Impregnating functional clothing: why it’s good and how to go about it

Just a few months ago, you were happy that your softshell jacket could keep you dry even in rain, but now it looks like its properties are disappearing. Don’t throw in the towel! It’s probably about time to impregnate the jacket. If you want your winter or softshell clothing to work properly, take a good care of it from time to time. It really pays off.

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Why does functional clothing lose its properties over time?

The human body doesn’t excrete only water during movement, but also salts and fats. These substances gradually stain the functional membrane and worsen its ability to withstand adverse weather.

Washing machine impregnation vs. spray

Purchase your impregnant in a store with sports or outdoor equipment. There are two types of agents: one that is placed into your washing machine, and another one in a spray, used on the clothes after they’re washed.

Although pouring the impregnant into a washing machine is simpler and quicker, that’s the extent of this method’s benefits. This way, the agent reaches the inside of the clothing where it can have a detrimental effect on permeability. Therefore, unless you want to turn your functional softshell jacket into a raincoat which gets you sweaty immediately, use an impregnant in a spray. Quality impregnants can be purchased for approximately 300 CZK.

Do you have your impregnant? Great. Let’s do this!

It’s good to use impregnants as a preventative measure; usually after every other or third washing. Of course, outdoor equipment isn’t washed as often as usual clothing. If you wear it occasionally, during weekend hiking tours, you’re most likely to was it about 4–7x a year. Before you wash the clothing, don’t forget to read the manufacturer’s label so that you know what temperature and washing programme to set.

  1. After washing a functional jacket or trousers, let them dry for a while.
  2. Apply the impregnant on your clothing until the textile can’t absorb it any longer. Usually, you can tell this is the case when small pools start to form on the surface.
  3. You can help the impregnant to absorb better by spreading it with a sponge or rag.
  4. Finally, set the impregnant with heat. If you have a dryer, it’s easy: place the clothing inside for 30 minutes and set the temperature to 60 °C. Another method is to set the impregnant with ironing. In this case, use the iron’s lowest programme and throw a dish towel or thin bathroom towel over the clothing, just to make sure the zippers won’t scratch the iron.

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What about outdoor shoes?

Don’t forget to impregnate your outdoor shoes; they’re under a lot of pressure, especially in autumn and winter. Unlike functional clothing, shoes should be impregnated before you wear them for the first time. That’s because impregnation prevents wetness and dirt from getting inside the shoes.

When choosing an impregnant, consider mainly the material from which your shoes are made. Polish or wax is mostly used on leather shoes, while spray is recommended for shoes made from suede, nubuck, and other textiles.

Shoes should be impregnated approximately once every two weeks, or anytime their upper part starts absorbing water.

LOAP tip: Don’t impregnate your shoes or clothing on floor tiles unless you want to slip later.

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