How to Wash Your Outdoor Clothes - Backpacker

How to Wash Your Outdoor Clothes

Getting out too much is a good problem to have. Stinky clothes from all the mileage? Not so good. We tested 16 cleaning products to find the best treatments to prolong the life of your favorite layers.
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Round Up Maintain Layers

Keep the stink at bay.

Down

Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner

Down loses its loft when dirty or oily, which compromises warmth. This wash was the best at returning down to its original spring, restoring one tester’s 6-year-old puffy and allowing him to head into New Hampshire’s White Mountains with peace of mind. It’s safe for waterproof shells as well. (To re-DWR hydrophobic down, use Nikwax’s Down Proof.) $9; 12 oz.

Defunkify Active Odor Expedition Strength

This down-safe wash coats fibers with deodorizing molecules that resist stink, making it ideal for long trips or particularly smelly layers. After a few sweaty summer hikes, our tester’s synthetic tee had none of its usual funk despite no washes in between. $20; 7 oz.

Waterproof/Breathable

Nikwax Tech Wash

Dirty shells don’t breathe as well as clean ones, but normal detergent gums up their pores. Tech Wash got top marks for erasing dirt and body oils without blocking the pipes. Our tester’s shell—clogged and clammy after a season of ski touring—was much more breathable after one cycle. $10; 10 oz.

Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In

TX.Direct restored water repellency to nearly off-the-rack levels better than any other product we tried. “After one wash, my wet out-prone jacket was back to shedding precip,” one tester says. Eco bonus: No harmful PFCs. $13; 10 oz.

Synthetic

Gear Aid Revivex Pro Cleaner

This treatment is a one-stop shop for synthetics, and our tester used it to clean everything from underwear to sleeping bags to puffies. It beat other washes at de-funking a load of base- and midlayers that reeked after a long trip in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Revivex Pro can also clean waterproof shells (but didn’t do that as well as other washes in the test). $9; 12 oz.

Wool

Granger’s Merino Wash

Merino is delicate—normal detergents with softeners or enzymes damage its fibers. Granger’s was the best out of the wool-specific washes we tested at neutralizing the smell and removing the dirt from a heap of socks that had each been worn for a week straight. (It’s great for wool/synthetic blends, too.) $9; 10 oz.

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