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DWR coating – dry through the rain

Enjoy your trip, even during a rain shower

© Y by Nordisk

You always have to be prepared for a surprise downpour, at any time of the year. If you are in the mountains or in the forest, you can't just look for shelter somewhere. Houses or shelters are often not within reach. Good thing you thought of that and stowed your rain gear in your backpack at the last moment.

The day is saved: now equipped with your rain jacket, the adventure can continue. Unfortunately, most people know this: despite having rain gear, you're soaked to the bone. This is not only annoying, it also puts a damper on your mood; your hiking tour has now literally been rained on. DWR waterproofing provides the right solution. What this is exactly and how it works is explained here.

DWR, what does that mean?

The DWR abbreviation stands for Durable Water Repellent. DWR technology is a polymer coating that is applied to a product during production. The very thin layer is a water-repellent waterproofing, often used for outdoor clothing. It also protects against dirt and oily contaminants.

What is DWR waterproofing?

DWR waterproofing keeps the surface dry because the fibres and textile surfaces are very smooth. This means that the water drops do not find a foothold, and the water rolls off. This means that your functional clothing does not get soaked with water and you stay dry. A waterproof membrane is often a component of rainwear with a DWR coating. This ensures that the clothing is both breathable and water-repellent. The DWR coating ensures that it stays that way.

© Y by Nordisk

DWR waterproofing and water column – what is the connection?

The water column is a test method for determining the waterproofness of a fabric. Water pressure is used to determine how long it takes for the material to let water through. The higher the value, the longer the water needs. In functional clothing with DWR waterproofing, it is not only the outer fabric that ensures waterproofness. The coating also helps to make the clothing additionally water-repellent.

How long does the DWR coating last, and how do I check its condition?

The term Durable Water Repellent is a little misleading and not entirely accurate. The DWR waterproofing is only a thin layer and, after a certain time, it wears off. If you use the rainwear often, the coating will not last as long. Especially in places like the knees or where the backpack rests, the clothing has to withstand a lot. DWR waterproofing also diminishes with frequent washing.

But you can easily check whether your functional clothing is still leak-proof. To do this, run a few drops of water over the clothes. If the water beads off, the rainwear is still OK. But if it soaks into the fabric, then it's time to reactivate or renew the DWR waterproofing.

© Y by Nordisk

Methods for reactivating the DWR coating

If your rainwear has not passed the water test, the first thing you can do is try to reactivate the DWR. Whether this is possible, however, depends on the type of waterproofing used. Check with the manufacturer first; they can tell you which method is suitable. For reactivation, you need moderate warmth, which you can achieve in this way:

  • In the dryer: Put your clothes in the tumble dryer, select a gentle cycle at 60°C.
  • Ironing: Careful ironing at medium heat, but without steam, is sufficient for reactivation. To protect it, place a cloth between the iron surface and the clothes.
  • Hair dryer: Hang the jacket on a hanger and blow dry it carefully. Keep a distance of a few centimetres. With all these measures, 20 to 30 minutes are enough. Test the rainwear again with water drops. Reactivating the DWR waterproofing was successful when the beads drip off.

Restoring DWR coating: two methods

If your rainwear is still not water-repellent despite reactivation, you can renew the waterproofing. There are two measures available to you for this purpose. No matter which method you choose, the outdoor clothing must be clean and dry.

  • In the washing machine: use a special DWR waterproofing detergent. Follow the dosage recommended by the manufacturer and wash the functional clothing on the gentle cycle. You can find out how to dry them on the care label.
  • DWR Waterproofing spray: the advantage of spraying is that you can distribute the waterproofing agent well. This way, you can also work on delicate areas like shoulders or seams.

Renewing the waterproofing of your rainwear has worked when the water rolls off again. However, it is usually not as good as the original waterproofing and must be repeated more often.

Is DWR waterproofing environmentally friendly?

To make textiles waterproof and yet breathable, outdoor clothing companies often resort to chemicals. To keep you dry, perfluorinated or polyfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs for short, are used. PFC compounds are hotly debated at the moment because this type of DWR waterproofing is harmful to the environment. PFCs are difficult to break down and remain in the ecosystem for years

But PFC is not only a problem for the environment. This is also an issue: DWR waterproofing and health. A growing number of studies suggest that it poses health risks to humans. PFCs are suspected of affecting areas such as the immune system and hormone balance, as well as causing cancer to develop.

© Y by Nordisk

Are there alternatives?

Yes, there are. In the meantime, waterproofing solutions have been developed that are PFC-free. These agents are not only environmentally friendly, they also have a good beading effect. Ever more outfitters are already using PFC-free materials in production, and they also indicate this on their labels. VAUDE, for example, has been manufacturing all its waterproof and water-repellent clothing products PFC-free since 2018. But other substances are also increasingly being used in products for renewing or refreshing the waterproofing. One such product is the Bionic Finish Eco. It is based on a formula without fluorine.


If your outdoor rainwear is no longer water-repellent, this does not mean the end of your beloved clothing. You can renew the waterproofing yourself so that you stay dry on your next outing, even in a rain shower.