We met with our friends at McNett during a recent trip to Seattle. One of the things we asked them if they could do was to share some info on how to use their products with our readers. Let’s face it, money isn’t there like it used to be and we are going to all have to become very good at maintaining what we have. McNett offers a great range of accessories and garment care products.
Routine cleaning and maintenance is necessary in order to keep technical fabrics performing at their best. Typically, technical fabrics are constructed of a face fabric (usually some type of nylon), a waterproof breathable membrane (i.e. GORE-TEX, eVent, etc.) and a liner fabric that rests against the body. The outer fabric is typically treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) to help water bead up and roll off. It is extremely important that we keep these fabrics in top shape.
Many soldiers think that GORE-TEX and other waterproof breathable fabrics are fragile and should not be washed, but this is not the case. Cleaning technical fabrics only improves their performance; however, it is extremely important that you use a specialized cleaner. Typical “household” cleaners contain heavy residues, optical brighteners and fabric softeners which can also impact performance.
The chemicals used in fabric softeners build up and leave residues on your garment. These residues will cover the DWR coating on the outside of the item, which will allow water to spread out and soak into the fabric instead of beading up and rolling off. Residues from fabric softeners also tend to remain in the clothing fibers. The residues from fabric softeners can also affect the breathabilty of the waterproof breathable membrane as well.
Picture a water repellent as millions of tiny hairs standing straight on end. When a bead of water falls from the sky and lands on the hairs standing straight on end, it simply rolls off. With time, you get a build-up of dirt, smoke, body oils and other residues which tend to weigh down on those hairs standing straight on end. Now they are now longer standing straight up and when a bead of water falls from the sky, it begins to wet through the fabric as opposed to rolling right off. When this happens, you need to wash the garment with a cleaner that will remove all the residues and particulates without leaving behind additional residues.
All that said, it is extremely important that you use a clean rinsing detergent like ReviveX Synthetic Fabric Cleaner (http://www.mcnett.com/gearaid/synthetic-fabric-cleaner#36296) to rinse away the dirt, oils and residues which prevent the water repellent from shedding water and which also tend to clog the GORE-TEX membranes.
Once you have cleaned the garment with a specialized cleaner, many times you can restore the DWR and get the jacket to bead-up again by simply placing it in the dryer. If the DWR is still present, the heat will re-activate those tiny “hairs” and cause them to stand straight on end again. If the jacket is not repelling water after cleaning with a specialized cleaner and drying, then you will need to re-treat it with an aftermarket water repellent like ReviveX Durable Waterproofing (http://www.mcnett.com/gearaid/durable-waterproofing#36230). Start with a clean garment, spray it down with ReviveX Durable Waterproofing and dry according to the manufacturer’s recommendation or air dry for 48 hours.
Another benefit of the water-repellent finish (DWR) is that it allows passage of vapor more readily from inside the garment. Without this water repellent on the outer fabric, water can soak in and cool the surface as it evaporates. Moisture generated by a soldier’s body in the form of vapor can pass easily thorough the membrane unless the vapor contacts a cool surface; then it condenses into liquid (just as warm breath condenses into a liquid when it contacts a cool piece of glass). This is another reason why the water-repellent finish and the garment should be kept in good shape.
We all know that garments that wet-out and aren’t able to breath can lead to some pretty miserable times. With proper maintenance, however, we can prevent those uncomfortable moments outdoors and keep our garments dry while enhancing performance.
This post is brought to you by McNett. McNett offers products for maintaining, repairing, and waterproofing gear and clothing, and water purification, as well as microfiber towels and tactical products including lens cleaner and anti-fog, survival products, and Camo Form camouflage wrap.