PHOTO: David Reddick
It’s time to talk about your dirty laundry.
Of course it’s more exciting to talk about new gear and putting it to use on the next powder day, but this time of year I’m reaching for my skis less and less (more here on how to cope with the loss of winter) and my winter apparel is being pushed to the back of my closet. If you’re like me, your kit is looking a little grimy after a winter of hard work. And yes, I know, looking like a worn-out, dirty ski skid is part of your personal brand, but the way you treat your gear now before stowing it away for six months will have a major impact on its longevity. In this case, clean is good.
Note, these are general rules and following the specific washing instructions for your gear is suggested first and foremost. And before washing anything, ever, anywhere, check you pockets for that damn Chapstick that wants to go for a ride on the spin cycle and ruin your life.
When Gore-Tex gets dirty, the membrane of the fabric gets clogged and this negatively affects both waterproofing and breathability. Washing Gore won’t harm the durable water-repellent (DWR), it will actually rev it up again.
Machine-wash your garment as described in the wash instructions. Either hang to dry, or tumble dry it on a warm, gentle cycle. Once it is dry, tumble dry your garment for 20 minutes to reactivate the DWR treatment on the outer fabric. The heat is an important part of this process, so don’t be afraid.
When the factory-applied treatment can no longer be reactivated (probably after 5-7 washes), apply a new water-repellent treatment available as a pump-spray product to the garment’s outer fabric.
I’m always afraid to wash anything down, but when a car-camping mishap recently drenched my favorite puffy leaving it soggy and stained, I had to toss it in the wash to save it. Down pieces lose their insulating properties when they get dirty, so if that vest you love so much isn’t clean, it isn’t keeping you warm either.
Run your down jacket through the regular cold-water wash cycle and then run it one more time without any detergent to make sure all the soap is removed. (If you’re trying to be water conscious, a single wash using Nikwax Down Wash Direct will do the trick). Avoid any fabric softeners.
When it’s time to dry, use a very low heat setting on your dryer and throw in three clean tennis balls to help break up wet clumps of down. Oh, you don’t have any spare tennis balls? Me neither. I use a pair of clean shoes or a few pairs of my heaviest winter socks rolled into balls. The point is to get creative.
This duck-friendly alternative takes special care to clean. Either wash by hand or use gentle wash cycle in a washing machine, but avoid using top loaders with agitators that can rip these more delicate jackets. Wash in cold water using Woolite or another soap designed for synthetic materials. Don’t use regular detergent (liquid or powder) because the residue left behind will keep your jacket from performing well. Rinse well, and tumble dry extra low to help it fluff back up without overheating.
Thankfully, I can get away with wearing my favorite base layers for at least a week before they need a freshen-up in the wash (and that’s not because I don’t sweat). If you’re still wearing base layers that start to stink faster than that, either sweat less or switch to these.
For merino base layers, it’s important to use a wool-specific washing liquid, and stick with cold water. Don’t use fabric softener here either, it will mess your shit up, trust me. To avoid pilling, wash your base layers separate from your jeans or other rougher fabrics. I hang to dry to avoid shrinkage, but some labels will give you the go-ahead to tumble dry low.
If it’s oil-based, like from sunscreen or pocket bacon, use dish soap, such as Dawn, to spot treat before you soak it in warm water. Then wash as directed.
Tree skiing got your jacket covered in sap? Freeze the sap with an icepack so it hardens, then chip off as much as you can with a butter knife. Soak, rinse, and wash.
Looking for more stain removal tips? Call your mom. Or check out this handy guide.