How to Clean and Maintain your GORE-TEX Outerwear
How to Care for your GORE-TEX Gear:
To make sure the performance of your GORE-TEX gear (waders included) is performing properly for the upcoming fishing season, it’s best to wash and take care of this technical outerwear correctly. Don’t just toss your waders and jacket in the wash. Instead, take a minute to review how to clean and care for your gear so you don’t find yourself reinvesting in new stuff season after season.
GORE-TEX fabrics are highly specialized. Not only are they uniquely constructed, they are made with a DWR (durable water repellent) polymer on their outermost layer. This treatment penetrates the fibers of the fabric, which allows water to bead off the fabric rather than being absorbed. This ensures a high level of water resistancy and is essentially an extra layer of protection from water penetration in addition to the waterproof GORE-TEX membrane below the surface fabric.
However, this DWR coating is not permanent. With heavy use, the DWR treatment will wash or wear out. Dirt, sweat, and sunscreen can also decrease the effectiveness of the treatment and cause your garment to “wet out.” “Wetting out” occurs when the DWR treatment on the surface of your waterproof apparel has worn off, allowing the liquid to saturate the garment above the GORE-TEX membrane, making you feel damp or wet. Fortunately, proper care and washing can help restore both the DWR treatment and its capabilities.
When it’s time to wash, first close all the zippers (pockets, pit zips, main center zipper), and release any tension on the draw cords. Next, pick soap that is specifically designed for washing garments with waterproof membranes. Some recommended brands are: Granger’s, Nikwax, or Revivex. These are detergents specifically designed to revitalize waterproofing. Do not use powder detergents or products with surfactants, detergents, bleaches, fabric softeners, or perfumes. These can contain waxes or oils or can be hydrophilic (water-absorbing) which is the opposite effect of the DWR treatment. This will negatively affect the performance of the garment by adhering to the fabric and reducing the ability to breathe and repel moisture. Dryer sheets are even capable of damaging your garments’ waterproof qualities. If you only have normal laundry soaps to use, make sure you rinse the garment a second time to get rid of any residue from the cleaners.
Next, machine wash your garments on a warm cycle with temps around 105 degrees; permanent press is an ideal setting. Choose a cycle that rinses the garment twice to ensure any oils or chemicals are cleared out of the garment and then line dry or tumble dry on a warm, gentle cycle for roughly 40 minutes. The heat from the dryer will reactivate the DWR treatment. If unable to tumble dry, iron the dry garment on gentle setting (warm, no steam) by placing a towel or cloth between the garment and the iron. This will help reactivate the DWR treatment on your garment’s outer fabric. If that doesn’t work, try to restore your garment’s functionality by applying a surface spray-on product. Again, Granger’s and Nikwax both make solid products.
Not only can you wash breathable waders, but you should be washing them occasionally if you want them to work as well as possible. Dirt, grime, body oils, and abrasions can lessen the effectiveness of the durable water repellent (DWR) coating used in breathable-wader materials. Periodic cleaning helps the wader material to breathe better and restores the DWR coating that causes water to bead up and run off the outside of the waders. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular waders, as there are some variations among the different technologies now in use.
Waders should be washed by hand, in a bathtub, in cold water using a powder detergent. After washing and rinsing the waders thoroughly, air them out to dry, both inside and out. Of the manufacturers only Orvis suggests putting the waders in the washing machine on “gentle,” and this is for stockingfoot versions only. Packaging or storing your waders wet may result in mildew and tape peeling. Simms Waders should not be dry-cleaned or put in the dryer. A water repellent treatment, such as Revivex, Nikwax, or Granger’s will rejuvenate the water resistant finish on your waders.
After the waders are washed and thoroughly rinsed, saturate the outside of the waders with your water repellent treatment of choice. Allow product to drip-dry. "Set" the treatment with heat using a blow dryer or iron (low setting), avoiding the stockingfoot attachment area.
It is best to clean the waders and check for leaks before storing. Apply self-repairs for pinholes or contact the manufacturer for the return process and to have a complete wader evaluation. Make sure to dry waders completely before storing to avoid mildew. Store the waders away from heat or direct light. Hung in a closet on a hanger or laying flat under a bed is best for long-term wader storage.
Repairing Your Gore-Tex Waders
Tears, punctures and pinholes do happen. Luckily, GORE-TEX waders are easy to repair. 1) Turn waders inside out. 2) Apply rubbing alcohol to suspect area. Leaks will show as dark gray spots. 3) Immediately apply AquaSeal to the area and cure for six hours. Please note: this method will not work on seam leaks.
If you are lucky enough to own a pair of Simms waders, you also have a great warranty program to utilize. More information on whether or not your product qualifies for their warranty can be found on the Simms website.
If you have any further questions after reading this article please feel free to contact us at the store via EMAIL or via phone: (403) 282-8868.