How to Keep Waterproof Cycling Clothing Waterproof

Waterproof kit is expensive, here's how to make sure it lasts you for years (not months)

Quality cycling gear can make all the difference when you know you’ve got a wet ride ahead – but sadly it doesn’t always stay waterproof on its own.

Most waterproof cycling gear is treated with a durable water repellant (DWR) finish. This acts as the first line of defense, preventing the worst of the water getting through to the next layer – which is usually a breathable, waterproof membrane.

From time to time, the DWR finish needs replenishing. If you don’t do this, it will no longer do its job, letting excess water through and putting more demand on the inner layer than intended. This then reduces effectiveness, and breathability as the membrane becomes clogged. In short: you get more wet, via sweat and rain.

How often should you refresh DWR finish?

The frequency of your refresh depends upon use – so the best way to determine if your clothing needs some attention is to test it.

An effective DWR finish will be visible when you sprinkle water onto the surface of the garment. If the water forms those lovely little beads that reviewers like to photograph, and then rolls off – you’re all good. However, if the water stays on the surface and soaks through, represented by the fabric darkening, it’s time to refresh.

Here’s our example – Editor Michelle has been mega lazy and hasn’t re-treated her (very effective and high quality) Castelli Gabba for a year, and the Vulpine jacket is brand new. The Castelli, which a year ago beaded water beautifully, is no longer up to scratch…

A word of caution: We do mean sprinkle, or shower. If you dump an entire cup of water on the jacket, it probably won’t be too effective.

How to Restore Your DWR Finish

Step One: Clean

The first step is to clean your garment as road grime and oil can sit on the surface, blocking the DWR finish from doing its job. Washing instructions will vary wildly depending on the fabric and design, so it really is best to consult the label.

 However – these basic tips generally apply to all:

1) Most washing liquids use chemicals which ‘wet out’ fabric to allow the detergent to pass through it. This is really bad for waterproof kit, so it genuinely is advisable to invest in a detergent designed for washing technical cycling gear such as Halo or Nickwax.

2) If you cannot get hold of one of the above specialist products, you can use NON-BIO washing powder – this is the safest and has fewer de-waterproofing additives

3) It sounds really picky, but it’s also a good idea to run the washing machine through on an empty cycle, with no liquid, to make sure there is no remaining residue from previous washes. Alternatively, go for a handwash

4) Remove surface grime such as loose mud before placing in the machine

5) Make sure all zips are closed and drawstrings are out the way

Step Two: Apply Heat

Next – you can apply heat to revive the DWR. This is a delicate process, and ideally you should check the label, or consult the brand website for your garment – Castelli have excellent guidelines for every relevant item.

However, the two most commonly suggested methods are:

1) Tumble try the item on a low heat for 15 minutes or left

2) Iron the fabric, using a warm setting. If you opt for this, remember to put a towel between the iron and the garment

Step Three: Treatment

If you’re lucky, steps one and two will have been enough to bring your jacket back to life. Failing this, the next step is to treat it with a new DWR finish.

There are a variety of products available – but Nickwax are one of the leading brands and are recommended by a variety of clothing brands.

There are multiple options – including washes that treat the product when used in place of a detergent, and sprays that can be spritzed before the garment is ironed on a low heat.

Step Four: Enjoy your waterproof kit – just as you did when it was brand new!

Now – we’re off to do all of  the above with our much loved Castelli Gabba.

Looking for more ways to stay dry? Check out our guide to waterproofing your commute.


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