For those outdoor folk who have not yet experienced the magic of Nikwax, it’s time to get treated. Years of research has seen Nikwax products soar to great heights as the go-to waterproofing name in the outdoor world, and for good reason. Their vast range of products that clean, condition, waterproof, revitalise and restore the protective properties of your outdoor clothes and gear, have been winning awards for over two decades. And not content with just really great products, Nikwax have continued their research to create exceptional products that offer better value for money and more durable finishes than their earlier versions.
How does Nikwax work
Without going into too much detail, Nikwax works its magic by coating fabric fibers with a network of TX.10i water-repellent elastomer molecules. These molecules bind to anything that isn’t water repellent without clogging up the spaces between the molecules, thus maintaining the breathability of the fabric.
Clever stuff, but for a more in depth explanation of the science behind these smart waterproofing treatments, Nikwax explains it a little better.
How to use Nikwax on outdoor clothing and equipment
Treating your clothing and outdoor gear couldn’t be easier. Conveniently, Nikwax have developed their products for use in washing machines, and the process really is as simple as throwing it all in and pressing go! Well almost. Each product has simple to follow instructions to make sure you’re doing it right, and you also need to take a quick look at the garment’s care label to ensure you wash on suitable settings.
From waterproofing treatment for gloves, tents, leather and climbing rope, to cleaning treatment for rugs, jackets, sandals and down. If it needs waterproofing, Nikwax has it covered. I’ve used Nikwax Tech Wash and Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-in many times before – a big fan. But I was intrigued to get to try some of the less well known products:
Nikwax Down Wash Direct
Washing your down jacket or sleeping bag can be a scary event – if you care enough about your down gear to be washing it, it’s likely that you had to take out a second mortgage to get it in the first place. So for goodness sake make sure you don’t ruin it by trying to care for it in the wrong way!
Nikwax claims that Down Wash Direct not only cleans your regular down or hydrophobic down items, but it will also restore and revitalise the water repellent finishes. With trepidation I gave it a go on my stained and campfire smelling Fairydown vest.
- Remove all non-washable parts from the item
- Place item in the washing machine
- Add the recommended amount of Down Wash to the detergent dispenser
- Check the washing instruction label and wash accordingly. I put my items on a 30ºC wash and slow spin.
Note: Nikwax recommends that sleeping bagsand very large jackets should be washed in the bath (not the washing machine) before spin drying in the machine.
Well it certainly got the smell out and most of the superficial dirt too. But some of the stubborn stains are there for good. I’ve yet to be convinced about the water repellency being restored. There was barely any beading of water from some light drizzle that I encountered. Having said that, water repellency isn’t the main purpose of Down Wash, just an added bonus. So let’s see how the Nikwax Down Proof fared.
As a cleaning product for down gear, this product worked really well. Very happy with how clean my vest came out of the wash. However I’ve not seen any signs of a revitalised water repellent finish.
Nikwax Down Proof
As an owner of down clothing or gear, you will probably already know and have first hand experience of the big downside to your feather-filled mobile heat source – its lack of insulation when wet. It can be a real pain in changeable cold weather, and I have found myself opting for a less warm but waterproof jacket at the slightest hint of moisture in the clouds. So I was keen to see just how effective this Nikwax Down Proof treatment is for enduring a light winter shower and beading the moisture off. Back in the washer for my down vest!
Down Proof should be used in the same way as Down Wash Direct, either in a washing machine or by hand, following instructions on the garment label for machine settings.
The outer shell of my down vest beaded very well for the first few seconds of being wet, but then soon seeped into the nylon. However it is worth noting that the back of my vest beaded much more effectively without seeping in for many minutes after it became wet. Perhaps the greater levels of wear and tear and ingrain dirt on the front panels affected the capacity for the elastomer molecules to bind to the nylon?
I’d be happy wearing my treated down vest in a very short, light rain shower, but nothing more. And from the mixed results I have had from one treatment of Down Proof, I would like to do further testing before fully putting my trust in it.
Nikwax Tech Wash
Nikwax recommends the use of their Tech Wash product before applying some of their waterproofing products such as Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-in and Nikwax Polar Proof. Tech Wash is a soap based cleaner that lifts dirt from your clothing or equipment, as well as revitalising any water repellent finishes that the items may have. According to Nikwax, Tech Wash can be used on items that use the following waterproof technologies:
- Sympa Tex
- Nikwax Analogy
The product should be used as a replacement for normal detergent, in a washing machine or by hand.
From years of using this product, I have never had any negative results. Things have always come out clean and fresh and subsequent use of TX Direct Wash-in have always proven successful.
Nikwax Polar Proof
Now this is a concept that is new to me – the need for fleece items to be water repellent. If it looks like rain, put a jacket on! But much like the down jacket problem, what if your outer layer is a fleece jacket or jumper? Nikwax Polar Proof is a wash-in waterproofing for fleece items that as well as adding water repellency to your fleece, also helps to maintain breathability and insulation.
Not wanting to waste a whole wash cycle on a single garment, I tried the hand wash method, as suggested by Nikwax:
- Fill a bowl with hand-hot water and add the recommended amount Polar Proof liquid.
- Throw in the garment and give it a good mix to get the treatment fully diluted.
- Leave to soak for 5 minutes and then agitate it well.
- Rinse the garment until the water runs clear.
Although the breathability and insulation are not easy to test, a four day canoeing trip presented the perfect opportunity to give the water repellent properties a trial. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my fleece beaded when I got (constantly) splashed by wayward paddle strokes. The beading rolled right off before seeping in leaving me totally dry from everything but the worst splashes.
Really happy with the results of Nikwax Polar Proof and am excited to test its effectiveness under a more concentrated attack of water or rainfall. So far though, it’s a definite winner in my opinion.
Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-in
I’ve used this product on my Goretex jacket and pants for years and have always been really pleased with the results. It restores that shop-fresh beading of water that tends to fade with use and time, and gives me renewed confidence that splashing out on Goretex garments was worth every penny.
Nikwax Direct Wash can be used on the same waterproof fabrics as Tech Wash. Hand wash according to the Polar Proof instructions or machine wash as follows:
- Wash garment with Nikwax Tech Wash.
- Remove any detergent build-up from dispenser of your washing machine.
- Add garment(s) to the washing machine.
- Add recommended amount of Direct Wash per garment to the detergent dispenser.
- Run a 30º synthetic cycle followed by a slow spin.
The best waterproofing treatment I have ever used on my Gortex gear. I have had consistently good results and definitely recommend Nikwax TX. Direct Wash-in.
As much as I love my merino base layers, as soon as I get caught in a storm or become inadvertently saturated on the river, I’m always left wishing I’d put on my synthetic thermal instead and embraced the inevitable stink. Merino just doesn’t manage to dry as quickly as I would like and so I was intrigued to see that Nikwax Basefresh claims to accelerate drying whilst softening, freshening and deodorising your clothes. I decided to try this on my merino base layer to help improve its drying time and also on my synthetic base layer to see if could help with odour control.
Unlike Nikwax Basewash and Woolwash, which are both used as single products to wash and treat wool and synthetic garments respectively, Basefresh is used alongside your normal washing detergent as a fabric conditioner:
- Put your baselayers in the washing machine along with the rest of your normal load of laundry.
- Add the normal amount of washing detergent to the dispenser along with the recommended amount of Basewash.
- Run a wash according to the care label.
After using Basefresh on my Icebreaker merino base layer and my synthetic Helly Hansen thermal, I put both of them to the test on a recent cycling trip. Ordinarily, my HH only survives one outing before it finds its way to the laundry basket. However I managed 2 days of cycling in 20ºC temperatures before I started smelling myself! A definite bonus as I had no choice but to wear the same top for multiple days in a row. My merino top still seemed to take a long time to dry once it had become wet, however both tops definitely came out of the wash smelling better and feeling softer than before.
This is not something I would use regularly. Although the results were mostly pretty good, from an eco-friendly point of view the treatment is definitely not essential and only adds more chemicals to our water systems. However for the occasional treat of having shop fresh thermals, Nikwax Basefresh will do the job very nicely.