Look after your outdoor clothes with natural soap flakes May 22, 2016 07:00

I have always enjoyed the great outdoors and hill walking and have spent a fortune on the perfect outdoor coat and over trousers. Obviously they need to be cleaned, but you cannot just throw them into the washing machine with the rest of your clothes and put detergent in as this could damage the waterproof coating.

How does your waterproof clothing keep you dry? It allows sweat in the form of water vapour to pass through the fabric to the outside but stops rain or water from passing through the fabric to the inside. Different manufacturers have different methods of achieving this but they all work in the same way. When water comes in contact with the waterproof fabric, it runs off the surface of the garment and beads (form tiny balls on the surface). When the waterproof coating is damaged by detergents or worn away the water will no longer do this. Instead it will soak into the fabric - this is sometimes called wetting out. When the fabric on your waterproof walking coat wets out water does not escape to the outside. As a result, sweat stays near your skin and you get wet from the inside. In addition, detergent attracts water to the garments.

There are specialist products that you can buy to clean your waterproof clothes and they do work but they can be quite expensive. If you are like me and would like to save a little money here and you might want to try natural soap flakes to clean you waterproof clothing in the washing machine (provided the garment label allows you to do this). First you have to clean the detergent drawer were you put the washing powder in. Make sure that you get rid of any old washing powder and scented conditioner. Then place a towel in the machine and put it on a short wash with no washing powder. This cleans the inside of the machine. You are now ready to clean you waterproof gear. Load the machine with your gear and place natural soap flakes or specialist product into the machine and put on a normal wash of 30 degrees. Once finished if the garment label allows place the clothes in the tumble dryer on a low temperature to rejuvenate the waterproof coating. And there you have it: nice clean gear.

By using natural soap flakes you can achieve the same out come as by using the specialised products but for a fraction of the price. If your waterproof clothing needs to be re-proofed with the waterproof coating clean it as described above and use a specialised reproofing agent. Alternatively, in my experience pure (unscented) fabric conditioner can achieve a similar re-proofing result.

I hope this helps with caring for your precious outdoor gear and help keep you nice and dry – have a great time next time you venture into the great outdoors!

Nicholas Howard