How to wash a waterproof jacket: 5 easy steps to make it look like new

Discover how to wash a waterproof jacket to ensure it continues to keep you protected from wet weather

A yellow waterproof jacket laid out on a background showing how to wash a waterproof jacket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to wash a waterproof jacket will ensure that you can maintain your outerwear all year through. One of the most important jackets you can own if you live in an unpredictable climate, caring for it properly will ensure its waterproofing properties will last. 

The UK weather means that most of us have had to invest in one of the best waterproof jackets for women as part of our capsule wardrobes. Often with a steep price tag, proper care is paramount. Not only does it extend the life of your investment, but it also ensures the jacket's durable water-repellent (DWR) coating stays in top shape, keeping you dry during downpours.

While most jackets with this special coating can be thrown into a washing machine, there are some things you’ll need to take into consideration to keep your jacket in tip-top condition. We've got five easy steps to follow and all the products you need to make sure that your waterproof keeps you stylishly dry for time to come. 

Step-by-step guide: How to wash a waterproof jacket

How often you wash your waterproof jacket really depends on how often you wear it, the colour and what you wear it for.

Kendall Platt, the Mindful Gardening Coach, who relies on her waterproof jacket to keep her dry while gardening, says a monthly wash works best for her.

“My waterproof jacket is white with black spots - not the most sensible choice for a gardening jacket - so it really depends how dirty I get while I’m gardening!” she says. “On average, I wash it monthly from autumn through to spring to keep it looking good.” 

Of course, if you wear yours less frequently, as an emergencies only piece, you may be able to get away with a wash once or twice a season. 

  • A specialised cleaner for waterproof gear, such as Grangers Performance wash or a 2-in-1 product such as Mountain Warehouse Wash'n'Proof.
  • A soft-bristled brush.
  • Clean sponge or cloth.
  • Waterproofing treatment. This is optional but it can help restore the waterproof coating after washing and is a good option if you’re not using a 2-in-1 washing liquid. Similarly to how to rewax a Barbour jacket, topping up the waterproof coating on your jacket will only help with longevity. 

Step 1: Check the care label

Checking the care label before working out how to wash a waterproof jacket

(Image credit: Future)

The very first thing you should always do is consult the care label inside the garment you're washing. Regardless of any external advice, each care label is designed specifically for the task at hand, so while anyone may have advice on how to wash a waterproof jacket, each jacket will have its own fibre construction and following its specific care instructions i your secret weapon for keeping your waterproof jacket happy and healthy. Most modern jackets are machine-friendly at low temperatures, particularly as it encourages shoppers as easy aftercare is often a requirement, but always check first.

Step 2: Prep your jacket

Zipping up a pocket before washing a waterproof jacket

(Image credit: Future)

To ensure you protect your best winter coat, it’s vital to do some prep work before you put it in the washing machine.

“Empty the pockets of anything from plant ties to pens that might damage the machine or jacket,” advises Kendall.

Siena Barry-Taylor, Fashion Expert at Thrift+, says securing all fastenings – such as zips and poppers - is important.

“If machine washing is allowed, turning the jacket inside out and securing fastenings is a good idea before the wash to avoid any damage,” she says.

She also advises using a soft brush to gently remove any dirt or debris from the surface of your jacket. If you have a particularly stubborn stain, you can use a clean cloth to spot clean it with a mixture of water and the specialist detergent.

Step 3: Wash the jacket

pouring in the liquid before washing a waterproof jacket

(Image credit: Future)

Make sure you have the correct liquid for your jacket. Some waterproof liquids can’t be used on waterproof down coats, like your best puffer jackets, for example, so check before you wash. 

For a gentle, but effective, clean, put the specialist liquid detergent in the wash drawer. Stick to the recommended temperature on the garment tag - high heat can be a no-go for waterproof jackets. And remember, fabric conditioner is best left off the menu.

“Do not use fabric conditioner as it will break down the fibres that will, after time, remove the layer that makes the jacket waterproof,” advises personal stylist Lisa Talbot.

For this reason, before she washes her waterproofs, Kendall always gives her washing machine a thorough clean - yes, you have to learn how to clean a washing machine too.

“I like to wash out my washing machine drawer and do a clean of my washing machine with white vinegar to remove any residual fabric conditioner buildup,” she says.  

If hand washing is recommended, fill a basin or bath with cold water and add a small amount of the special detergent. Gently agitate the water to create suds, then immerse the jacket and gently hand wash. Make sure you rinse thoroughly to get rid of all the soap suds.

Step 4: Dry

A waterproof jacket drying outside after being washed

(Image credit: Future)

When the wash is finished, it’s time to dry out your jacket.

“Always air-dry the jacket by hanging it on a wide, padded hanger,” advises Siena.

If the care instructions allow, you can also tumble dry your waterproof jacket on a low or medium heat, but check the care label before doing so.

Step 5: Reapply waterproofing treatment

If you’ve not used a 2-in-1 wash and waterproof liquid, now is the time to apply the special waterproof coating.

This is an important step in ensuring your waterproof jacket keeps you dry.

“There are many topical water-repellent coatings you can buy on the high street, which you could consider reapplying after cleaning,” says Siena. "Wash-in products can sometimes be simpler, as you simply add them to your washing machine and it ‘washes in’ to the fabric.”

If you’ve chosen a spray-on proofer, you need to spray the coat evenly from around 15-20 cm away. Ideally, hang the jacket on a washing line outside so you get easy access to it – you’ll also avoid spraying anything else accidentally. Wipe off any excess with a clean cloth. Allow to dry and you’re ready to go. Some reproofers may need you to tumble dry the jacket to activate it so double check before you buy.

Concerned about reproofing? While new jackets likely just need a wash, there's a simple test to see if the water-repellent coating needs refreshing.

“Use a spray bottle filled with water and spray it onto your jacket to see if the water ‘beads’ on the fabric,” says Siena. “If it doesn’t you need more DWR.”

Can I wash a waterproof jacket in a washing machine?

“A waterproof jacket can be washed in a washing machine, but it is recommended that you follow the care instructions of the garment and use a specialist detergent,” says Lisa.

Unlike your everyday clothes, waterproof jackets don't need frequent washing. In fact, washing them too often can damage the water-repellent coating. Only wash your jacket when it's visibly dirty or spot cleaning doesn't work. Otherwise, a simple brushing often suffices.

How do you dry a waterproof jacket after washing it?

A waterproof jacket drying in the shower

(Image credit: Future)

"There are a couple of ways to dry your waterproof jacket, the safest being to hang it up and air dry at room temperature,” says Lisa.

“The other being to pop it in a tumble dry on low heat for short period of time. Be careful the heat is not hot as, again, it will break down to the composition of the jacket.”

If you do decide to air dry, make sure you hang it over a bath or in a shower to catch any drips as it dries, or on a washing line outside (as long as there are no downpours predicted).

Do you have to re-proof a waterproof jacket after washing it?

No, it’s only when you notice that it’s not keeping you as dry that you need to reproof.

“I don’t reproof my jacket after every wash,” says Kendall.

“I’ve have found that by alternating a wash, which cleans and enhances existing repellency, and then using a 2-in-1 product, which cleans and reproofs, my jacket stays clean and waterproof.”

Kendall Platt
Kendall Platt

Kendall helps women take time out of their busy lives to quieten their minds whilst creating a garden that sets their heart on fire and creating with the flowers that they grow. Kendall is a writer, speaker and content creator, who has spoken at events and for organisations both online and in person on the topic of mindful gardening and gardening and floristry for wellbeing. 

Siena Barry-Taylor
Siena Barry-Taylor

A dedicated thrifter, she loves designers like Ganni, Reformation and Sandro and is always trying to hunt down the perfect vintage denim. Thrift+ help you clear out your wardrobe without the hassle of listing items yourself. They send out prepaid bags for customers to fill with their pre-loved garment, provide a full quality check, list them and then customers earn credit for gift cards, future purchases or donations to charity. Thrift+ is committed to ending fashion waste while driving the circular fashion economy.

Lisa Talbot
Lisa Talbot

Lisa specialises in elevating successful female leaders and professional women with a wardrobe that represents their brand, personality, lifestyle & body shape.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

With over 22 years’ experience in journalism, Jayne has written about a variety of subjects. She spent the start of her career within the world of film, interviewing Hollywood stars, attending premieres and lusting after red carpet outfits, and then moved into fashion, launching websites for big magazines such as Look, Woman’s Own and Wedding and working with top fashion brands such as Westfield, LK Bennett and Hunter. 

Career highlights include dressing up as Kylie (in gold hot pants!) for a national newspaper and working on big fashion events alongside Giles Deacon, Henry Holland and Naomi Campbell.