3 Ways to Bring Your Tired Shell Back to Life

Don't buy new—just give your shell a little TLC

Like water off a duck’s back, rain should bead up and roll off your shell. When that stops happening, it’s time to rejuvenate the jacket’s durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. Restoring the coating’s beading action will prevent the shell’s outer fabric from soaking up moisture, or “wetting out,” a condition that makes the jacket heavier, slows drying time, and reduces breathability. All brands eventually require refreshing, but longevity varies greatly. Try these fixes before buying a new jacket.

Wash it

Cleaning reactivates the DWR molecules trapped in the fabric’s weave. Subject your jacket to the wear and tear of laundering only when it gets dirty and follow the tag’s instructions. Typically, that means washing on the gentle cycle with a mild powder detergent such as Dreft or Ultra Ivory Snow (or a soap formulated for outerwear, such as Nikwax Tech Wash), followed by medium-hot drying. Don’t use liquid detergents or ones with fabric softeners; these can leave residues that affect DWR performance.

Iron it

The day will come when washing won’t renew the beading action. When that day arrives, run a warm iron (set on low steam) over your jacket. The heat reactivates any remaining DWR molecules throughout the fabric.

Re-treat it

If cleaning and ironing don’t do the job, apply a new coating. You have two options: spray-on or wash-in. If your jacket has a wicking liner, go for a spray (such as Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On or McNett Revivex). If not, a wash-in (such as Grangers Wash-In Waterproofing or Nikwax TX Direct) is best; it’s easier to use and coats the fabric more evenly.

Originally published 2006; last updated January 2023

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