By Chad de Alva
When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows to watch was Mythbusters. I loved how the show used science to prove or disprove so many different myths and urban legends.
Yet Mythbusters also makes me wonder – how did some of these myths that were put to the test even become myths in the first place? Some ideas just have a way of taking hold in people’s minds, I guess. Today, I still run into that same question – why do people think that they should do X, even when the correct answer has been provided to them.
A perfect example of this can be found in the myths that some riders believe about how they should care for Gore-Tex riding garments.
To provide you with the best possible answers on how to best care for your Gore-Tex riding gear and other Gore-Tex products, I reached out to the folks who created it – W.L. Gore.
I also sought out information from product experts at Klim who have extensive experience working with Gore-Tex in motorcycle-specific applications.
Gore-Tex is one of the many products that W.L. Gore created from their discovery of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene or ePTFE in 1969. ePTFE is a very strong, microporous material that can be created to do all kinds of things by tweaking how the polymer is expanded. In a Gore-Tex application, ePTFE is expanded so that each square inch of the membrane has nine billion pores. Water droplets (water in a liquid state of matter) are 20,000 times larger than these pores, so they can’t pass through the membrane, which makes Gore-Tex waterproof. Yet water vapor (water in a gaseous state of matter) is 700 times smaller than the pores in the membrane so it can pass through, which is why Gore-Tex is labeled as breathable – sweat in the form of water vapor can pass through the membrane.
A typical 3-layer Gore-Tex laminate is made up of a face fabric, which is what you see on the outside of the garment, the Gore-Tex membrane in the middle, and a backing fabric which is what is seen on the inside of a garment.
Now that we have an idea of how Gore-Tex works let’s consider what happens to it while we’re out riding. From the outside, we expose our riding gear to all kinds of things: dirt, mud, chemicals like oil and grease, food, beverages, bugs, and all kinds of other stuff.
Leaving these things on a Gore-Tex riding garment can impact its performance. From the inside, our bodies also expel oils and other wonderful things in our sweat, so in the process of using the gear, we’re exposing it to things that can impact its performance from both sides. We change the oil on our bikes at regular intervals, check our tire pressures, and perform other regular maintenance to our bikes, so why do some riders believe that their high-tech riding jackets can be used and re-used without caring for them? For whatever reason, there is this myth out there that you should not wash Gore-Tex garments. That is not true.
Gore-Tex garments should be washed regularly to ensure maximum performance and longevity. The more you use your gear, the more frequently you should wash and care for it to ensure it’s performing at its best. In the case of riding apparel, the process for washing Gore-Tex gear is pretty easy, but make sure that you read and understand the directions on the care tags on your gear, as some garments have different instructions.
Start by removing any integrated pads and double-checking to make sure that all of the pockets are empty. If you have particularly dirty or muddy gear, start by hosing it off to remove as much dirt as possible. Using a pressure washer is okay – as long as it’s lower pressure and you’re not going point-blank with it. You don’t want to mess up your face fabrics or force contaminants toward the membrane.
Once you have the gear hosed off, head to the laundry room. Make sure that all zippers are closed and that any draw-cords are slacked out. You only want to wash a couple of garments at a time, so if you have multiple riding suits, you’ll need to do multiple loads.
If you normally spot treat laundry, just use a little detergent and a clean rag to work some detergent into any stains prior to washing. You want to use warm water (105 degrees F, 40 degrees C) and liquid detergent. (No powdered detergent, bleaches, fabric softeners, or anything else.) It’s important to set two rinse cycles to make sure that you’re getting the garments as well rinsed as possible.
After washing, allow the garments to line dry or tumble dry on a warm, gentle cycle. Be prepared to do a few rounds of drying. Again, check the care tag – some garments will have special instructions that you need to follow. Once your garments are dry, you’re going to want to dry them again. Yes – you read that right. Drying your garments for an additional 20 minutes will reactivate the DWR or Durable Water Repellent treatment. DWR is what causes water to bead off of a garment. If you notice that water appears to be soaking into the face fabric instead of beading off, your garment is wetting out, and you need to reapply a DWR treatment. There are quality wash-in and spray-on DWR treatments out there, but the process is essentially applied and then dried to set the treatment. Once this is done, your garment will shed water like when it was new, which means you’re all set to go ride.
Gore-Tex riding gear isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely a type of product in which you’re going to get what you pay for. Any product that uses a Gore-Tex laminate has to undergo extensive testing by W.L. Gore before it can be sold to make sure that the product lives up to Gore’s quality standards. All Gore-Tex products are backed by the guaranteed to keep you dry promise – and both W.L. Gore and the product manufacture will back their products up if the laminate fails. The testing process that a product has to go through before it’s approved by Gore is extensive, and it’s pretty impressive too. Tests include things like extensive washing to see how the garment holds up over time. There are also environmental chambers where every imaginable weather condition on earth can be created, and garments can be tested in-use on things like treadmills and motorcycles. All of this is done in the name of making products that actually do what they’re advertised to do. So to get the most out of your Gore-Tex riding gear, you need to take care of it – just like caring for your bike will help you get the most out of your bike.
Washing Gore-Tex riding gear isn’t a hard process. Most riders are only going to need to pick up a DWR treatment, if anything. The washing machine and regular liquid detergent that you use for everyday laundry are all that you really need to clean your gear. Read your care tag. Pull any pads, wash your gear a couple of garments at a time with warm water and two rinses, dry your gear, then dry again to reactivate your DWR, ensure your DWR is working, re-install any pads and you are good to go. Doing this will help keep all of the technology, design, testing, and development that goes into making Gore-Tex riding gear working at its best – so you can get the most out of it. I’m no Mythbuster, but I know that by caring for my Gore-Tex gear, I’ve enjoyed like-new performance for years and years.
Trust the information on the care tag of your garments. If you have any questions, call your gear manufacture or Gore-Tex support. Now go give your gear some TLC, so you can be as comfortable as possible when you head out for your next ride.