The right textile care is the key to long-lasting fun with functional clothing

How to: Cycling Apparel - Proper Care of Functional Textiles

Moritz 14. February 2020

When washing and caring for your bike clothes you can do a lot of things right - or really wrong. Important care tips for your functional apparel!

Pretend you're bike apparel. Not just something cheap, but something fine, with lots of function. And expensive. You being purchased was an act of the heart. Finally, you are able to show off your functional-self in all your glory and prove your value. But then a dilemma appears: you need care. You suffer because you have been washed and waterproofed wrong or not at all. And it would have been so easy...

Okay, let's break up this little role play. But be honest with yourself: Do you really take care of your bike clothing correctly? Unfortunately, this is one of the most common reasons why expensive functional textiles performance drops much too early. We at bike-components are always happy when we can make people happy with a few small but decisive tips from our customer service team. There are simple instructions on how you can enjoy functional clothing for a long time with the correct care.

If you like playing in the dirt, you have to live with the consequences...

If you like playing in the dirt, you have to live with the consequences...

Textile care is mandatory for long-term enjoyment of your bike clothes.

Textile care is mandatory for long-term enjoyment of your bike clothes.

There's no bad weather, just bad clothing... But it must be treated properly.

There's no bad weather, just bad clothing... But it must be treated properly.

No secret recipe: wash, dry, waterproof

When biking, our clothing primarily comes into contact with three kinds of "opponents": Sweat, body fats and dirt. Okay, lubricant under certain circumstances, but in everyday cycling it is actually reduced to the first three. Care, in practice this means: washing, drying, impregnating. All three care steps can be done right, but also wrong. In order:

Washing rain gear - a must with moderation

Rain jackets and pants - also known as "hard shells" - are genuine high-performance gear. Wafer-thin, extremely light and astonishingly robust. Their main function is to keep out rain and splash water, but to let sweat moisture pass to the outside to stay as dry as possible under the jacket. To be able to fulfil this function, modern hard shells are equipped with so-called semi-permeable membranes, which in turn are "baked" into laminates with supple inner and resistant outer materials. The water molecules from our sweat must somehow get through the membrane. This usually works very well as long as they have a clear path. But the more often we use a rain jacket, the more intensively it comes into contact with the above-mentioned "enemies" in addition to water. As a result, body fats and salts clog the membrane from the inside, and mud residue from the outside. A superficial wipe of trail and road dirt removes only a fraction. Unfortunately, the rumour still persists that you shouldn't wash your membrane rain jacket made of GORE-TEX and other materials. Wrong - the opposite is true! Because if you do not free your hard shell from dirt, fats and salts, you destroy it in the long run.

The range of functional care products is large. The important thing is that you use them. Because normal washing powder for performance textiles is like pouring cheap oil into the Porsche engine...

The range of functional care products is large. The important thing is that you use them. Because normal washing powder for performance textiles is like pouring cheap oil into the Porsche engine...

IMPORTANT: Read washing instructions BEFORE - on the care product...

IMPORTANT: Read washing instructions BEFORE - on the care product...

...AND on the clothing! In this way, misuse and potential damage to your beloved bike gear can be avoided.

...AND on the clothing! In this way, misuse and potential damage to your beloved bike gear can be avoided.

However, there are some important points to consider when choosing the right hard shell detergent: 

  • In general: It is really (!) worthwhile to read the washing instructions from the manufacturers - directly on the label in the jacket or pants. And: Most manufacturers have care instructions on their websites, some of them even as a video.
  • Please use only +special detergent, a wellness trip for the laminate. After all, a wash with normal detergent is like pouring cheap oil into a Porsche engine. Worst choice: detergent powder. This is because it gets stuck in the tiny pores of the membrane - and thus blocks the exit in the best bouncer manner.
  • Do not use fabric softener or bleach!
  • Observe washing temperatures! Most functional textiles - especially hard shells - like us humans, do not like hotter than 40 degrees. Those who try it at 60 degrees shouldn't be surprised if the seam tape peels off, because they are simply not made for such washing temperatures.
  • Many modern washing machines have pre-installed programmes for functional/outdoor textiles. If not: Select the gentle wash cycle and avoid spinning!
  • Basically - regardless of whether it is a hard shell jacket or any other textile - close all zips and hook & loop fasteners. During the several hours of turning and rolling movements they otherwise become grindstones and "mesh pullers".
  • Open all drawstrings!
  • Do not put too many articles in the machine at once.
  • Pre-sort the laundry neatly and ideally only wash "sorted". In other words: Do not throw the light green bike jacket into a washing machine with the new dark blue jeans...
  • The dirtier the clothes, the more important a pre-wash is - either by hand or in the machine. Soaking helps, but not too long.

However, since hard shells, unlike underwear, are not a "frequent wash product", the following rule of thumb applies: as often as necessary, as rarely as possible.

Re-impregnate: Allow moisture to roll off

Advertisements like to show dripping water droplets as a synonym for waterproofness. One thing is clear: without a water-repellent impregnation of the outer fabrics - the so-called DWR ("durable water repellent") finish - the hard shells would not function to the desired extent. If the uppermost layer of the fabric is soaked with water over its entire surface - experts speak of a "wetting-out effect" - the passage of water vapour is noticeably reduced, and according to research by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA), even by up to 80 percent. The result: the sweat cannot escape, transforms from steam into liquid - and deposits as condensation on the inside of the jacket or on the underlying layer of clothing. The result: apart from the dwindling comfortable climate, the user gets the impression that their high-quality hard shell jacket is no longer waterproof - although actually only his own sweat is responsible for this irritation.

When new, hard shells are pre-impregnated at the factory and allow moisture on the outside to drip off wonderfully. However, this effect will sooner or later decrease, e.g. due to mechanical friction, depending on the intensity of wear. Then you can reactivate the DWR by heating it in the dryer (maximum 30 minutes at 60 degrees). After a certain period of time, however, rain jackets and trousers should be re-waterproofed - with the help of a spray or a wash-in impregnation.

The spray solution is a bit more complex, but can be used purposefully, because it is only applied on the outside (on the inside you don't need a water-repellent effect...). The washing solution is nevertheless better than no post-impregnation and much less complicated to use.

Brief instructions for handling a waterproofing spray:

  • Place the still damp jacket on the floor outside (!), spray the waterproofing solution over a large area and then rub it into the fabric with a soft sponge.
  • Then either hang it up to dry or put it in the tumble dryer.
  • For those who do not have a dryer, the iron is the best choice: Set to level 1 for synthetic ironing, preferably with a thin tea towel in between, so that the heat does get through but does not damage the slightly raised areas such as zipper garages.
  • Do not only partially re-impregnate, otherwise there is a risk of unsightly discolouration on the fabric.
For waterproofing sprays, please always work outdoors and apply the solution evenly over the surface at a distance of about 30 centimetres.

For waterproofing sprays, please always work outdoors and apply the solution evenly over the surface at a distance of about 30 centimetres.

There are waterproofing sprays and waterproofing wash solutions. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

There are waterproofing sprays and waterproofing wash solutions. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Easier, but just as important: Care of cycling jerseys and base layers

In contrast to the hard shell jacket, bike jerseys and base layers usually go into the washing machine after each training session. Stop! This is not absolutely necessary, or rather it depends on the material. Merino wool may not be the first choice for Road bike use, but for Mountain bikers, bikepackers, not so performance-oriented Gravel riders and sporty bike commuters "wool shirts" are playing an increasingly important role - at least proportionally. Because the wearing comfort is high and the smelly factor is usually much weaker compared to polyester variants. For shirts and jerseys with merino wool content, it is therefore often sufficient to air it out overnight. This saves water, energy and (special) detergent - and is therefore doubly easy on your wallet.

Polyester gear without membranes or bike jackets for cold days with synthetic padding like Primaloft are less demanding in maintenance than hard shells and windbreakers with a membrane, but should not be neglected. They have to "cope" with sweat moisture and thus the masses of body fat and salt crystals much more intensively than rainwear. Here too, we recommend the use of functional detergents from specialists such as Nikwax and Holmenkol. And while you're at it: even the helmet pads, catch basins for plenty of sweat, can be easily washed along with a load of functional clothing.

Always read the sewn-in washing instructions and the instructions for use on the care product before the first wash. Many manufacturers of functional clothing also offer (video) washing instructions on their websites.

Always read the sewn-in washing instructions and the instructions for use on the care product before the first wash. Many manufacturers of functional clothing also offer (video) washing instructions on their websites.

Depending on whether hard shell, softshell, windbreaker, base layer or padded insulation apparel is used, the washing instructions differ.

Depending on whether hard shell, softshell, windbreaker, base layer or padded insulation apparel is used, the washing instructions differ.

The functional detergent is either filled into the washing machine detergent drawer...

The functional detergent is either filled into the washing machine detergent drawer...

...or in a cup...

...or in a cup...

... directly into the machine itself.

... directly into the machine itself.

Summary:
Sure, the care of cycling clothing is certainly not the most exciting part of our passion as bikers - but it's worth it. In more ways than one: You can enjoy your favourite parts for longer. They work better when riding. And you save yourself the unnecessary purchase of new gear, because the "old" ones have quit working too early due to insufficient attention. So: Take care!