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Washing and waterproofing GORE-TEX clothing

How to care for your waterproof outdoor gear so that it lasts a long time

© Rodnae Productions / Pexels

You’ve been looking for the perfect raincoat, waterproof trekking trousers or winter gloves for a long time. You’ve probably chosen clothing with a GORE-TEX membrane, which comes with the promise “GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY” and stands out for its durability and reliable quality. (Read more about how the GORE-TEX membrane works here ).

Now, of course, you also want the garment to last as long as possible. To ensure that your outerwear retains its waterproof, windproof and, at the same time, breathable properties for many years, you need to care for it properly and regularly. After all, outdoor clothing should be able to withstand a lot and you want to be able to rely on it, especially in adverse conditions.

Mostly, the recommendation is simply to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and the sewn-in label. This tip is not to be dismissed, but the small symbols on the laundry label often only provide general information. In this article, we explain when it’s time to wash your GORE-TEX garment and what you should look out for when washing beyond general cleaning information. You’ll also learn how to reactivate or renew the durable water-repellent (DWR) finish.


Follow these care tips for GORE-TEX

The GORE-TEX membrane on the inside of your outdoor clothing has millions of tiny pores that are too small to allow liquid water to pass through but large enough to allow sweat to escape in the form of water vapour. The structure of the membrane itself is very robust, but the outer material can get dirty over time if you subject your jacket, trousers, gloves or other items to heavy use during your adventures. Sweat, body oils and sunscreen can also clog the pores of the membrane with debris, limiting breathability. The same happens when you use soap or detergent that leaves residue in the material.

Therefore, you should choose a residue-free detergent and the right wash cycle, as well as air-drying the garment after washing and refreshing the DWR coating.

When is it time to wash clothes with a GORE-TEX membrane?
  • In general, you should wash your GORE-TEX garment regularly. This means every 10–12 days for intensive use. For light, everyday use, wash every 20–30 days.
  • When it rains, if moisture seeps through the outer material in critical areas such as the hems and shoulders and water no longer beads up, the DWR impregnation should be refreshed (not the GORE-TEX membrane, strictly speaking).
  • If the breathable properties start to deteriorate, it’s a sign that residues of sweat and body oils are clogging the micropores that make up the GORE-TEX membrane.
  • If your clothes are visibly dirty, it’s obviously time to wash them. The DWR coating normally protects effectively against dirt. But when it’s no longer effective, the garment needs to be washed.

How to wash your GORE-TEX clothing properly

Regular washing (approximately every 10–12 wears when used intensively) will keep your GORE-TEX jacket or trousers fresh and prolong their life. Residues of body fluids and suntan oils can damage the membrane over time and affect its performance. When the fibres and membrane are well rinsed, they work like new again.

1. Preparation

Close all zips and fasten straps and flaps so that they do not strike against the material too much or tangle during the wash cycle. It is unnecessary and even counterproductive to turn garments inside out as this may not rinse the outer fabric enough.

If your garments are particularly dirty from your last adventure, you should shake off or brush off encrusted mud and sand as best you can before washing so that it doesn’t clog your washing machine or the pores of the GORE-TEX membrane.

2. Choosing a detergent

Use a small amount of liquid detergent or technical detergent for membranes (e.g., by Nikwax). Commercial detergent is sufficient, but washing powder, fabric softener, stain remover or bleach are no good because they can clog the pores or damage the membrane.

3. Choosing a wash cycle

Wash GORE-TEX garments individually (or a few pieces together) on a gentle cycle at a maximum of 40 degrees. If the jacket or trousers themselves are not particularly dirty, a lower temperature will also suffice.

4. Spin sparingly

In addition, you should use as few revolutions as possible when spinning or skip the spin cycle altogether at first so that the material does not get creased. The clothes will still be dripping wet when you take them out of the machine, but it will be easier to see if the detergent has left any residue in the material if the squeezed-out water is foamy or cloudy.

5. Extra rinsing

To remove all detergent residues, you should rinse at least twice. If there is still detergent residue in the washing machine drum, it is a sign that another rinse cycle is in order.

Care advice and tips for GORE-TEX garments

  • Regular washing improves performance and increases durability
  • Use a small amount of liquid detergent or technical detergent
  • Choose a gentle wash cycle with a maximum of 40° C and as low a spin setting as possible
  • Remove detergent residues with extra rinses

If you follow these washing instructions, your GORE-TEX jacket or trousers will be clean again and their functionality refreshed. Breathability should be restored and waterproofing will continue because the membrane remains intact.

But of course, washing alone is not enough. To preserve and refresh the membrane and the DWR coating, you also need to dry it properly and renew or reactivate the waterproofing.


After washing your GORE-TEX garment, you can renew or reactivate the waterproofing if it no longer beads up properly.

Post-wash care: drying GORE-TEX properly and reactivating the DWR

When your trousers or jacket are clean again, you should dry them as gently as possible. Proper drying is just as important as washing to ensure that the GORE-TEX membrane lasts and functions well for a long time. In addition, the water-repellent impregnation (also called DWR coating) must be renewed or reactivated. Attention should be paid to the following:

Drying

Allow washed GORE-TEX garments to air-dry as gently as possible or hang them on a hanger to dry. Avoid excessive heat, such as heat from a radiator or strong sunlight, as this will stress the material. The best way to dry GORE-TEX gloves is to squeeze them from the finger towards the wrist and then hang them on one finger so that the remaining water can escape.

If required, you can tumble dry GORE-TEX jackets and trousers at a low temperature and speed, but air-drying is gentler on both the fabric and the environment.

Reactivating the DWR coating

DWR stands for durable water repellent. It ensures that water beads up on the outer material so that it doesn’t even reach the membrane inside the GORE-TEX laminate. But ‘durable’ here does not mean that the coating lasts forever. In places subject to heavy wear, for example, under backpack straps or at seams, the coating can wear off over time and needs to be renewed. Here are two ways to do this:

You can put dry clothes in the tumble dryer at a warm temperature (maximum 60° C) and low speed for 20 minutes. This reactivates the DWR coating because the surface tension of the material is lowered or evened out. A short round in the tumble dryer is also a good idea if you notice that the rain on your jacket or trousers no longer beads up so well, even if it is not yet time for the next wash.

Alternatively, you can iron the garment on a low setting without steam. To protect the surface, place a thin cloth between the iron and the garment. But don’t overdo the ironing or press too hard. It’s just a matter of reactivating the coating on the surface by straightening it out.

Reapplying DWR

If reactivation in the tumble dryer no longer works or you don’t have a tumble dryer, you can also apply a DWR waterproofing spray or detergent (for example, by Nikwax). This is not necessary after every wash, as the original waterproofing should last for several washes. But if you find that the outer fabric softens quickly and water no longer beads up as well as it did at the beginning, it’s probably time to add a new DWR treatment.

First of all, you should follow the special application instructions for each waterproofing product. But for pump sprays in general the following can be recommended:

  • Apply the new DWR waterproofing thinly and evenly outdoors. After it has been allowed to soak in for two minutes, you can spread and wipe up the rest with a cloth, turn the jacket or trousers inside out and repeat this step on the other side.
  • When treating, the garment can still be wet or damp.
  • Then you should put the garment back in the tumble dryer for 20 minutes at a low temperature or iron lightly so that the molecules of the treatment can align themselves properly.

Exception: garments with a permanently water-beading surface such as GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY should not be recoated. Here, the membrane is on the outside and provides the beading effect, so applying a treatment would just clog the pores on the surface. Ironing or tumble drying could also damage the membrane.

General drying and care instructions for GORE-TEX clothing

  • Dry gently, preferably in the air
  • Reactivate the DWR treatment on a warm and gentle setting (max. 60° C) in the tumble dryer or with an iron
  • Renew the DWR with a suitable product when the beading effect wears off

Checklist for washing and drying your GORE-TEX clothing

  • Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions
  • Regular washing is essential
  • Use liquid or technical detergent and rinse several times
  • Maximum 40° C on a gentle wash cycle and spin as little as possible
  • Dry without heat, ideally air-dry
  • Reactivate or renew the DWR coating with heat

Conclusion

With proper and regular care, GORE-TEX clothing can last for many years, even decades, and demonstrate its optimal functionality. For a long time, it was assumed that this meant washing them as infrequently as possible. But to keep the membrane clean and fresh and to activate the water-repellent properties of the DWR, regular washing is essential.

In our other guides you can also find out how the GORE-TEX membrane works and how to properly care for your GTX shoes .