How to use waterproofing spray – a guide for campers, hikers and trail runners

waterproof jacket
Stay dry in the rain by re-waterproofing outdoor garments (Image credit: Getty Images)

Most waterproof hiking, camping and trail running products that are made of fabric come with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment on the outside. DWR is usually added to items that are already made of waterproof fabrics, such as Gore-tex, and the aim is to give an extra layer of protection for the wet weather.

You will know if an item has DWR because when it gets wet, or in rain, the water beads and rolls off the fabric. Take a look at waterproof jackets, rain pants, hiking boots and tents.

However, this treatment naturally wears away when the products are in use. Abrasion from rocks or vegetation can cause the DWR to break down, or simply using the items outdoors for prolonged periods will see the treatment being rendered less effective.

When you see a fabric “wetting out”, that is the water isn’t beading off the item anymore, then you know it’s time to re-waterproof it.

Fortunately, the good news is you can re-waterproof with a DWR spray. There are plenty of sprays to choose from made by different brand and these can be bought in outdoor stores or on-line.

Maintaining products rather than throwing them away and buying new ones is good for your bank balance and also better for the environment because the fewer products we buy (when we probably don't need to) the lower the climate impact is due to manufacturing, transport and delivery etc.

water beading on fabric

Water beads when DWR has been used  (Image credit: Getty Images)

waterproofing spray

Use a waterproofing spray to treat fabric outdoors products  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Simple steps to using waterproofing spray

Before you use a waterproofing spray, you need to start with a clean garment or item – check out our guide to cleaning a backpack. There are products that can be used in a washing machine or by hand to effectively clean outdoors garments and equipment.

For the waterproofing, start with a clean and wet garment. Lay it out flat on the ground outdoors (choose somewhere clean and also where there is no wind). 

An alternative would be to hang up the item on a washing line or similar, although you’ll need to ensure you can spray the places where you use pegs..

Hold the spray a few inches from the face fabric on the outside of the garment.

Wet the entire garment evenly and completely. 

Ensure you get all the folds and hard to reach areas, such as under the arms and near pockets and zips

Once you have totally coated the item back and front, wait a few minutes. Then remove any excess DWR treatment with a wet cloth.

Now you should allow the product to air dry. Don’t be tempted to force the drying time by hanging over a radiator or in a warm place. It’s better to let the garment dry naturally in cool air.

And that’s it. Now you are ready to use the item and stay drier – as well as warmer – in inclement weather. 

As you can see these steps for using waterproofing spray are simple. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.