If you clean your raincoat properly—whether it's a plastic poncho or designer water-repellent trench—that will determine how well it performs and lasts. While raincoats can withstand water exposure, excessive agitation and high temperatures can ruin the finish.
Before you clean your raincoat, read the care label to determine its fabric type and if it has a waterproof or water-resistant finish that you need to reapply over time. Some raincoats are machine washable, and others are handwash or spot clean only. In most cases, use a mild detergent, cool or warm water, and air-dry it. Wash them when they appear soiled, or if worn daily, after 20 times or once a month.
Here are the step-by-step cleaning instructions and helpful information on reviving your raincoat's water repellency.
Equipment / Tools
- Large sink or tub
- White microfiber cloth
- Clothes dryer
- Sturdy hanger
- Clothesline or drying rack
- Mild laundry detergent
- Enzyme-based stain remover
- Durable water repellent product
- Dishwashing liquid
|How to Wash a Raincoat|
|Detergent||Mild or specialty waterproofing detergent|
|Water Temperature||Warm or cold|
|Drying Cycle Type||Air-dry|
|Special Treatments||Apply waterproofing solution as needed|
|Iron Setting||Low heat (breathable fabric only)|
|How Often to Wash||As needed or once a month|
Read the Care Label
Raincoats come in so many varieties that 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Load the Washer
Remove any removable linings and belts from the coat and close all zippers or buttons. Be sure that all pockets are empty.
The raincoat can be washed with raingear made of the same material that can be cleaned with cold water.
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.
Woven fabric raincoats can go in a dryer set on low to medium heat if you are in a rush. 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.
Never machine dry or iron a rubber, plastic, or vinyl raincoat. The 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 Raincoat's 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.
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).
Apply a New DWR Coating
Durable water-repellent 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.
What Is Raincoat Material?
Raincoats are either breathable or not. Rubber, vinyl, and plastic coats are non-breathable, while cotton and synthetic fiber coats treated with a waterproof coating are breathable. Water-resistant coats are made from natural or synthetic fibers treated with a coating that will repel light precipitation for a brief time. These coats are usually breathable and easy to care for. These fabrics include Gore-Tex, nylon, polyester, and laminated or waxed cotton.
Treating Stains on a Raincoat
For non-breathable vinyl, rubber, or plastic coats, you can use a damp cloth or towel and a little dishwashing soap or laundry detergent to wipe away mud or stains. Similarly, according to its care label, you can pretreat any stain on a fabric raincoat with a dot of laundry detergent before washing the raincoat. Another option for treating a stain is to sponge a water and vinegar solution directly on the stain.
Care and Repairs
Certain tears, rips, and holes in raincoats can be mended depending on the extent of the damage and material. For a tear in a rubber coat, you can carefully apply rubber glue to the tear. If you get a hole in PVC or a vinyl coat, get a matching patch using a glue and patch kit made especially for PVC. Most glues take 24 hours to fully bond.
For waterproof fabrics, you can also find fabric tape or fabric tape patches as a quick fix for a rip or tear. Peel a piece of tape off of the roll (or get a self-adhering patch) and apply it to the outside of your garment at least 24 hours before you plan to use it. Most of these tapes have a waterproof coating.
Ironing a Raincoat
You never want to iron rubber, vinyl, or plastic raincoats. However, if you have a badly wrinkled fabric waterproof jacket, you can likely iron it using the lowest heat setting. Confirm by reading the care label.
Turn off the steam function since steam can melt the fabric. Use a cotton towel as a barrier between the iron and the raincoat fabric. Do not press down hard. Pass the iron evenly over the towel-covered fabric, never stopping or pausing.
Storing a Raincoat
Raincoats are usually a full-year garment, occupying a hanger in the coat closet for when you need it. Before you hang it up in the coat closet, ensure it's fully dry; otherwise, it can develop mold, mildew, and odors. Odors or spores can spread to other objects in your coat closet.
Some packable rainjackets have a carry bag for storing away after they've air-dried. Make sure the jacket is completely dry before folding it away.
How Often to Wash a Raincoat
If the coat has visible stains from body soil, food, or mud, it's time for a cleaning. A raincoat doesn't need constant cleaning, but if worn regularly, consider washing it once a month or after about 20 uses.
Regular cleaning increases a raincoat's water repellency by removing surface soil that can wear away the protective coating. However, if a raincoat has lost its resistance to water, it should be cleaned and treated with a commercial durable water repellent product.
Tips for Washing a Raincoat
- For waterproof fabrics, look to see if your raincoat is "wetting out" or if the fabric is absorbing water instead of repelling it. This is a sign that your raincoat needs to be washed. Once washed according to the care label, use a special waterproof fabric detergent or a waterproofing protective spray.
- When washing your raingear, only wash raingear of the same fabric type together. Some waterproofing detergent manufacturers recommend only one or two articles at a time.
- If your raincoat has a removable liner, remove it and wash it separately.
- Some fabric waterproof raincoat manufacturers recommend tumble drying on medium heat to reactivate the water-repellent treatment. However, never use high heat since it can damage seams.
Is laundry detergent safe on a raincoat?
Read care labels before washing, but in most cases, a mild detergent or specialty waterproofing detergent is safe to use on a raincoat.
Can you wash a raincoat in a washing machine?
Most raincoats made of breathable fabrics are washable by machine on a gentle setting with warm or cold water. Always check the care label to confirm it's safe to machine wash.
Can you remove a musty, mildew smell from a raincoat?
If the raincoat is machine washable, use a cup of vinegar instead of laundry detergent to kill and neutralize the mold and its odor. You can also use a cup of baking soda in a second washing to neutralize any remaining odors.