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Washing Breathable Waders

by Philip Monahan

Have a question you want answered? Email it to us at ask@midcurrent.com.

Question: I recently noticed an unpleasant odor in my car, which turned out to be caused by my waders in the back. Can you wash breathable waders without ruining them? If so, how?

Mark C., via email

Washing Breathable Waders

Not only can you wash breathable waders, but you should if you want them to work as well as possible.

Answer: Not only can you wash breathable waders, but you should if you want them to work as well as possible. Dirt, grime, body oils, and abrasions can lessen the effectiveness of the durable water repellent (DWR) coating used in breathable-wader materials. According to Orvis wader developer Tim Daughton, periodic cleaning helps the wader material to breathe better and restores the DWR coating that causes water to bead up and run off the outside of the wader.

Warning #1: Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular waders, as there are some variations among the different technologies now in use.

That said, most manufacturers call for hand-washing your waders with a powder detergent that contains no fabric softeners or bleach. There are several specialty cleaners, such as Revivex Synthetic Fabric Cleaner and Nikwax Tech Wash, available that are designed specifically for use with waterproof materials and DWR coatings.

After washing and rinsing the waders thoroughly, air them dry, both inside and out. Of the manufacturers I checked, only Orvis suggests putting the waders in the washing machine on “gentle,” and this is for stockingfoot versions only.

Once the waders are clean, you can go a step further and reapply a DWR treatment such as Nikwax TX-Direct or Revivex Spray-On Water Repellent. Because these products set best under heat, you can use an iron (on low setting) or a hair dryer. There’s an excellent explanation of how DWR works—and why cleaning and reapplying are effective—on the REI website.

If you poke around on the websites of wader manufacturers, you can usually find all the information you need. But… Warning #2: Make sure you read the care instructions that came with the waders.

Some of the best manufacturer “Care & Washing” pages can be found on the Orvis,Simms, and Patagonia Web sites.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
 
Phil Monahan is a former Alaskan guide and was the long-time editor of American Angler magazine. He's now a columnist for MidCurrent and writes and edits the fly-fishing blog at OrvisNews.com.
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  • Jay

    I own three pairs of stocking foot waders,+10 year old Sims, Cloudveil (also old and no longer available) and Orvis Silver Sonic. None of these leak. I have washed them at least twice a season in the washing machine on the gentle cycle. I have used Tech Wash or powdered detergent. After air drying inside and out I hang them in a cool dark place, either a closet or the garage. No funk and as I said no leaks. Your mileage may vary.