Caring for High Tech Fabrics




You’ll plunk down at least a few Benjamins to buy gear made with these innovations, so don’t blow your investment by ignoring the manufacturer’s care and use instructions. Read and memorize them.

Traditional Down
Best to take your down bag and outwear to a chemical-free dry cleaner, but there’s no reason you can’t do this at home. For DIYers, NixWax Down wash is the go-to cleaner for home laundering. They offer complete wash and care instructions for down garments and sleeping bags at their website. Don’t forget to add a couple of clean tennis balls to the dyer to help revive loft as the bag dries on the AIR setting.

Hydrophobic Down
Read the manufacturer’s specific instructions and follow them. A number of DIY people are reportedly adding durable water repellent finish (DWR) and other treatments to the wash in an attempt to hack this technology. But that could backfire on your bag warranty.

Durable Water Repellant Finish
The DWR treatment, which is designed to provide a first barrier to water penetration, on most outerwear tends to degrade over time and needs to be replenished. Even though the finish may still minimize penetration of rain or snow, it’ll be obvious it’s time to do something when water fails to bead up on the fabric.

Enhance water-shedding performance by treating your gear with a DWR at regular intervals. One rule of thumb is to treat at the same time as you clean it. In general, it’s ill advised to iron DWR treated fabrics. However, at very low temperatures heat from an iron may have a rejuvenating effect on the finish. But there is a greater potential for fabric damage from hot irons, so don’t do it, unless you’re confident you have a well-functioning iron with a reliable low setting. Again, follow the  manufacturer’s care and laundry instructions.

Laminates and Membranes
Avoid heavy soiling, i.e. rolling in the mud, in outerwear made with high-performance fabrics. It can inhibit membrane performance, in some cases clogging it. In fact, some high-tech laminate fabrics are actually improved by regular washing—as long as you avoid adding bleach or fabric softeners to your washing machine. Also do not send it out for chemical dry cleaning.

Generally, machine wash garments in warm water (110ºF/40ºC) with liquid detergent and a secondary rinse to remove all traces of detergent from the fabric. This should help maintain and restore performance. Line or drip-dry; heat can really do a number on synthetic and some natural fabrics. Also, resist the temptation to iron technical fabrics. Remember, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines.


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Jo Ostgarden

Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she's an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She's also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.

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