How to Clean a Ski Jacket
Well, it is that time of year again. Time to get the ski clothes out. First order of business is to see if they still fit (check). Second order of business, if you didn’t do this at the end of last season, is cleaning.
Ski jackets and pants perform best when they are clean. Anything that mars the surface of your ski clothes will impact their performance, and time and weather will also take their toll on the waterproof coatings applied during the manufacturing process. This means you need to wash your ski gear when it starts to look dirty and restore the waterproofing as necessary.
While the effectiveness of the manufacturers’ coatings or Durable Water Repellent (DWR) on ski gear is lessened with every wash, most will retain a good percentage of the coating over 15-20 washes, which is a lot of washes for any ski gear when you think of it in terms of how many seasons you will wear the same stuff. Seriously…how can you look like a ski bunny if you are in 5-year old gear?
Waterproofing and breathability
These two things go hand-in-hand when it comes to ski clothes. If your gear isn’t breathing as intended, you will sweat more and end up feeling a lot colder on the slopes, meaning you will have to settle for fewer runs before you call it a day. And if the waterproof coating has started to wear away, every flake of snow has the potential to melt and soak into your gear. If you are on top of a coastal mountain like Whistler/Blackcomb in February, you are very likely to encounter fog, rain and warm temperatures that can make things especially soggy. If your gear is soaking up water, you won’t be out there for long.
General washing instructions
- Never use detergent to wash your ski gear. It strips away the waterproof coating faster than anything and it impacts the ability of “hard shells” like Gore-Tex® to breathe.
- Do not dry clean your ski clothing. The chemicals used in that process are worse than detergent. Check the manufacturers’ instructions; you will find that even down can usually be safely washed.
- Never use fabric softener or bleach on your gear.
- Close all Velcro fasteners before washing. If you have ever left any Velcro undone in the washer, you know what can happen.
- Wash in cool water and rinse well. Tumble “air” dry or use a low heat setting if the manufacturers’ instructions indicate this is safe.
Non-detergent laundry products
As noted above, detergent is a no-no for your ski clothes. It impacts both breathability and the waterproofing. To safely and effectively clean dirt, sweat, body oil and other grime from your gear, you need an effective cleaner that won’t harm the fabric or build up in the lining.
The one that I use is called Forever New. This product is citrus and soda-based and is completely biodegradable. Because of its composition, it doesn’t leave detergent or powder residue on your garments, meaning that the fabric stays new longer. This stuff is also great for wool sweaters and fine lingerie.
Nikwax products are great!
Durable water repellent (DWR)
If water is soaking into your gear instead of beading up and rolling off, it’s time to renew the DWR.
To refresh the DWR, the first step is washing. Wash your gear to get rid of dirt and detergent residue if you have been using detergent.
After the garments are clean, use a product made especially for outdoor gear to renew the DWR. Be sure to buy the correct type – first determine if you are dealing with a “hard shell” like Gore-Tex®, “soft shell” or down. Nikwax makes great products for all sorts of gear that you can spray-on and/or wash-in. I personally find it most effective to do both; wash-in and then spray some extra repellent on the areas that see the most wear or for touch ups. Nikwax also sells a pre-wash to get rid of detergent buildup before applying the waterproofing.
Have fun out there and stay warm and dry!