How to Waterproof Down Jackets: A Detailed Guide

How to Waterproof Down Jackets: A Detailed Guide
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A down jacket is a really comfortable piece of outerwear that you can wear for almost anything. Some wear it when camping on cold nights, while others find that the level of warmth it offers is perfect for everyday winter wear.

When looking for a down jacket, many of us prefer one that is made with waterproof features to keep moisture and rain from seeping in. What happens if the waterproof feature wears off, though? Do you have any idea how to waterproof down jackets?

In case you didn’t know, the waterproof feature of your down jackets wears off, especially when you have been using it for a long time. There’s no need to worry, though, because it is possible to bring it back to its former glory.

In this article, we will explain the basics of a down jacket, list down the signs that you need to look for before you waterproof your jacket and share with you a step-by-step guide on how you can bring back its waterproof feature.

What Is a Down Jacket?

A down jacket is a type of clothing that is filled with down. Down is the soft and warm cotton-like material underneath the feathers of ducks and geese. Basically, it is an insulator, and it keeps the ducks or geese warm during cold days.

Since down is an amazing insulator, it is used in jackets designed for chilly weathers. This material does its job by creating small air pockets that would trap warm air and retain heat.

Whether you just want to upgrade your winter wardrobe or you’re looking for a down jacket to wear on your next hike, you need to find one that fits your every need and preference. While a down jacket is made to give warmth, you should also not overlook its overall style. What else do you need to keep in mind?

Buying a Down Jacket

When buying a down jacket, you always check the down fill power because it is the measurement that would indicate if a particular jacket can provide amazing insulation. However, it is not the only feature that you need to consider. The waterproof feature is very important, as well.

During the winter season, moisture can be found almost anywhere, and if you are not wearing a waterproof jacket, the moisture will seep through your jacket, and the layers of clothes behind it would become wet. Well, you already know what would happen if the clothes beneath the jacket become wet. The insulation provided by the jacket would be ignored, and you won’t get the warmth and heat that you wanted.

When buying a jacket, you always see the initials DWR, which stands for durable water repellent. It is a coating that is applied to fabrics to make sure that they will repel water. It works by forcing water and other types of liquids to a beaded form. It will roll off the garment instead of staying and seeping through the jacket.

You have to know that the waterproof feature of your down jacket won’t stay there permanently. In time, it will wear down, and you will notice that your jacket is not keeping you dry. How else can you tell if your down jacket is down waterproof anymore?

Is Your Jacket Still Waterproof?

It is very hard to go on a backpacking trip or a hike if your jacket is absorbing water. This is very important if you are hiking in a very cold place. For this reason, you have to know how to waterproof down jackets.

Before that, though, you first have to make sure that it is indeed beyond repair. How would you know if your jacket is still waterproof? This is something that many of you are probably asking. You can check out some of the signs that we will mention below.

  • Your Jacket Is Not Keeping You Warm Anymore

One of the most common signs of a waterproof jacket deteriorating is the sudden drop of warmth provided by the jacket. The temperature is not too low, but you are already feeling the cold.

Some might say that the problem lies with the insulation, but there are times when it is because of the moisture seeping through the jacket. If the moisture and water start to seep through the jacket, you will definitely feel very cold. The insulation will not be able to do its thing because the cold air is already inside.

There are a lot of reasons why the jacket is not keeping you warm anymore, and the deterioration of the waterproof feature is just one of it.

  • Wet Parts in Your Inner Clothes

Another sign that you will notice would be the wet parts in the inner clothes you’re wearing. Basically, the main job of your waterproof down jacket is to prevent water from getting inside the inner layers, so if it is not doing that, it means that the waterproof coating of your jacket is already subsiding.

  • No Droplets of Water When Wet

Yet another sign of a waterproof jacket deteriorating is the droplets of water you’d see when it is wet. Basically, waterproof jackets can turn water into droplets, allowing it to slide off the jacket.

Try spraying water on the jacket to see if there are still droplets forming. If you noticed that the water is sliding down the jacket instead of turning into droplets of water, it means that the waterproof coating has already deteriorated. You will also notice that the fabric starts to darken. This would mean that the fabric is absorbing the water and not repelling it.

These signs would mean that you should re-waterproof your jacket. You don’t have to think about getting a replacement immediately unless the reason why the jacket is not waterproof is because of severe damage. Buying a new one is definitely a choice, but there is a way for you to waterproof your jacket.

How to Waterproof Down Jackets

Most of you are probably frustrated because your down jackets are not waterproof anymore. Obviously, you don’t want to replace them just yet since they are very expensive. If you have been using the jacket for a very long time, it is not a bad idea to replace it with a new one, but if your jacket is fairly new, you should think about re-waterproofing it.

We will give you a few simple tips on how you can waterproof your down jacket.

Step 1: Check for Serious Damages

Before you decide to waterproof your down jacket, you have to check if it is still in good condition. Even if you waterproof your jacket, it won’t make any changes if the insides are already torn apart.

If you see some bubbling or peeling in the lining, and it is already separating from the membrane, you better retire the jacket. If it has been with you for a long time, it won’t hurt to buy a new one instead of just re-waterproofing it.

If the jacket is fairly new, you don’t have a choice. Even if you try to waterproof the jacket, it will not make any difference as the insides are already damaged. Cold air and water will just seep through the holes.

Step 2: Wash Your Jacket

You’ve probably heard about a tip from other hikers and backpackers that you should not wash your jacket because the waterproof coating would be removed. This is false.

If you don’t wash your down jacket and you noticed that the waterproof coating is already wearing off, the problem lies in the dirt on your jacket. Even if you wipe off the dirt from your jacket from time to time, there is still some small debris stuck on the outer part of the jacket.

Smoke, dirt, and oil are some of the contaminants that would clog the pores of the membrane. It will also have an effect on the breathability of the jacket. The rule of thumb is to wash your jacket every five uses to make sure that these contaminants won’t clog the pores.

If you washed the jacket and noticed that the waterproof coating is still there, you don’t need to do anything else. Sometimes, these jackets only need to be cleaned. If not, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Wash the Jacket with a Formulated Detergent

Now, after you’ve done regular washing and found that the waterproof coating really did wear off, you need to do this next step. Earlier, no special product was used to wash the jacket and remove the dirt and oil. However, this kind of washing sometimes won’t give any satisfying results.

Because of that, you should try using a formulated detergent made for the purpose of cleaning down jackets. Nikwax is one of the few brands that can provide you the best detergent for your jacket. Here is the simple way of using it:

  • Put the jacket in the washing machine.
  • Remove any detergent buildup from the dispenser before adding the product.
  • If you have a top-loading washing machine, put the detergent after loading it with warm water.
  • Add one capful of detergent.
  • Set the cycle of the washing machine to heavy.
  • Dry the jacket based on the tag instructions.

You have to follow these steps correctly because you can’t use a lot of detergent for the jacket. You only need to use one capful for every jacket and don’t go over that. If you noticed that the waterproofing was not revitalized, you should proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Use a Product That Can Restore DWR

There are two ways to restore the DWR in your jacket.

  • Use a Wash-in Product

Earlier, we used a detergent to wash the jacket, but this is not meant to restore the DWR of your down jacket. Nikwax also has a few items that can restore DWR, and you can use it for your down jacket.

Basically, you need to follow the procedures as stated in the product’s packaging. This is the last step in the restoration of the waterproofing feature of your jacket.

  • Use a Spray-on Product

We would suggest that you use a spray-on product because it allows you to focus on the outer part of the jacket. If you are using a wash-in item, you won’t be able to control the washing machine. The product is only meant for the outer part of the jacket, so it is better if you can just spray it outside of the jacket.

Step 5: Dry the Jacket

Whether you used a wash-in or spray-on product, they have to be given time to dry before you can use the jacket. You can read the instructions from the DWR treatment product to see how long they have to stay in the dryer.

You have to remember not to use the jacket unless the DWR treatment is already dry. It will wear off if you use the jacket without drying it completely first.

If, after doing all of these steps, you still failed to restore its waterproofing feature, the best thing to do is to dispose of the jacket and buy a new one. We have been mentioning this the whole time because even if you know how to restore the waterproofing feature of the jacket, there is still a chance that it would fail.

We can understand if your jacket is extremely expensive and you want to use it for a longer time, but if your jacket is not too expensive, you can just buy a new one.

Wrapping Up

A down jacket is always the go-to item for people who are planning for a hike. It is very easy to buy one if you know what to look for, but it is very hard to maintain.

The waterproofing feature of the jacket can wear off anytime. Even if it still brand new, there are certain factors that can actually remove its waterproofing feature. You just have to know how you can determine if a jacket lost its waterproofing feature.

The tips mentioned above will help you restore the waterproofing ability of your jacket. If you follow the steps properly, you can still save your jacket and use it a few more times. If you’ve done everything, but you were not able to restore the waterproofing feature of your jacket, it is time to say goodbye and get a new one.

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