Originally Posted by Kjerstin Klein
The important thing to keep in mind is that proper washing of performance fabrics will improve rather than damage performance. Proper washing clears the pores to improve breathability, re-lofts insulations and helps DWR coatings to rise back to the surface.
By 'Proper' washing I mean using gentle cleaners that do not strip weather protective coatings, damage hollow-core fabrics or clogg microporous laminate layers - so NOT Tide...or any other comercial laundry detergents. I could say plenty about these products but since we are talking about performance fabrics I'll keep my rant on that topic alone
PH balance is only one componenet of performance fabric wash - the gentle cleaners used break down sweat and body oils that block pores without leaving deposits comercial cleaners leave behind - not to gross you out but your typical commercial cleaners leave so much junk behind that after 10 washings deposits account for nearly 2% of the fabrics weight (see the Clemson University Rinseabilty Test). Many of these specialty performance fabric washes retreat garments with 'wash-in' DWR coatings to help sustain the factory DWR finish to improve longevity.
Don't worry, if you have used commercial detergents or soaps on your garments most quality goods can be restored to their former glory by using a sport specific wash a couple of times to remove the deposits left behind. There are many on the market but I suggest Axis G-Wash
The only issue with washing tech outerwear, with a tech wash/wash-in reproofer, is that it may affect the breathability, of said membrane. The best thing to do is read instructions, use a tech wash (without reproofer), & once washed, use a spray on DWR coating, & use per directions (Granger XT, NikWax, Stormguard).
As for the waterproof, make sure you get the correct rating for the conditions. We have wet snow, in the Nth Island, & dryer snow, in the Sth Island, & considering most of the outerwear is designed for dryer, northern hemispere conditions, we have to be careful at what rating we get, & what kind of outer fabric is used, & this is what a lot of ppl don't quite get, or don't get told, by the person selling them the product - the outer fabric is as important, as the tech membrane (pending if it's a laminate, or not). Example; you could have a 10,000mm/10,000gm/24 outerwear, with a nylon outer fabric, & a 5000mm/5000gm/24hr outerwear, with a twill or herringbone fabric. What this may mean is that the outerwear that is a twill fabric, & lesser ratings, wont "wet out" as fast as the nylon fabric, with the higher rating. Wet out is a term to discribe a saturation point of the fabric, when it stops repelling water, & breathing. This can be caused by heaving or driving snow or rain, over a certain time frame...
Something else to consider...
Now, as another example, Helly Hanson have in their wash instructions (Helly Tech, XP, & O2), a statement that tells you that the waterproof rating will half, with x amount of standard washes, without re waterproofing, so again, always check manufacturers instructions