How to wash your waterproof jacket and trousers

Waterproof trousers in the rain
Though you certainly don’t need to wash your waterproof jacket and trousers after every use, it’s a common misconception that washing them will cause damage (Image credit: Jia Liu)

Though you certainly don’t need to wash your waterproof jacket and trousers after every use, it’s a common misconception that washing them will cause damage. In fact, you can machine wash your waterproof jacket and trousers trousers so long as you take a few precautions, and doing so might make them function better. In this article, we walk you through how to wash your waterproof jacket and trousers so they’re fresh for your next adventure, and still keep you dry on rainy days.

Oftentimes, we avoid putting our waterproof gear in the washing machine for fear it will wash off the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment, but it may actually be the dirt on your waterproof trousers and jacket that’s causing the problem by covering up the DWR. If you’ve noticed that your waterproofs are letting moisture in and you haven’t washed them in a long time, don’t throw them away or re-waterproof them just yet. Start by washing them and you might find they act like new again. 

A man hiking in the rain wearing a green waterproof jacket

You can machine wash your waterproofs so long as you take a few precautions, and doing so might make them function better (Image credit: RyanJLane)

While you’re freshening up your gear, you might also be interested in our handy guides to cleaning your tent and cleaning your backpack

1. Buy a gear clear for technical outerwear 

In preparation for washing your waterproof jacket and trousers, it’s important to know that you never want to use ordinary detergent, as this actually can break down the waterproof coating. Get yourself a gear cleaner designed for outerwear. 

2. Prepare your waterproof jacket and trousers 

Using a soft brush or damp cloth, brush off any dirt or dust that you’ve picked up on the trail. Close any zips and fasten any flaps, poppers or buttons. 

3. Prepare your washing machine 

Since you don’t want to wash your waterproof jacket and trousers using regular detergent, take a damp cloth and quickly wipe out the detergent compartment of your washing machine to make sure it’s clear. Then add your gear cleaner to the detergent compartment according to the instructions on the bottle. 

Best waterproof pants for hiking

Oftentimes, we avoid putting our waterproof gear in the washing machine for fear it will wash off the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment, (Image credit: Getty)

4. Wash your waterproof jacket and trousers 

Place your waterproofs in the machine. You can wash them together, but don’t add any other items in with your wash. Wash your waterproof jacket and trousers on a gentle, 30-degree cycle (occasionally waterproof trousers can take a 40-degree wash, so consult the label for exact details). 

5. Dry your waterproof jacket and trousers 

Generally speaking, you should air dry your waterproofs – though some will take a low heat tumble dry, you should consult the label for instructions. 

6. Re-waterproof your jacket and trousers 

This step is not necessary every time you wash your waterproofs, but when you notice that these items are absorbing water instead of rain beading and rolling off them, it’s time to follow our step-by-step guide to re-waterproofing your garments

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.