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How to Wash Ski Clothes

If you felt silly typing the question “how to wash ski clothes” into a search engine, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t. It’s a good question along with how to dress for skiing because most ski clothes contain waterproof fabric, and although durable, cleaning it incorrectly can damage it. 

While the simple, short answer to cleaning waterproof outerwear is to wash the garments in a delicate wash cycle with a gentle detergent and then air dry, there’s more to know about taking care of your ski wear. In this guide, we’ll go into specific detail on how to wash your ski jacket, snow pants, and ski gloves and why it’s important if you want to stay warm.

Tips for Washing Ski Wear

Believe it or not, some people never wash their ski jackets or snow pants. They figure they only wear the stuff a few times during the winter and they’re just going to get dirty again anyway. To that, we say fair enough. But as famed Navy SEAL Jacko Willink is credited with saying, “Take care of your gear, your gear will take care of you.”

What he means is that if you’re careless with how you use and store your equipment, you risk damaging it. And if it’s damaged, it won’t work as intended. With that said, the philosophy also applies to waterproof clothing. 

Most breathable waterproof fabrics like the ones used to make ski clothes are constructed out of nylon or polyester and have been treated with a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) coating. The way they work is microscopic pores in the fabric make it breathable so moisture from your body can escape, while the DWR coat prevents water from getting in by repelling it away.

The point is if the waterproof fabric gets dirty or stained, the pores will get clogged and trap moisture, and if the DWR coat isn’t replenished or preserved, it won’t repel water. So the waterproofing or water resistance of your ski jacket and ski pants will be nil.

How to Wash Snow Gear: Ski Jacket and Snow Pants

Image by Sebastian Staines

For this article, we reviewed cleaning instructions from major garment brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, and material maker Gore-Tex to see how they recommend you clean your snow gear.

  • Before you put your ski wear in the washing machine, prepare the jacket for cleaning by removing stains, dirt and mud from the garment by hand. This will give your washing machine an easier time as well. 
  • Also, check your gear’s care label because the manufacturer will outline specific cleaning instructions. And if you see instructions for machine washing or hand washing, follow them. The care label is often sewn into the garment but is usually available online as well.
  • Remove items from the pockets and secure the pockets shut, but leave the garment unzipped.
  • Wash the garment with the washing machine set to cold water, set the wash cycle to “delicate,” and then use a mild detergent (liquid, not powder).
  • While you can generally machine dry waterproof gear with the tumble dry setting, you should hang ski jackets and ski pants to air dry using a sturdy hanger. It’s also recommended that you hang them in the shade rather than in direct sunlight.

Read More: Best Winter Gloves for 2024

How to wash ski gloves

Unlike ski jackets and ski pants, you aren’t supposed to wash gloves in cold water in a washing machine. Instead, you’re supposed to wash them by hand in warm water using regular detergent or baking soda. Be sure to clean the gloves inside and out. Afterward, let them air dry.

How to Wash Ski Clothes: FAQs

What is a ‘mild’ laundry detergent?

In general, a “mild” detergent won’t irritate your skin if you come in direct contact with it. According to LifeHacker, the ingredients of a mild detergent include phosphates, sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, sodium aluminosilicates, and/or citric acid. Conversely, an example of a “harsh” detergent is bleach.

If you’d like to avoid the issue altogether, some experts recommend using detergents like Nikwax, a technical cleaner that was designed to clean waterproof fabrics and replenish DWR coatings. You can buy a two-bottle kit that consists of a tech wash detergent and an in-wash waterproofing solution.

RECOMMENDATION: Nikwax Hard-Shell Outerwear Care Kit

Can you use fabric softener?

No. While major brands recommend that you use a mild laundry detergent to wash your snow gear, they explicitly say no fabric softener (or dryer sheets).

The reason is that cleaning with regular detergent will help remove dirt and debris and preserve the DWR coat, but fabric softener is meant to soften fabric. Much like conditioner does for your hair, it’ll sort of moisturize the fabric. Translation: fabric softener will weaken the functional components of your waterproof clothes.  

Can you dry-clean waterproof snow gear? 

Image by Karsten Weingart

While most brands say “do not dry clean” their ski jackets, it’s not a hard and fast rule because it more than likely won’t damage the material. It’s just unnecessary. However, Patagonia explained on its website the reason why it doesn’t recommend it. 

“Our clothes are made to be worn and washed with very little fuss,” Patagonia says. “More importantly, the EPA estimates that 85% of the dry cleaners in America use perchloroethylene, or ‘perc,’ to clean garments and textile products. This chemical solvent has significant human and environmental risks. We make clothes that wear and perform beautifully without all that.”

Read More: Best Women’s Ski Pants for 2024

Does heat damage waterproof clothing?

Yes. Washing waterproof jackets and pants in hot water will damage the material and degrade the DWR coating as well as machine drying with heat and ironing. In short, use a gentle or delicate wash cycle with cold water and either air dry or tumble dry.

If it’s really dirty, should I add a second wash cycle?

It depends. Experts recommend that you prepare your ski jacket and snow pants before machine washing. This means you should remove stains and dirt with a little scrubbing or let the garments soak in cool water.

If you plan on treating the jacket or snow pants with a waterproofing solution like the Nikwax TX.Direct, the company recommends that you do it during a second wash cycle instead of mixing it with detergent the first go-round.

Should I add an extra rinse cycle?

Image by Nicolai Bernsten

Adding an extra rinse cycle isn’t necessary for cleaning a ski jacket or snow pants. However, if you use a technical cleaner like Nikwax, the company recommends that you wash in cold water and then rinse if possible.

How often should I wash my ski jacket and snow pants?

There’s no rule for how often you should wash your ski jacket. One might say whenever you need to, especially if you ski or snowboard a lot during the winter season. While the reason should be obvious, you sweat, get dirty, and wet while you’re on the slopes. On the other hand, if you only go out once or twice a season then you should wash it at least once.

When in Doubt about Washing Ski Wear

Congratulations on reading this entire article. Hopefully, you noticed a pattern emerge. You probably picked up on terms like cold water, mild detergent, gentle cycle, tumble dry, etc. These are all kind terms, so if you take anything away from this article, it should be this: if you take care of your gear, your gear will — you know.

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