I can’t stand the damp, yucky feeling when my clothing begins to soak up water. The bad thing about having water resistant mountain biking gear is that, unlike skiing or snow boarding, MTB gear will more than likely get dirty. After a while, all MTB gear will require some TLC.
Most wet weather clothing has been waterproof treated in one way or another. Most of my Dakine gear carries a DWR coating that, if you’re not careful, can be stripped away with harsh detergents, rendering them less than effective.
To combat moisture intrusion and odor, I have been using various Nikwax cleaners and protectors recently. Nikwax offers a full line of cleaners and protectors for all my gear. Yes, I’m pretty sure I could use regular detergents, but I’m not sure how much normal detergents could impede my gear from doing what it’s supposed to do. Different layers of clothing have different cleaning requirements, and serve different functions. For my under garments and armor that I toss in the wash for cleaning (that are moisture wicking), I use the Basewash from Nikwax. For my outer gear (that’s moisture resistant), I use the Techwash. Both the Basewash and Techwash are high-tech cleaners that do a few things that regular detergents don’t. Using regular detergents may lessen the ability of the undergarments from doing exactly what they are designed to do. Nikwax Basewash works to improve wicking capabilities, thus accelerating fabric drying and keeping the body dry, all the while removing and preventing odor build up. Not bad for a simple little product.
Because I use only a few garments at a time, I tend to hand wash my gear. Using only 25ml of Basewash in a sink of warm water is all that is needed to clean and deodorize gear. After that, all it takes is rinsing a few times with cool water and hanging the garments out to dry. Presto! Clean, non-skunky gear! Nikwax has put the same care into developing Techwash. The difference in the cleaning process for outer gear is that, since this gear is on the outside, stains more than likely will have to be cleaned off with a bit more elbow grease. In this case, I use a small brush straight Techwash to entice the stubborn soiled areas out first, then toss it in the the front end loader wash again with (in my case) 100ml of Techwash. I don’t use any softeners, and no other detergents. The result is a decently-cleaned jacket that didn’t lose its water repellant properties. As for further treatment of my gear after a good cleaning, I have tried both the Wash-In and Spray-On TX.Direct waterproofing treatment from Nikwax. Both items are easy to use.
The Wash-In, as implied, means you toss it into the wash. The issue here is getting the right amount, and only one or two items of gear at a time. I had about a 50/50 success rate with the Wash-In treatment. Sometimes it worked well, and other times I had to give it a second go. I think the settings on my front end loader washer screwed things up, sometimes diluting the solution with too much water
On the other hand, I had much better luck using the TX.Direct Spray-In. I just made sure it went through the wash first.
The big thing (which sold me) on the TX.DIrect waterproofing treatment is that the fabric still has the ability to breath. The TX.Direct is a coating that still leaves the fibers in your gear flexible, allowing for moisture vapors to pass though, but keep water out at the same time. According to Nikwax, “Nikwax treatments coat fabric and leather fibres with a network of elastic TX.10i water-repellent molecules. They bond to anything that is not water-repellent, but leave the spaces between fibres open and breathable. Nikwax treatments can flex and move with the fabric and leather fibres.”
I think that the Nikwax brand of fabric treatment is something that all of us should consider. Especially if you live in places like BC or Ontario during the spring or fall, these treatments and detergents should be used regularly to keep all your technical gear clean, waterproof, and odor-free. My gear now keeps me so much warmer and dryer due to excellent treatment!
MSRP: $10-26, depending on bottle size.
Thanks to the folks at Nikwax for sending over this great set of products for review.