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Is it important to wash them?
When you wash an item of clothing normally, you are not only removing any stains, you are also extracting and oils and dirt that can build up in the fibres. These natural oils are what the smell producing bacteria set to work on and is why a t-shirt can start to smell once you’ve worn it for a few days (quicker for some!). This is exactly the same with your waterproof clothing and other outdoor gear as well.
Why is it so important?
With waterproof clothing, the removal of those oils and dirts has an even more important function, the improvement of the garments breathability and waterproofing. If you keep them clean then both of these functions will work a lot better.

What about my shoes (and gloves)?
Footwear [and gloves] are exactly the same – make sure you wash them. If you have got your boots dirty then make sure you give them a good wash with warm water. If you leave the dirt to get ingrained in the boot upper then it will deteriorate a lot quicker. What surprises people is that you should also clean the inside of the boot as well, especially if they have a Gore-tex or eVent membrane.

Isn't it damaging for the clothes?
No, not unless you decide to use a washboard on the banks of a river! Outdoor gear is very robust, and there is little you can do when washing it to damage it.

So how do I actually wash them?
When you don’t wash your waterproofs, it is these tiny pores that can get blocked up with microscopic dirt and grime and stop the item working effectively. You normally get two issues when an item gets dirty; firstly the breath-ability of it decreases. This means that you start to feel more clammy and sticky when wearing it (this obviously means that you sweat more and clog the pores up even quicker!). The second issue is that the oils can upset the inherent hydrophobic (water repelling) properties of the fabric and in some cases it can actually start to attract water not repel it.
Washing waterproof or windproof garments in a pure soap, such as Nikwax Techwash, can therefore not only clean the dirt off, but in some cases it can actually restore the water repellency and breathability to the garment. The easiest way to do this is to pop the item into the washing machine with some Techwash, but you can hand wash it if you would prefer. (I personally do a lot of hiking, and am generally instructed to use non-biological washing powder. Obviously the specialist product will be better, but if you don't fancy buying something specific...)

Washing boots / Gloves:
With few exceptions, cleaning leather boots is best done with water and hard work. As leather is a natural material, most cleaning products will lead to an alteration of the leather, usually drying it out, which can lead to unwanted cracking. The best way to clean leather boots is to do it regularly and use warm water and a sponge to remove the dirt and mud off of them. After cleaning your walking boots, you should then allow them to dry naturally. The worst thing you can do with leather (apart from using a solvent based cleaning solution, which dries them out loads!) is to dry them on a radiator/heater/next to the fire etc. This may be very tempting as a pair of soggy walking boots around the house is not pleasant, but if you over dry them then you will suck too much moisture out of them and dry the leather out.
The most effective way of drying walking boots is to push newspaper into them and leave them in a warm, non centrally heated area. Check them regularly and change the paper as many times as it takes for them to dry completely.

Washing the inside of boots / gloves:
For the inside of your footwear, you should use more warm water and a long handled brush (washing up brush) to get in to all parts of the inner. You can even fill up the inside of a Gore-tex boot or shoe in order to soak some of the dirt out. This will offer the added bonus of showing any leaks up, any water that starts to appear on the outside of the boot will indicate that you have a puncture in the Gore-tex membrane.

Restoring water-proofing:As previously mentioned, if your garment is starting to ‘wet out’ (soaking up water instead of repelling it) then you may just need to wash it. If however, after washing a waterproof jacket, it still doesn’t seem to have a water repellent finish then it is probably because abrasion has worn that layer of DWR off. In this situation, you will need to apply a product that will reapply a thin layer of water repellent DWR finish – or ‘Reproof’ it.

You will need to apply a DWR layer.
This is done using a product such asNikwax TX Direct.
You can either use a wash in product, which is very thorough, but then causes the clothing to actually repel any moisture on the INSIDE back to you, which could cause you to get quite damp and sweaty more often.
OR alternatively, you can use a spray on which you would simply apply evenly with a cloth whilst the clothing is STILL DAMP.

Reproofing boots / gloves (Leather gloves):Reproofing boots and leather gloves is done in the same way, except you will want to use a WAX product such as Nikwax’s Waterproofing Wax.

Drying:
HANG dry, and not in direct sunlight.

Definition:
Water repellent is different from water resistant. Water resistant is simply reffering to the act of stopping water from going through. Water repellent is what causes water to bead and run away. It is easy to tell if your clothing is water repellent because when wet, it will look like this:
If your water isn't water repellent, it will eventually start absorbing water which will eventually soak through.



Motorcycle Specific:
First of all, if you are washing your jacket / trousers. REMOVE THE ARMOUR.
Secondly, if you have a removable lining it may be best to wash them separately. The inside lining may well just be able to be washed regularly. (Check the label).

Leather Jackets:
If you insist on washing it yourself, then first of all, wipe it down with a damp cloth or baby wipes. This will clean most the dirt off.
Then wash any particularly dirty areas / stains with leather cleaner.
Finally wash by hand wish dish washing soap, in Luke warm water, as it doesn't contain harmful chemicals, and it smells very nice. This is best done by soaking the jacket in a bucket / tub and gently scrubbing it.

Sources:
http://license.citruslime.com/cs/blogs/tcsh-official-blog/archive/2010/10/06/how-to-clean-amp-waterproof-outdoor-gear.aspx

http://www.ehow.com/how_4690062_wash-leather-jacket.html
 
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