How to Clean Synthetic Hiking Gear

How to Clean Synthetic Hiking GearThroughout the years, hiking gear has experienced a transformation. Thanks to new innovations in materials and fabrics, gear has moved from heavy materials such as cotton canvas to lightweight man-made materials weighing in at mere ounces. As the older fabrics and materials have disappeared, so have the old ways of cleaning. Many of today's fabrics require special attention or treatments to help ensure their use and longevity. It is important to familiarize yourself with the manufacturer's information included with new equipment, whether it is a shell, boots or mid layer.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

How to Clean and Care for Synthetic Hiking Gear

Things You’ll Need:
  • Washing Machine
  • Washing Powder (Low Surfactant/No Bleach)
  • Cold Water ONLY
  • Specialized Manufacturer Solutions
Step 1
Jackets, which may also be known as shells, are often made with materials such as Gore Tex or other similar breathable waterproof materials. Since the patent expiration of Gore Tex, there have been numerous entries to the waterproof market. These materials should be washed in cold water only on a gentle cycle. Referring to the garment instructions, you may be able to use general washing detergent with low surfactants and absolutely no bleach. You may need to purchase a specialized cleaner designed to treat and clean specific materials.
Step 2
Mid layers will often take the form of polar fleece. This fleece is a man-made material which is manufactured by some companies from recycled plastic products. Polar fleece provides excellent protection and is a warm type of material which is typically available in thicknesses from 1 through 3. Fleece is relatively easy to care for as it may be turned inside out and washed on a gentle cycle in cold water. Dry this material on low heat, and you are ready to go.
Step 3
Boots may provide some special challenges due to the inevitable accumulation of dirt and mud. Prior to any deep cleaning, you must remove as much mud and debris as possible. Giving the mud time to dry will allow you to scrape a large degree off rather easily. Deep cleaning any stains or spots may be accomplished with a rag, cold water and a mild detergent. However, deeper cleaning may require special cleaning solutions designed to clean materials such as Gore Tex while at the same time retaining the waterproof integrity of the material.
Step 4
Another type of outer layer which may need cleaning attention are jackets with fill such as traditional down jackets. However, as materials have developed, traditional fillers such as goose down have been replaced with loft materials from DuPont and other manufacturers. Following the manufacturer's instructions, it may be possible to simply machine wash these jackets in mild cleaners such as Ivory Flakes. Drying may be accomplished by tumbling on low heat. The addition of a tennis ball may be recommended to help evenly distribute the fill and prevent clumping in the jacket chambers.

Tips & Warnings

The rule of thumb is cold water. Never use hot water as many synthetics will be adversely affected by hot temperatures over a prolonged period of time. All detergents should be mild with as little properties such as surfactants, phosphates and absolutely NO bleaches at all.
Follow manufacturer's directions to the letter. There are many aspects to today's materials which may be greatly affected or even reduced by improper cleaning.

Article Written By Tara Dooley

Tara Dooley has written for various websites since 2008. She has worked as an accountant, after-school director and retail manager in various locations. Dooley holds a Bachelor of Science in business management and finance.

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