Proper care is necessary to prolong a product’s functional life and reduce its overall environmental impact. Obvious? Apparently not. Why are so many still getting this part wrong?

Production stage impacts continue to gain most of the attention when it comes to apparel. But accounting for approx. 10-35% of the total impact, the use stage is not entirely without consequence and involves substantial energy and water for clothes washing and drying, among others. And while proper cleaning and care is necessary to maintain the function and aesthetic qualities of a product, incorrect care can both increase these impacts while also decreasing the potential lifespan. In short, proper care matters.

Technical wear care

In terms of regular apparel, care recommenda­tions have become fairly well-known: Spot clean and air out clothing as much as possible, wash in full loads on low temperatures with an environ­mental detergent, and avoid tumble dryers for drying when possible.

Proper cleaning and care are just as important to extending the useful life of technical garments. Yet there remains a great deal of confusion on how to best care for them.

Nina Neundorfer has studied the actual care habits with technical outerwear. In a recent sur­vey titled “Analysis of the usage and care behavior of customers of weather protection jackets” (pending publication at the time of writing), she found that there is still much to be desired:

“When it comes to care for technical wear, it seems people have a lot of question marks in their minds in terms of the correct behavior.”

Not too much, not too little

The survey found, for example, that while most respondents washed their jackets five times or less per year, a small but not insignificant minori­ty washed between 6-30 times. Soiled garments can have their breathability and overall perfor­mance reduced and should be washed as needed. But it is important to note that unlike baselayers and midlayers, outerwear generally does not need to be washed very often. Excessive washing and drying can increase the total use stage impact.

A decline in functionality was reported by nearly a quarter of respondents as the reason for replacing their last technical garment. Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatments do lose their effectiveness over time, and outerwear needs to periodically either have its DWR reactivated or be reimpregnated to maintain waterproofness, breathability and dirt resistance performance. Yet 85% of respondents never put their outerwear in the dryer, and 47% of respondents reported they never reimpregnate their outerwear.

“Failing to re-activate and reimpregnate a prod­uct’s DWR, for example, is a big mistake that many make. This is so easy to do and could improve the garment’s function and extend its lifetime. One can only assume a lack of knowledge is the cause and greater education is needed.”

 

Proper Performance Wear Care

General care:

  1. Rule number one is to always follow the garment label’s care instructions.
  2. Air out after activity, hang dry when wet.
  3. Spot clean mud and spills when possible, using a mild detergent.
  4. Wash with a liquid detergent at low temperature as needed when soiled.

Reactivation:

  1. When water no longer beads on garments with DWR treatments, it’s time to reactivate. Close all zippers, and wash at 40 C (105 F) using a small amount of mild, liquid detergent (not powder).
  2. Air dry the garment. Once dry, tumble dry on a warm setting for 20 min. to reactivate the DWR.

Reimpregnate:

  1. If water still doesn’t bead after the above process, reimpregnate the garment. Follow the DWR manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply.
  2. Once applied, tumble dry the garment for an additional 20 min. on a warm setting.
Illustration: Kicki Fjell
Jonathan Eidse
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com
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