How to Clean a Raincoat

Man wearing a green rain jacket

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Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Raincoats come in a multitude of styles, colors, and fabrics. From the inexpensive plastic poncho to a designer trench, each is supposed to keep us protected from precipitation. Whether you have spent a few dollars or thousands, how you clean your raincoat will determine how well it performs and how long it lasts.

While raincoats can clearly withstand exposure to water, it is excessive agitation and high temperatures that can ruin the finish. Before you clean your raincoat, it's important to understand the type of fabric and waterproof or water-resistant finish that has been applied.

  • Waterproof coats can be breathable or nonbreathable. Rubber, vinyl, and plastic coats are nonbreathable while cotton and synthetic fiber coats treated with a waterproof coating are breathable.
  • Water-resistant coats can made from be natural or synthetic fibers that are treated with a coating that will repel light precipitation for a brief time. These coats are usually breathable and easy care.

How Often to Clean a Raincoat

If the coat has visible stains from body soil, food, or mud, it's time for a cleaning. Regular cleaning increases a raincoat's water repellency by removing surface soil that can wear away the protective coating. All raincoats and gear should be cleaned and thoroughly dried before storing them.

If a raincoat has lost its resistance to water, it should be cleaned and treated with a commercial durable water repellent (DWR) product.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer
  • Large sink or tub
  • White microfiber cloth
  • Clothes dryer
  • Sturdy hanger
  • Clothesline or drying rack

Materials

  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Durable water repellent product
  • Dishwashing liquid

Instructions

  1. Read the Care Label

    Raincoats come in so many varieties it is essential to read the care label before you clean your coat for the first time. Some raincoats may have a recommendation of dry cleaning only because of the attached linings or inner fabrics that won't wash well. Some linings can be removed and cleaned separately.

  2. Machine or Hand-Wash?

    If the raincoat is labeled as washable, it can be cleaned in the washer or by handwashing in a large sink or bathtub. Follow the same recommendations for water temperature and detergents for both types of cleaning.

  3. Pretreat Stains

    For vinyl or plastic coats, use a damp microfiber cloth and a dab of laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid to wipe away visible mud and soil. For woven fabric raincoats, pretreat food stains and body soil around the inside of the collar and cuffs with a dab of an enzyme-based stain remover or a bit of the laundry detergent. Rub in the cleaner with your fingers and allow it to work for at least 10 minutes to loosen the soil before you wash the raincoat.

  4. Select a Water Temperature and Washer Cycle

    Cool or lukewarm water is best for raincoat fabrics. Excessively hot water can soften vinyl and plastic finishes and leave hard to remove wrinkles. Choose the gentle or permanent press cycle for raincoats to limit agitation.

  5. Choose a Detergent

    Use a mild, biodegradable laundry detergent to wash raincoats to help protect the waterproof finishes. Take care not to overdose the detergent. Any residue left in the fibers will reduce the effectiveness of the waterproof finish.

    There are specialty detergents called "tech wash" (Hex Performance, Nikwax, Grangers, ReviveX, Atsko's) that are recommended for raingear because they contain no additives that can interfere with garment performance. However, a mild, natural detergent will also do a good job.

  6. Load the Washer

    Remove any removable linings and belts from the coat and close all of the zippers or buttons. Be sure that all pockets are empty.

    The raincoat can be washed laundry of similar colors that can be cleaned with cold water.

  7. Dry the Raincoat

    After washing, the safest drying method is to hang the raincoat on a sturdy hanger to air-dry. The coat should dry within a couple of hours. Never place a plastic, vinyl, or rubber raincoat in an automatic dryer.

    If you are in a rush, woven fabric raincoats can go in a dryer set on low to medium heat. Add some clean towels to help quickly absorb the moisture so the coat can remain in the dryer for the least amount of time possible.

    Warning

    Never machine dry or iron a rubber, plastic, or vinyl raincoat. The excessive heat can destroy or melt the waterproof qualities. If the coat is wrinkled excessively, dip it in clean water and hang to drip dry to pull out the wrinkles.

How to Revive a Raincoats Water Repellency

If water no longer beads up and rolls off the surface of your raincoat, it has lost its water repellency. Luckily, there are some remedies.

  1. Clean the Raincoat

    Washing away surface soil increases the raincoat's water repellency. Read the care label carefully. For some high-tech fabrics, the heat of the clothes dryer can reactivate the durable water repellent finish (DWR).

  2. Apply New a DWR Coating

    Durable water repellent (DWR) finishes can be reapplied with a spray-on or wash-in product. These DWR products, which are also used for tents, are available in most sporting goods stores and online. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and apply the DWR to a freshly-washed raincoat.