If you’ve dug your wet weather kit out for a cycle ride on a rainy day, you might find that your waterproof cycling jacket isn’t as resistant to the wet as it used to be. Waterproof treatments can be less effective and wear off with repeated use. Here’s how to re-waterproof your cycling jacket.
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What makes cycle clothing waterproof?
Waterproofing treatments applied to waterproof or water resistant cycle clothing vary. The best waterproof cycling jackets will have a membrane layer in them, either applied to the inside surface of the fabric or in a sandwich between two layers of fabric. This membrane has tiny pores in it; they’re too small for liquid water droplets to get through from the outside but still let water vapour out from the inside, so you’ll stay drier when riding.
That’s complemented by a durable water resistant coating (shortened to DWR) on the outside of the garment. The coating repels water, so that rain beads off the outer surface of your clothing. This in turn means that the membrane layer can work effectively.
Some water resistant garments like Castelli’s Nanoflex clothing just use a DWR treatment on the outer surface without the membrane. That makes them more breathable, but lowers their water resistance so they wet out more quickly.
Why does waterproofing become less effective over time?
With wear, your waterproof garments will become less effective. That’s because they get dirty. Even if it’s not visible, the layer of contaminants on the garment’s surface causes the DWR treatment to stop working as well, so that the outer surface of the garment will get saturated in the rain and water won’t bead off.
Dirt, oils and sweat from the rider will coat the inside of the garment too, partially blocking some of the pores in the membrane, meaning that there’s less effective removal of water vapour from inside the garment. The result: you’ll keep less dry as you ride.
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How should you re-waterproof your cycling jacket?
The first key step to restoring your jacket’s waterproofing is to clean it. But be warned: normal washing powders and liquids leave detergent and additive residues on your clothing which stop the waterproofing from working and cause the surface to wet out.
You therefore need to use a specialist washing agent like Nikwax Techwash or Grangers Active Wash, which clean the dirt and grease off without leaving residues.
You can use them to wash most garments in a normal washing machine cycle, observing the wash instructions, or you can hand wash. Cleaning and proofing products from German brand Fibertec are another option to look out for.
This might be enough to restore waterproofing to many garments a lot of the time, but if your jacket’s DWR treatment is more damaged – perhaps by wear after many winters’ use – you may need to follow up the wash with a re-treatment.
The best re-waterproofing treatments can either be washed into the garment in a second wash cycle or be sprayed onto its surface.
Examples of re-proofers are Nikwax TX Direct and Grangers Clothing Repel and Performance Repel. Grangers also makes Wash and Repel Clothing 2 in 1, which is designed to wash and re-coat in one step.
Once you’ve taken these steps to re-waterproof your cycling jacket, you need to let it dry. If its washing instructions allow you to, a gentle tumble dry can help the treatment to penetrate the fibres of the fabric better, so it will be more effective and last longer. Ironing on a cool setting can also help. Some Grangers products need to be heat activated to work, whereas Nikwax ones do not.
It’s wide idea to look at and head the instructions for your clothing. Some waterproof items like Gore’s Shakedry range have a permanent DWR coating that shouldn’t need to be re-treated, although you will need to wash it occasionally to keep it working optimally.
Both Nikwax and Grangers sell kits that bundle the different products you need to treat your waterproofs or other performance clothing. Nikwax also sells a specialist re-proofing product for softshell garments and both brands sell cleaning and re-proofing products for down clothing and gear.
Alongside their washing and re-proofing products, Grangers and Nikwax sell specialist products to keep other performance fabrics like merino wool garments working effectively. Again, it’s worth using these to maintain the effectiveness of these items of clothing.
Specialist cleaning and re-waterproofing products are more expensive than normal washing products, so you’ll want to keep them for your specialist kit. Usually you can only wash one or two garments at a time, which also ups the cost. But doing it right is a wise investment to keep your technical cycle clothing at its most effective.