How to Wash Your Ski Gear
Ski gear getting funky but unsure how to best wash it? Read on to find detailed care instructions for all the common materials you have to wash.
There's a lot of cool new technology and fabrics that go into ski gear these days. And for products that are specifically made for getting dirty and sweaty, there sure is a lot of confusion on how to wash your outerwear to give it a good, long life!
It's a common misconception that waterproof and insulated clothing shouldn’t be washed. Never washing your favorite ski jacket and ski pants will actually cause dirt, oils, and grease to build up on the garment, causing the fibers to break down more quickly and have a shorter life! It’s important to wash your gear regularly and correctly. In this article, we will go over how to do that and give you some bonus care tips at the end.
First, let’s talk about laundry detergent. Most detergent you’ll find at the grocery store is not suitable for washing your technical gear! The chemicals and fragrances are too harsh. They will leave a residue which will result in your insulated pieces being less warm and the waterproofing and breathability of your waterproof layers being less effective! For some pieces, a gentle unscented laundry detergent is fine. For any ski clothing with down insulation or any waterproof items, it is important to get a specific type of technical wash from a company that specializes in gear wash.
I’ve listed a few options for special technical washes below, but reach out to a Curated Expert and we can send some additional suggestions that are specific to your exact gear! Before starting these cleaning cycles, make sure any leftover detergent is out of the detergent tray in your washing machine so it doesn’t get mixed in. Never use fabric softener, whiteners, or bleach on any technical fabric.
Now, let’s talk about your washing machine and cycle options. For everything listed below, it is better to use a front-load machine because it doesn’t have the agitator in the middle that can rip fabrics. If that's not an option, the delicate cycle on your washer at home will work just fine.
And lastly, before washing anything, make sure you read the manufacturer's care label, empty the pockets, and tuck away any zippers or Velcro. Although this article will give you a general overview, some items may have specific recommendations and for that, it's always good to check the tag. Given the delicate nature of many of these fabrics, a forgotten lip balm in a pocket or a loose zipper could cause a bit more damage than they normally would.
Okay, let’s get into it!
Synthetic insulation is the easiest to wash. If it’s a waterproof synthetic layer (like most insulated ski jackets or ski pants), jump below to the instructions for washing waterproof materials. If it's more of a layering piece and doesn't have waterproof properties, follow this section.
- Detergent: Unscented gentle detergent (Tide Gentle or Downy Free and Gentle).
- Drying: Most of the time, I air dry my synthetic/non-waterproof layers. Unlike down insulation and waterproof membranes, synthetic insulation doesn’t require the drying cycle to keep functioning in tip-top shape. Most of my synthetic/non-waterproof pieces have a delicate face fabric, so I don’t want to risk jostling them around in the dryer every time. If you feel like the item is starting to get a bit less puffy, toss it in the dryer on low heat with two tennis balls. I usually do this about every fourth time I wash an item so that I am keeping it puffy but not subjecting it to unnecessary opportunities to get ripped.
- How Often: As needed.
Down is a bit more complicated than synthetic. Its two key properties in keeping you warm are the natural oils on the feathers and the air between the feathers inside the jacket—both of which need special care when doing a cleaning cycle. But don’t worry, all that means is that you will need to use a special detergent and run these items through the dryer instead of air-drying them.
- Detergent: Nikwax Down Proof or Revivex Down Cleaner. If the item is a waterproof/resistant down jacket, use Grangers Wash and Repel 2-in-1.
- Drying: Low or medium heat with two tennis balls.
- How Often: If it’s an everyday jacket, once a month or less often if needed. If it's just for skiing and you don’t wear it a ton, once or twice a season. Make sure to wash before storing for the off-season. Not washing often enough will make the feathers too oily and too matted together, causing your jacket to feel less puffy and less warm.
Waterproof / Water-Resistant Membranes
Waterproof fabric requires a special type of detergent as well. While you won’t need to do it every time, if you notice your pants aren’t as waterproof as they were before, you’ll want to do an additional rinse cycle after the wash cycle. During that last rinse cycle, you’ll use a re-waterproofing solution to add waterproof coating back to your jacket or pants.
After washing and the rinse cycle, if you are doing that, your items will need a short time on low heat in the dryer. This shrinks the waterproof pores back together and reactivates the durable water-repellent (DWR coating) found on water-resistant jackets and pants. It’s not necessary to dry these completely in the dryer, they just need a few minutes with a heat source to revamp those properties after being washed. A tumble dry for 20 minutes on low heat will be enough!
- Detergent: Nikwax Tech Wash
- Solution for rinse cycle when re-waterproofing: Gentle cycle with cold water and Grangers Clothing Repel, or this spray that eliminates the need for the second rinse cycle - Grangers Performance Repel Plus.
- Drying: Low heat for about 20 minutes.
- How Often: Usually washing once or twice a season will suffice, and one of those should be before storing for the off-season. I find I really only need to do the re-waterproofing every other year, if that. If you avoid washing your waterproof jackets and pants, it allows the sweat and oils from your skin and the grime from day-to-day wear to build up on the waterproof coating, causing it to be less effective.
Baselayers often get tossed in with the rest of your regular clothes in the laundry, but they actually require special care. The tricky question with baselayers is how often to wash them. Merino wool and most synthetic options have a natural odor-resistant property, which makes it so that you hopefully don't have to wash them every time you wear them. Washing after each wear can break down the fabric more quickly, but sometimes you just need to. I settle for around every other or every third time.
- Detergent: A performance wash like Nikwax Base Wash is designed for baselayers, but as that can get expensive to use every time, I tend to use that every few washes. The rest of the time, I use an unscented detergent like we use for synthetic insulation.
- Drying: Air dry.
- How Often: At your own discretion, about every other time.
Gloves and mittens are not as commonly in need of a wash as the other types of ski clothing, but on the chance you need to wash your gloves, here are a few tips.
- If it’s a waterproof, synthetic glove, use the same rules as for the waterproof clothing above.
- If it’s a leather glove, look for a good leather cleaner, such as the Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for leather.
Bonus Care Tips
Pay special attention to stains on waterproof and down gear, as they can have more detrimental effects on the fabric. If you notice a stain, hand wash it gently with a non-scented stain remover or a gentle dish soap. Let it sit for five minutes and follow the appropriate wash cycle.
At the end of the season, make sure to do the appropriate wash cycle and then store your technical fabric in a dry, climate-controlled area away from direct sunlight.
So sad, but holes happen to all of us at some point. If you notice a hole in your down, synthetic, or waterproof jacket, that's okay! There are plenty of patches out there that can save the day. If it’s a Patagonia item, you can take your gear into their store and they will patch it for you for free. Here are some links for patches:
- Down/Synthetic: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape (Toss your jacket in the dryer on low heat for 15 minutes after making sure the patch is firmly stuck on your jacket and it will ensure a better stick.)
- Waterproof: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Gore-Tex
A lot of times when people hear “requires special care for cleaning,” their mind jumps to dry cleaning. But dry cleaning uses quite a few harsh chemicals that will ruin your technical gear just like that. Don’t do it!
Still have questions? Not sure about how to take care of your gear in a way that will ensure it will live its maximum life? Ask a Ski Expert here on Curated for help! We are happy to give you personalized advice for the best method and wash for your gear in question.