How to waterproof a jacket like the pros — and never get soaked again

How to waterproof a jacket using Nikwax and a washing machine.
How to waterproof a jacket using Nikwax and a washing machine. (Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Hate soggy clothes? Learn how to waterproof a jacket like the pros and never get soaked again — even in the shower. After all, the dreaded sensation of moisture seeping through a supposedly H20-proof Patagonia mid-hike is one no person should experience. 

Properly waterproofed garments are the secret to an awesome day out in nature, weather be damned. And we’re not just talking jackets. The process described below works for ski and snowboard pants, as well as sleeping bags, gloves, neck gaiters and more. 

How to waterproof a jacket — for rain, snow and more

Most rain and snow-oriented outerwear sold by reputable brands — like Columbia, The North Face, Patagonia, etc. — comes treated with some degree of moisture protection. In many cases, that’s a spray-on water-repellent, like Durable Water Repellent (DWR). The best waterproof jackets, however, also have heat-sealed taped seams for added protection. 

Whether your gear is brand-new or a few seasons old, it can surely benefit from additional waterproofing. Fortunately, the process is simple and requires little more than running a few wash cycles and $25 worth of Nikwax (or similar) products.

Nikwax Hard-Shell Outerwear Care Kit: $22 @ REI

Nikwax Hard-Shell Outerwear Care Kit: $22 @ REI
For less than $25, this kit includes everything you need to wash your stinky ski or rain jacket and then re-waterproof it. Nikwax has been in the H2O repellent game since the 1970s and is widely trusted as the brand to beat for all-season moisture protection. 


How to waterproof a jacket

  1. Prep your washing machine
  2. Wash garments with a technical cleaner (optional)
  3. Wash garments with wash-in waterproofer
  4. Tumble dry garments on a low setting

Read on to see full illustrated instructions for each step.   


1. Prep your washing machine

(Image: © Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Ordinary washing machine detergent is the enemy of water-resistant clothing. Never wash a snow or rain jacket with Tide, Bounce, or the like as that will wreak havoc on the water-repellent treatment — even a little leftover detergent from a previous wash cycle can cause issues. This is why it’s so important to prep your washing machine before waterproofing a jacket — alternatively, you can give your washing machine a full, deep clean

First, you’ll want to wipe down any visible detergent residue or buildup from the machine dispenser if it has one. It’s also a good idea to wipe the inside with a damp cloth. After that, go ahead and run a quick, standard wash cycle sans clothing

2. Wash garments with technical cleaner (optional)

(Image: © Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Before hitting your favorite jacket with a healthy dose of wash-in waterproofer, it may be a good idea to wash it first, especially if it’s gotten a lot of use. As mentioned, standard laundry detergent is a no-no for rain and snow garments. Instead, use a technical cleaner, like Nikwax Tech Wash. 

Five to seven ounces of this technical cleaner is good for two or three garments, depending on how heavy they are. You definitely do not want to overload your washer when cleaning or waterproofing technical outer layers. 

Run your washing machine on a normal cycle with warm water and an extra rinse, if possible. 

3. Wash garments with a wash-in waterproofer

(Image: © Dan Bracaglia/Future)

If the items you’re treating are new or not too stinky, you can skip the previous step and jump right into waterproofing. Nikwax TX. Direct is the industry standard for waterproofing and re-waterproofing rain and snow gear. 

Again, don’t overload your machine. Stick to two or three garments per waterproofing cycle. Nikwax advises using three to four ounces of its product per garment for maximum H20 protection. Again, run a normal cycle with warm water and an extra rinse. 

4. Tumble dry garments on a low setting

(Image: © Dan Bracaglia/Future)

The final step is to tumble dry your freshly waterproof jacket on a low setting to help seal in the treatment. Be mindful of how long the dry cycle runs, though, as you do not want to overdry. Alternatively, air drying works too. 


How to waterproof a jacket using Nikwax and a washing machine.

(Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Future)

And with that, you now have all the secrets for how to waterproof a jacket like the pros. The process is simple and hardly time-consuming. Just be sure to use a quality technical wash and waterproofing product!

How often should you use a wash-in waterproofer? The more you find yourself singing and dancing in the rain, the more often you’re going to want to re-H20-proof your gear. But for most folks, once a season is good practice. 

What if you don’t have access to a washing machine? The same process and products mentioned above also work for hand washing your garments in a bucket or tub. Both Nikwax Tech Wash and TX.Direct include further instructions for the DIY washing approach.

Looking for more winter weather guides? Check out our step-by-step instructions on how to wax a snowboard at home, recommendations for safe and effective driveway ice removal and advice on driving in the snow like a pro

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Dan Bracaglia
Senior Writer, Fitness & Wearables

Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd.