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How to Properly Care for a Raincoat

Raincoats are garments that we often take for granted. They are quickly grabbed on a rainy day, and then put back in the closet until the weather calls for them again. Few of us consider how to care for this wardrobe necessity. But as with any other clothing item, caring for your raincoat properly will help it last longer and maintain its water resistance.

a woman wearing a raincoat and waterproof hat

Raincoats are garments that we often take for granted. They are quickly grabbed on a rainy day, and then put back in the closet until the weather calls for them again.

Few of us consider how to care for this wardrobe necessity. But as with any other clothing item, caring for your raincoat properly will help it last longer and maintain its water resistance.

Understanding How the Raincoat Works

The first step in knowing how to properly care for a raincoat is understanding the coat’s material, as well as the way that it works. Raincoats typically have a multi-layer fabric structure and an inside membrane layer that allows sweat vapor to escape while simultaneously keeping precipitation out. The membranes are constructed of tiny pores that allow the coat to be breathable.

The waterproof ability of the raincoat comes from a finish known as durable water repellent (DWR). This finish creates an additional barrier between you and precipitation by protecting the fabric itself from moisture. The main purpose of this finish is to help water to bead up quickly, and as a result, roll off the jacket rather than sink into the fabric.

When to Wash a Raincoat

a child wearing a raincoat in heavy rain

You will know that your raincoat needs to be washed when you notice either of these two signs:

  • The raincoat is dirty.

If your raincoat appears dirty or has stains, it is obviously time to wash it. Washing the coat when you notice it is dirty, rather than letting it continue to accumulate dirt, will keep the raincoat in better condition.

  • The raincoat is wetting out.

After repeated use, your raincoat can suffer some damage from wear and tear. You will be able to tell if this is the case if you notice your coat starts lacking in performance. If your raincoat becomes heavy after a walk in the rain, or allows your skin to become wet, the DWR coating has likely worn off - a process also known as wetting out. Wetting out doesn't mean that you need to get rid of the coat, but that it should be washed and waterproofed again, which is detailed and explained below.

How to Clean a Raincoat

There are a few tips to keep in mind to clean a raincoat properly:

  • Read the care label carefully.

Review the manufacturer's care label on your rain jacket and follow its instructions regarding appropriate water temperature, types of products to avoid, and so on. The care label is most commonly found on the left hip of the raincoats.

  • Prepare the raincoat for cleaning.

Close all the zippers and place the raincoat in the washing machine. The coat should be either washed by itself or with similar items to avoid any possible damage.

a brass zip on a raincoat

  • Choose the right cleaner.

Avoid using laundry detergent when washing your raincoat. It can be hard on the material and ruin the raincoat's functionality. Instead, use a safe technical cleaner designed specifically for synthetic technical outerwear. This way, you can be sure that your rain jacket will be safe from any unwanted chemicals.

  • Run wash cycle.

When machine washing a raincoat, use medium temperature water and a medium-strength cycle. However, always consult the care label first and follow the instructions provided there. A single wash cycle should be enough to have washed your raincoat and revitalized the repellency.

  • Dry the raincoat.

Again, it’s very important to consult the care label for drying instructions. However, tumble drying the raincoat on medium heat is considered a common method. Tumble drying helps in the reactivation of the DWR treatment. Air drying is also a good alternative. Synthetic technical clothing should not be overheated or overdried. In some cases, the seam taping on synthetic outerwear can be damaged by extremely high heat.

How to Waterproof a Raincoat

When waterproofing your raincoat, start with a clean coat that has not dried.

  • Run a second wash cycle.

Put the wet raincoat back in the washing machine and wash it a second time. However, use a liquid DWR product instead of the technical cleaner used in the first wash. Many DWR products are "wash in," meaning the product reapplies the DWR functionality during the wash cycle. Make sure that your DWR product is "wash in" instead of "spray on."

  • Dry the raincoat.

Follow the directions listed above to air dry or tumble dry the raincoat on medium heat.

water droplets on rust colored waterproof fabric

General Tips to Protect Your Raincoat

  • Avoid certain cleaners and ironing.

When cleaning technical waterproof outerwear, avoid the use of bleach, laundry detergent, and fabric softener in favor of a technical cleaner. Dry cleaning and ironing are also not recommended.

When your raincoat is not in regular use, store it on a hanger, rather than folding it. This will prevent any visible creases from forming.

FAQs

1. How do you maintain a raincoat?

Proper maintenance of a raincoat includes carefully following the care label instructions, usually located on the left hip of the coat. Spot cleaning is another way to preserve the function of your raincoat.

2. How do I care for my waterproof jacket?

Taking care of a waterproof jacket can be a simple task if the instructions on the product's care label are followed. Waterproof jackets may suffer from wear and tear and need extra care to restore their functionality. When handling a waterproof jacket, pay attention to the jacket's care instructions, as well as the instructions on the cleaning product. Choose a cleaning product designed for technical outerwear, and always avoid using a laundry detergent.

3. How can I make my raincoat waterproof again?

There are two options for waterproofing a raincoat: a spray-on DWR product, or a wash-in DWR product. Whichever you choose, apply the product to a clean, wet raincoat for maximum effect. After you are finished waterproofing the rain jacket, air dry it or place it in the dryer on medium heat.

a close up of a camel colored waterproof raincoat

4. Can you machine wash raincoats?

Yes, you can machine wash a raincoat. The synthetic material from which the raincoat is made will require a medium cycle and a technical cleaner, rather than laundry detergent.

5. How often should I wash my rain jacket?

Overwashing your jacket may cause its waterproofness and breathability to deteriorate. So, unless there are clear signs that your raincoat needs washing, skip it.

6. What is wetting out?

Wetting out is caused by wear and tear on your jacket's fabric, which allows water to seep in rather than bead up and run out. A raincoat that allows dampness to penetrate to your skin indicates that your formerly high-tech membrane has become clogged with undesirable chemicals.

A raincoat is a critical garment during rainy seasons and in wet climates. Follow these recommendations to keep your raincoat functioning well and lasting for years to come.

 a woman in a raincoat closing her umbrella after the rain

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