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Why You Should Wash Your Ski Jacket—and How to Do It Right

Dirt, body oils, and household detergents can inhibit both the jackets’ ability to shed water and to breathe

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There’s an endless amount of things on which you can spend your money when it comes to skiing: new planks, a season pass, or a road trip are great places to start. Getting new stuff is fun and fans your stoke for the upcoming season, but making other things, like your outerwear, last longer can let you save and spend your money on bigger needs.

Washing your outerwear regularly is the best way to take care of it and prolong its life—and its water resistance. Ski jackets and pants have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) that allows water to bead up and roll off, keeping you dry. Whether you’re skinning up the resort before the lifts turn or you’re making hot laps on fresh corduroy, you’re building up a sweat, working hard for those turns. Over time, dirt, body oils, and household detergents can inhibit both the jacket’s ability to shed water and to breathe. When this happens, not only can you get cold and wet from the outside, but water vapor can no longer escape and you get soggy from the inside out.

But not all cleaning agents are ideal. “Household detergents leave behind residue on your jacket and are actually hydrophilic—they attract water, the opposite of what you want on the surface of your waterproof jacket,” says Nikwax VP of Marketing Heidi Dale Allen, who ran the company’s Gear Rehab program where they invited customers to send one piece of outerwear in for cleaning. She has personally cleaned hundreds of pieces of gear. “Nikwax’s Tech Wash not only cleans your apparel without leaving behind these harmful residues, it also restores breathability and water repellency.”

When washed in moderation, cleaner, longer-lasting outerwear has the environmental benefit of keeping gear out of the landfill longer. So does buying used. Brands like The North Face, Arc’teryx, and Patagonia, as well as retailers like REI, buy and sell used gear, but it’s not always guaranteed to be cleaned. Nikwax is a carbon-balanced company whose products are water based, biodegradable, and free of harmful chemicals, PFCs, and aerosols.

Should You Reuse, Repair, or Replace Your Gear When Ski Season Ends?