The frequency of care and maintenance of technical clothes during their whole life determines their efficiency, their performances, and their durability. Extending the life of your garments means postponing the need for a replacement, which is a great advantage for both your wallet and the environment.
Having a good care of your outdoor clothes doesn't mean that you have to wash them every single time you use them, but you do have to make sure that they are always "in good conditions", which means they must preserve their full functionality.
How often should you wash your waterproof garments?
There is no general rule to follow for the frequency of washings of waterproof garments, but this obviously depends on how often and, most importantly, how you use them. It is advisable to wash your waterproof jacket, pants, gloves, etc., not only when they begin to "look dirty", but also and most importantly when you start noticing that breathability begins to fail, or when the outer coating layer begins to absorb water. Although the exterior may not appear particularly dirty, remember that it is very important to inspect garments also on the inside. Sunscreens, cutaneous fat or salt residues due to the evaporation of sweat may remain impregnated on the inner walls of garments and therefore inhibit the breathability of waterproof membranes, at the same time making the whole fabric drier and stiffer and consequently shortening its durability.
A durable water-repellent (DWR) finish is applied to the outermost surface of waterproof/breathable clothing and equipment during manufacture. By making water bead up and roll off, this kind of coating helps preventing the outer fabric from soaking water. However, after a few washes and several days of use, the DWR coating tend to degrade and the outer fabric consequently starts to absorb water and get wet. This increases condensation within the waterproof membrane and prevents breathability. The DWR finish can be adequately restored using specific products.
If the garment is still relatively new and the DWR coating is only partially vanished, simply dry the garment in a dryer at 40° for 30-40 minutes. This will be enough to reactivate it.
If you need to restore the coating completely, there can be two cases depending on the construction of the garment:
How to wash down-filled garments
Removal of dirt: