Do Rain Jackets Need Re-Waterproofing?

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Man in drenched rain jacket.

If you’ve already invested in a great rain jacket it can be a bit disconcerting when it stops keeping you dry.

And if you already checked and did not find any holes in your jacket then the most likely cause of your rain jacket not keeping you dry is the waterproof finish is wearing off. So you’ll need to re-waterproof your rain jacket to get it back to optimal performance. It’s actually recommended that you re apply water repellent yearly.

So what makes a rain jacket waterproof anyway?

Most rain jackets are 2-layer or 3 -layer waterproof & breathable and are coated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish. DWR is a coating added to fabrics to make them water-resistant. These are usually a pretty thin coating and are used in conjunction with waterproof breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex. The purpose of the DWR is to keep the fabric from becoming saturated with water. The breathable layer is usually under or in between two layers of fabric that protect it and allow evaporation to occur. Most waterproof jackets also employ taped or welded seams to keep water from getting in at vulnerable seams.

Why does the durable water repellent wear off of a rain jacket?

The water repellent finish wears off due to normal wear and tear. Since it’s only a thin coating of water repellent it doesn’t take much to break it down. Dirt, dust and sweat that collect on the fabric are all it takes. Wearing a backpack or contact with any chemicals like mosquito repellent and even some laundry detergents can accelerate the process.

How to tell if your rain jacket needs re-proofing.

Take a look at the surface of your rain jacket the next time you’re out in the rain. Does the outer layer soak up water? This is called “wetting out.”  Wetting out indicates that your rain jacket’s waterproofing has stopped working. When water soaks into the surface it also prevents the breathable layer from allowing inside moisture to evaporate so you start to feel damp. This is a good time to wash your raincoat and reapply a durable water repellent (DWR).

Man "wet out" jacket

There are many great products for reproofing your rain gear.

There are many spray-on and wash-in products for reproofing garments that are losing their water repellency. The main options for reproofing your rain gear are recommended based on whether it’s a single layer or multilayer garment. Generally, wash-in repellents are meant to be used on single layer garments that don’t have a removable lining or insulating layer. For multilayer rain coats and gear the spray-on water repellents are recommended.

With so many options it’s easy to re-waterproof your rain coat.

For spray-on products: After you wash the jacket, while it’s still wet hang it up in a well-ventilated area. Spray the rain jacket really well with waterproofing spray. I like For a wash-in product, I’d use a product that also has a
cleaner in it to save a step. I like
To make sure the rain jacket doesn’t soak up water anymore test it out by sprinkling some water on it. If the water beads up, then you’re good to go!

Rain droplets on fabric.

Man in drenched rain jacket.