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How to Clean and Apply DWR to a Sailing Dry Suit

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Seasonal cleaning and applying of DWR to your sailing dry suit will help keep it tip top shape for many seasons.

What is DWR?

DWR (Durable Water Repellent) is a treatment that is applied by manufacturers to the outer fabric of waterproof-breathable foul weather gear – jackets, trousers, dry suits, spray tops, etc.

The DWR chemicals bond with the individual fibers in the threads of the fabric and prevent water from soaking into the threads and ‘wetting out’.  Instead, they cause the water to ‘bead up’ and roll off the fabric.  Similar to dropping a bit of water into a Teflon coated frying pan – the water, does not spread out but beads up.  This keeps the spaces between the threads dry and open which greatly aids the breathable fabric’s ability to expel moisture from inside the suit.  So if you have been sailing hard and perspiring, a dry suit with a good DWR will allow the suit to more quickly move your sweat out.  This will keep you dry and warm later when you are less actively sailing.

DWR coatings are durable but don’t last forever.  In fact, with recent changes to the formulation of DWRs’ chemical compositions to make them more environmentally friendly, they have an even shorter life and must be reapplied more often.  So the more you used your suit the more often you will need to do this.  This is especially true of high abrasion areas where the DWR wears away faster.  Also, washing you suit helps to remove dirt and oils that can cover up DWR and mask its ability to repel and bead water.

When Should You Apply DWR?

For maximum performance of your waterproof-breathable suit, this should be done when you first notice that water is not beading up on your dry suit, and the fabric is ‘wetting out’.

Keys to applying a DWR

  • Clean the suit to remove dirt and oil from the fabric
  • Apply a DWR that does not require heat activation (use of a clothes dryer)

Washing a Dry Suit

To wash your dry suit you should use a cleaner specifically formulated for waterproof-breathable fabrics like Gear Aid’s ReviveX Pro Cleaner for High-Tech Synthetic Fabric.  These types of cleaners have no fragrances or softeners that stay in the fibers of the fabric, and the detergent itself will wash completely out during rinsing.  It does a good job removing dirt, oil, etc, and can be applied directly to the fabric using a soft bristle brush to pretreat stained areas prior to washing.

To wash fill two large tubs (15 – 20-gallon size) most of the way up with lukewarm water.  Add the recommended amount of cleaner to one tub, the other will be used for rinsing.  Turn the suit inside out, and starting from the feet (to allow air to escape from the suit) work the suit in and under the water until it is fully submerged.  Agitate the suit with your hands for 2-3 minutes.  Now pick the suit up by the feet to allow it to drain back into the tub.  Turn the suit right side out and repeat the process.

To rinse using the tub with clean water, starting from the feet, work the suit in and under the water.  Ensure the water is fully flooding the inside of the suit.  Agitate for 2-3 minutes, being sure water is flowing in, and out of the suit.  Now remove the suit feet first and hand on a large heavy-duty clothes hanger with the zipper(s) open to dry.  Once the outside is dry, turn the suit inside out and dry the inside.

cleaning sailing dry suit

Wash, Rinse & Hang to dry

Applying DWR to Your Dry Suit

Some DWR treatments require you to put newly treated garments in the heat of a clothes dryer in order to activate the product.  For drysuits with latex seals which can be severely damaged, and dry zippers that could be compromised by this process, you will want to choose a DWR product like Gear Aid’s ReviveX Spray-On Water Repellant (DWR) which can be sprayed on and do not require heat activation.

To begin applying the DWR, take your dry suit and hang on a heavy-duty clothes hanger right side out.  Find a place outdoors where you can hang the suit and begin applying the DWR spray.

You will spray all outside areas of the dry suit fabric to the saturation point – ‘wet out’ the material.  You can do this while the suit is still wet, but you will not be able to see when you have fully saturated the already wet fabric with the DWR.  Applying DWR to a dry garment allows you to see if you are completely coating all areas of the fabric.  Once the whole suit has been treated, go back and reapply DWR to high wear areas of the suit like knees, shoulders, elbows, and seat.

Once fully treated with DWR, keep the suit hanging in a dry place for 48 hours prior to use.

dwr coating sailing dry suit

Completely cover the surface of the drysuit, focusing on high chafe areas like shoulders, knees, and seat.

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