Can a "breathable" waterproof jacket be made to shed water again?
April 23, 2020 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I have a Columbia "Omni-Tech" jacket which is my go-to garment for dog walks and the like when it's wet out. Structurally it is still fine, but the shell material no longer beads water, or at least not for very long, which makes wearing it not a lot of fun.

The jacket is probably 20 years old--it doesn't owe me a thing, so if it's time to replace it that's ok. I know they're not awfully expensive, but if I can save $100 by doing some mysterious magic process and restore its water-shedding abilities, I'd be in favor of that.

(The jacket will bead water for the first minute, but it then just gets soggy.)
posted by maxwelton to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can re-apply DWR (durable water repellant) coatings, and should on a regular basis, if you want water droplets to shed off the face fabric. The membrane that the manufacturer has attached to the face fabric provides most of the water proofing allowing water vapor to permeate it through it, but they can break down a bit over time or at least get clogged up and so you may also want to explore using a tech wash on that as well.

What defines the water-proof-ed-ness of the garment is down to the membrane and how much hydro static (i think) pressure it can stand up to before water is able to force it's way through. DWR coatings help with this as well.
posted by iamabot at 12:33 PM on April 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Yes - you can wash it with a product similar to this:, which should restore waterproof qualities
posted by rd45 at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

I had heavy-duty outdoor gear (Cordura-backed Goretex) that could be revived with a quick run over with a warm iron but check with your manufacturer before you make a melted puddle of your jacket.
posted by scruss at 12:54 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a similar situation, I used tech wash to get the garment clean, and then used the spray version of NikWax - this allows you to spray the heck out of the parts of the jacket that will get rained on the most and go easier on the underarms to hopefully preserve a bit more breathability.
posted by momus_window at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have used, with much success, the nikwax wash-in tech wash and rewaterproofing for many jackets, including my current, 10+ year old 'mountain equipment' goretex jacket, and newish (2 year old) 'rab' jacket - the same one as recommended by rd45. If you can also find the nikwax tx-direct waterpoofing (link) then you can add that too to try and get the material back to beading. UK link but hopefully it's available where you are.

First, you machine wash your jacket with the wash-in, then again with the tx-direct. It's best if you can machine dry after the tx-direct, which is difficult for me without a drier, but I've had success drip-drying in bathtub then over a radiator. i think the drying is to spread the coating evenly. DO NOT put anything else in the washing machine with either the tech wash or tx-direct -- it WILL make whatever you put in bead water weirdly (ask me how I know). it may be worth running an empty load after you do both. You can also buy sprays to re-waterproof but I find the wash-in kind works best as often the material needs cleaned first.

I live in Scotland, which tends to defeat even the most waterproof jackets, and the membrane gets worn down, especially at the seams, over time, so the nikwax won't work miracles on a 20-year-old coat; however, I tend to apply about once a year to all waterproof trousers and jackets, and it really does improve waterproofness. Even on cheaper jackets that I wear day-to-day (still in pretty rainy conditions and they take a lot of abuse), it makes a difference. I tend to find its the lower arms which lose water repellancy the most, which is particularly annoying in damp but warmish conditions, when you only have a t-shirt on underneath. Also, I've found that taped seams kind of disintegrate after a while (10 years), so you'll still get some rain coming in, but if you can mostly stay dry, it's still an improvement.

Good luck staying dry!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you don't want to try any of the DIY methods posted, rewaterproofing is a service available at my local dry cleaners and maybe at yours also.
posted by McNulty at 4:50 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've used this 3M spray waterproofing or similar products over the years. It works, but you have to apply it every year.
posted by sneebler at 5:08 PM on April 23, 2020

As an fyi-Nikwax is water based and environmentally friendly so I always recommend using that over similar products. It works as well as anything, and breathing the spray won't kill you.
posted by fshgrl at 6:48 PM on April 23, 2020

Response by poster: Many thanks for the replies! I see that the tech wash + tx direct is about $30 all-in, which probably (?) provides enough juice for a few years worth of treatment of a single garment.

What looks to be the same jacket (or its replacement) is on sale, if you don't mind last year's color, which I don't, for about $50 on Columbia's site. So, hm.

I think I'll take a close look at my jacket and make sure it's as structurally sound as I think it is. But even if I buy a new jacket it seems like I've been missing regular maintenance, which requires the chemicals anyway.

Decisions, decisions.
posted by maxwelton at 10:21 PM on April 23, 2020

Before you do all that, you should wash it and run it through the dryer if you haven't done that in a while. Follow the care instructions, but heat refreshes DWR.
posted by advicepig at 6:42 AM on April 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Here's the Atsko spray-on I've been using. Works great on tents, clothes, shoes, etc.
posted by achrise at 9:30 AM on April 24, 2020

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