest easy. The polymers used in Nikwax TX10 are in the same chemical family as the glue used in grade schools.

The above water repellent treatments can be applied to other windshells to increase their water-shedding performance significantly.

Alternatively, you can do it with McNett Seam Grip. First clean both the inside and the outside of the laminate with isopropyl alcohol. Then stick Scotch tape on the outside of laminate, along the line of the tear (this is only a temporary measure while the Seam Grip dries). Then apply Seam Grip to the tear on the inside of the laminate – please follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully. Leave the garment to dry for at least twelve hours, then peel off the Scotch tape: the tear will be durably, almost invisibly repaired.

Small tears in waterproof-breathable laminates can be easily repaired with a self-adhesive McNett Gore-Tex Patch. Follow the instructions provided. These patches are ironed on.

Tears in wind shells and soft shells are best repaired with a sewing machine. With both straight and non-straight tears, ideally you can patch it with a similar piece of fabric. Straight tears can also be repaired by overlapping the sides and sewing over the double-width of fabric.

Part of this article was found here.

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