The largest long term threat to the life span of any waterproof/breathable fabric is contamination from direct skin contact with the inside surface. Body oils and salts will slowly hydrolise the glue that holds the laminate to the outer face fabric and the tricot mesh backing. This leads to de-lamination. When the mesh on the inside pulls away from the white laminate it takes all the seam sealing with it. Once this occurs the jacket is no longer waterproof and the damage is irreparable.
You can reduce the amount of contamination that occurs by the type of clothing you wear under your jacket. The area with the greatest risk of de-lamination is around the neck and hood region. Wearing collared base layers or bandanas underneath the jacket to reduce direct skin contact will reduce contamination and the number of times you need to wash the jacket.
Delamination due to body oil contamination
Washing your garment
It is difficult to state a time when a jacket needs to be washed as this depends on many factors, such as:
- what clothing is worn under the jacket
- the amount of direct skin contact the wearer has with the inner tricot mesh
- the personal hygiene standards of the wearer
- the activity of the wearer while the jacket is being worn.
If the jacket is being worn during sustained heavy physical work with only a light crew neck thermal underneath, it will need a regular hand wash.
Regular means at least once every 3 months or even more depending on body odour build up. Taking steps to control contamination will reduce washing. Too many washes will make the fabric go soft and clingy.
Instructions for washing are as follows:
- Hand wash only.
- Use a mild washing substance. We recommend using Persil Sensitive or the original Sunlight bar soap.
- Dissolve washing powder or soap in hot water then add cold water for a warm washing
temperature. The water should be lukewarm.
- Add the jacket and leave fully immersed and soaking for a couple of minutes.
- Using your hands ‘knead’ the jacket by folding it into a ball and squeezing gently.
- Remove any dirt on the outside of the fabric with a soft nail brush. Use soap from a block of Sard Wondersoap to remove persistent dirt.
- After washing rinse twice with clean warm water.
- Do not wring the jacket to remove water.
- Hang the jacket on a line to dry. Drip dry.
DO NOT Hot Wash!
Never wash in temperatures more than lukewarm. Hot washing has the potential to weaken the seam sealing bond.
DO NOT Machine Wash. DO NOT Dry Clean
When the jacket is breathing the Molecular Transfer of Moisture (MTM) laminate swells up. In this swollen state the laminate is at its most fragile state. This is why it is important to dry the jacket as much as much as possible each time it is worn so the laminate has a chance to recover.
Never leave your jacket stored rolled up and damp as this makes it more susceptible to damage and can also lead to mould.
If possible air the jacket in a warm area overnight. Do not leave it hanging outside on a cold porch if you can dry it in a warm environment inside.
It is important to understand the difference between waterproof and water repellency.
Water Repellency refers to the surface treatment on the outside of the fabric that prevents water soaking into the face fabric. Technical clothing manufacturers use the best Durable Water Repellent (DWR) available. DWR is essential to maintain the fabric’s breathability but is not essential to maintain waterproofing. When a fabric loses its water repellent finish it becomes water logged and cold, causing the temperature gradient between the inside and outside of the fabric to alter. This immediately reduces the efficiency of the water vapour passing through the waterproof breathable laminate. If waterproof breathable fabrics do not breathe, condensation from perspiration builds up on the inside and you become wet.
‘wetting out’ – fabric has lost water repellency DWR replenished. Water beads off.
To maximise breathability….
- Layers worn under the jacket should moisture transfer rather than moisture absorb.
- Reduce the amount of natural fibre in your clothing. Natural fibre is great as long as you are
not sweating. Wool is the best performing natural layer but it absorbs over 40% of its weight of water. It doesn’t feel wet until it contains 30% of its weight in moisture. This means a lightweight superfine t-shirt is holding 60mls of water before you start feeling damp. Your body heat has to warm up this moisture before it starts warming you. If you like wearing wool we recommend you keep it as a next to skin layer only and wear the lightest and finest fabric you can find (lighter so it will absorb less and dry faster). For efficient breathability we recommend one layer only. Avoid garments with cotton content.
- Use high performance bi-component base layers and brushed polyester polar fleece as they absorb less than 3% of their weight in water. If these garments become wet gravity drains moisture from the fabric very quickly. These fabrics encourage moisture transfer and allow the outer fabric to draw moisture away from the body enabling your waterproof jacket to breathe as efficiently as possible.
- Maintain the water repellent finish on the outside of the jacket.
- Review your layers. You should have 3 clearly defined layers:
- Base or next to skin layer for hygiene and moisture transfer properties.
- Thermal or heat trapping layer – ideally a light bulky layer that absorbs as little
water as possible so it dries fast.
- Outer or protection layer – waterproof, windproof and breathable.