Foul Weather Gear Care: A Maintenance & Repair Guide
As a lover of the ocean, lakes and the great outdoors, you need the best foul-weather gear. Waterproof and insulating drysuits, jackets, trousers, bibs and trainers act as barriers between you and the elements. Whether gusting wind, pouring rain, rough sea spray or even cold wintery conditions, investing in and caring for your foul-weather gear will keep it performing at its best for years to come.
Just as there are steps and tips to cleaning your boat interior, we have outlined the best practices for foul-weather gear care, maintenance and repair in this guide to offer sound advice on keeping it shipshape and performing at its best.
Reasons for Proper Foul Weather Gear Care and Maintenance
Your foul-weather gear protects you on maritime or outdoor excursions. Investing time into cleaning, inspecting it for damage, making necessary repairs and executing general care and maintenance is essential. You should care and maintain your foul-weather gear to:
- Extend its life span: Cleaning off salt and grime, checking for and repairing damages and storing your gear correctly will help extend the life expectancy of your investment, ensuring it serves you well past product warranties.
- Maintain peak performance: Well-maintained foul-weather gear constantly performing at its peak means the difference between an enjoyable and successful voyage and a challenging and unpleasant one.
- Ensure continued safety: Foul-weather gear is a matter of comfort and safety. That is why you need to regularly check and repair your gear so that you are less likely to experience broken zippers, compromised insulation or impaired waterproofing.
Essential Aspects of Foul Weather Gear Cleaning
You can wash foul-weather gear — however, there are certain best practices regarding foul-weather gear care and cleaning. Although your gear can withstand the elements, it requires careful cleaning treatment. Read the label for all foul-weather gear care or contact the manufacturer for unique product cleaning instructions.
The following are some essential factors to consider when cleaning your foul-weather gear:
Frequency of Cleaning
Cleaning frequency depends on how often you use your gear and how filthy it becomes. Sometimes, you must clean it immediately after use due to messy stains or to remove overpowering smells, such as after a successful deep sea fishing excursion. However, the following should guide how often and to what extent you clean your foul-weather gear:
- After every use: Wipe down your gear with a cloth and water and, if needed, add a mild detergent to a bucket and rinse it by hand to remove dirt, salt and spills.
- After two weeks to a month: For daily use, you may need to clean it every week or two, but generally, every two to four weeks, you should conduct a deep clean by hand or in a machine.
- After extensive mess: If you go fishing and spill fish blood, coffee, grease or other substances on the gear, you should rinse immediately, tend to the potential stain and then deep clean.
Suitable Cleaning Supplies and Methods
When selecting the right cleaning supplies for your gear, there are certainly some universal dos and don'ts regarding which to use and which to avoid.
The types of cleaning supplies typically safe to use are:
- Mild detergents: Using conservative amounts of ordinary powdered laundry or liquid detergent should be safe for infrequent washing.
- Specialty gear cleaners: It is highly advisable to use technical cleaners like Nikwax or Grangers, designed for synthetic materials, and do not compromise water repellency or fabric integrity.
The cleaning supplies to usually avoid are:
- Strong detergents: Certain detergents are incredibly harsh and include extensive additives and chemicals that can do more harm than good by breaking down the waterproofing.
- Harsh chemicals: These include bleaches, specific stain removers and some washing detergent, as these chemicals can strip away the waterproofing and damage the delicate fiber layers.
After rinsing your trousers, jackets and other foul-weather gear, you can wash foul-weather gear in two ways — hand and machine washing. You may need to combine these methods for filthy gear:
For hand washing your foul-weather gear, follow these steps:
- Fill a basin, bucket or sink with cold or lukewarm water.
- Add a small amount of mild detergent or your chosen specialty gear cleaner.
- Immerse the gear, allow it to soak briefly and then gently scrub with a soft sponge.
- Look for stubborn dirt or stains and use a toothbrush with added cleaner.
- Rinse the gear thoroughly, ensuring the detergent washes out and there is no residue.
- Avoid repeatedly ringing out your foul-weather gear and gently squeeze the water out instead.
For machine washing your foul-weather gear, follow these steps:
- Add a small amount of a mild detergent or specialty gear cleaner.
- Put the washing machine on a delicate cycle and set the temperature to cold or lukewarm.
- Fasten the closures and zippers and turn the gear inside out if possible — clean crevices by hand afterward if needed.
- Do not overload the machine, and try to include similar clothing or gear in the load.
- Remove the foul-weather gear from the washing machine promptly once the cycle ends.
Also, pay attention to cleaning and maintaining your detachable liners. You should remove them and only reattach them after the gear is dry. Another key area that often goes untreated are zippers and snap closures, but you can use Star Brite Snap & Zipper Lubricant to help clean and maintain your gear.
Drying Your Gear
Can you put foul-weather gear in the dryer? Certain foul-weather gear is dryer-safe. However, you need to consult the tag or manufacturer's instructions. It is usually safer to skip the dryer as excessive heat can compromise the foul-weather gear fabric and protective coatings. Instead, follow these tips on drying your foul-weather gear:
- Drip-dry the gear: Hang it in a well-ventilated area while avoiding direct sunlight, which can lead to cracks in the protective layers.
- Keep all zippers, closures and snaps open: This ensures proper air circulation and thorough drying.
- Do not utilize a heater: Excessive heat is harmful. Instead, allow a fan to blow the gear to speed up the drying.
- Check for any remaining dampness: Look for traces of water and moisture before storing the gear, as incomplete drying can lead to mold and mildew.
Maintaining and Repairing Your Foul Weather Gear
Understanding foul-weather gear maintenance and how to repair foul-weather gear is essential to maritime preparedness and ensuring that your gear performs as expected when you need it most. We'll dive into various general maintenance tips and foul-weather gear repair, including common damages you will likely encounter.
Seam Leaks and Rips
For the most part, the seas in your gear are designed and constructed to remain sealed for the gear's life span. However, sometimes, you might experience slight rips or leaks in the seams. When this happens, you have two options at your disposal. For each option, clean and dry the application area first:
- Seam sealing tapes: One option is waterproof seam sealing tape, a specialized tape that can either be pressure activated or heat activated where you need to iron it on carefully. You can apply this yourself, though you'll need to ensure you apply the sealing tape effectively to prevent further leaks and ripping.
- Adhesives: A standard silicone adhesive sealant won't suffice — you will need to acquire gear-specific adhesives to seal any seam rips or leaks. Ideally, you will want a polyurethane-based adhesive intended for foul-weather gear materials, as these work well even if you're out on the water.
Your foul-weather gear is coated in a durable water-repellent finish (DWR), but that protective layer can wear off due to frequent use and general wear. You can purchase wash-in formulas, sprays or waxes to re-waterproof your gear. The frequency at which you re-waterproof your gear depends on usage and if you notice diminished performance — though, after every 20 or 30 uses, you should inspect the gear and consider reapplying.
Delamination occurs when your foul-weather gear waterproof layers begin to separate from the gear fabric. If you believe your gear is delaminating, you should look for bubbling, peeling, flaking and other visible signs that the fabric layers are beginning to separate.
Unfortunately, once delamination sets in, it is nearly impossible to reverse, even if you can do minor repairs to extend the life span briefly. You can use seam sealing tape, adhesive, patching or have it professionally repaired, though it's usually best to consider a replacement if you notice your gear delaminating.
Zipper issues are frustrating, but in certain foul weather conditions, being unable to zip up your gear can also be dangerous. There are several possible issues that you might experience with your zippers. However, one of the most common ones is a split track alignment. To fix this, begin by pulling the zipper slider to the base, and then take your pliers and gently squeeze the sides of your zipper slider where the tracks are fed into the slider. This will ensure the teeth are squeezed and interlocked when the slider passes over them.
Tears and Abrasions
Tears and abrasions usually occur in places other than the seams, and if you do not mend the tear, it can quickly spread and ruin your gear entirely.
Thankfully, several waterproof adhesive patches are specifically designed for outdoor gear repair. You can usually find all the required tools in a patch repair kit. If your kit does not have an adhesive, you may want to apply this before adding the patch. Be sure to clean and dry the area before applying the adhesive, followed by an appropriate-sized patch.
Please remember that this area will be compromised and possibly tighter now that you have pulled the fibers together. You should have the gear professionally repaired or replaced as soon as you are able.
Read up on Foul Weather Gear Warranty
If your gear gets damaged in any way, it would be best to consult the product warranty as soon as you can. This is because the warranty will typically cover any manufacturing defects and malfunctions. Unless the gear were damaged due to negligence or improper use, the warranty would outline the period and terms of repair and replacement for which the manufacturer takes responsibility.
Storage and Long-Term Care
Your time at sea and in the vast open wilderness changes with the seasons. Eventually, you will need to store your foul-weather gear and make sure that you conduct routine maintenance checks on the gear to see that it is functioning correctly. Keeping to these key care components should help reduce the amount of foul-weather gear repair you need to do.
Ideal Storage Conditions
When you aren't using your foul-weather gear, store it appropriately to ensure its longevity and protect against mold and damage. Before you pack your gear into the cupboard or put it into boxes, consider the following storage tips:
- Select a dry and well-ventilated space: You should store your foul-weather gear in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
- Hang your gear instead of folding: For short-term storage, folding is fine, but in the long term, it can cause the gear to lose its proper shape.
- Avoid storing in direct sunlight: Exposing your gear to prolonged sunlight can weaken fabrics, even if only for a few days.
Periodic Maintenance Checks and Seasonal Upkeep Tips
You should perform routine preventative maintenance before foul-weather gear damage can begin or get out of hand. In addition to conducting checks and repairs while using the gear, you also need to periodically remove it from long-term storage to ensure no damage has occurred and, if so, fix it before it can get worse. Things to consider and address include:
- Inspect the seams and zippers
- Clean all gear thoroughly before storage
- Reapply DWR coatings regularly, depending on use
- Store your foul-weather gear in pest-resistant containers
- Evaluate the gear insulation and look for any signs of wear
- Inspect the elastic components, such as cuffs and waistbands, to ensure a proper fit
- Consider how temperatures and weather changes throughout the year and adjust storage if needed
Shop Foul Weather Gear at Fawcett Boat Supplies
In this detailed foul-weather gear care guide, we discussed the value of proper maintenance, how to wash and clean your gear and offered insights into routine repairs and recommended storage practices.
At Fawcett Boat Supplies, we're committed to equipping our clients with the gear they need to do what they love, whether sailing, fishing, kayaking or exploring the great outdoors. We stock all your foul-weather gear needs, a convenient selection of clothing and footwear and high-quality outdoor living essentials to keep you enjoying your adventures no matter the weather.
If you have any questions about foul-weather gear or boating supplies, please don't hesitate to use our online contact form.