TAKE CARE OF YOUR CLOTHES
It’s a win-win that will save you money—and save the environment.
A well-maintained item of clothing will feel better when you use it, provide better protection from weather, and do so for longer. Of course, this kind of advice applies not only to clothes, but to all equipment we take with us out into the outdoors. Having the right clothing and gear, taken care of in the right way, ensures we’re able to focus more on the experience in nature when adventuring.
Yes, it’s about washing your clothes and keeping them clean, but it’s also about doing so judiciously. Often, it’s enough to simply air or rinse a garment—not only prolonging its life but providing a savings for both the environment and your wallet. In addition to the specific care advice for each material that follows this section, here are some general tips on how to take care of your clothes:
- Air out the garment and use a clothes brush before washing.
- Don’t wash too often, and when you do, always follow the washing instructions found on the garment’s label.
- To reduce wear-and-tear and help the garment maintain shape during washing, close all zippers and Velcro straps; if possible, also use a laundry bag.
- Prevent post-wash wrinkling by hanging clothes to air dry and then folding them.
- Never use fabric softeners; the chemicals in these formulations negatively affect breathability and moisture transport in the material (see “Why Not Use Fabric Softeners?” section below).
- Change clothes regularly and work with different layers; wearing the same clothes every day will wear them out faster.
NOTE: You are welcome to contact us with specific questions or concerns about laundering clothes that aren’t addressed here.
No matter how well you take care of any clothing item, occasionally something breaks—that's just the way of materials and manufacturing. If a garment fails for no apparent reason, you are welcome to contact us. If you purchased your Tierra product through our website, please contact us here; if you purchased it from a dealer, please contact them first.
When it comes to wool garments, there’s a single magic trick: airing, airing, airing. In other words, wool doesn’t require frequent washing. Exterior dirt can be removed with a clothes brush, and odors removed simply by airing the garment on a hanger outside. Because wool repels dirt and breaks down bacteria, it practically washes itself and can remain odorless for lengthy periods. Nevertheless, eventually it will still be time to wash a woolen garment.
Wool garments can be washed by hand or in a washing machine following the provisos listed below. Always follow the washing instructions for a specific garment found on its tag.
- Use a mild or wool-specific detergent; you can also use a laundry bag to protect the wool from the washing-machine agitator or other garments.
- Use the washing machine’s program for delicate- or wool-washing; the temperature for washing wool should not exceed 30°C.
- Do not tumble dry; instead, dry the garment flat on a towel or washing rack; hanging dry also works, but may cause some garments to lose their shape.
Shell garments made of GORE-TEX® or other materials also need care. Sometimes it can seem complicated—such as knowing when your garment requires re-impregnation or only a reactivation of its existing treatment. But if you follow the instructions below, along with those on the garment’s tag, you’ll feel confident taking care of your shell garments.
How do I know when I need to re-impregnate or reactivate?
If water drops no longer bead on top of the outer fabric—as they do on a plant leaf—but instead enter the fabric (it will typically take on a darker shade if this occurs), then it’s time to either re-impregnate or reactivate the fabric.
How do I decide between re-impregnation or reactivation?
Always start by testing reactivation: wash the garment and reactivate the impregnation by drying it in a drying cabinet, tumble dryer or with an iron set on low heat with a towel between the iron and fabric [have I stated this correctly? See comments below]. When the garment has dried fully, splash some water on it. If it still doesn’t bead and/or there are some darker areas, it is time to try re-impregnation.
NOTE: Even if a garment lacks functional impregnation it will still keep you dry from external wetness. However, the material’s breathability will decrease and it will soil more easily.
How do I re-impregnate shell clothing?
There are several methods and products to choose from. The two most common are: 1) a spray-on treatment applied after washing, or 2) a liquid that you machine-wash into the garment. We recommend trying the former first.
When you Google “shell clothing impregnation products” it returns several options, all of which have easy-to-follow instructions on the bottle. Note that sometimes the most eco-friendly option isn’t always the best, so try to choose something with a good balance between eco-friendly and efficient.
NOTE: Modern garments with fluorocarbon-free impregnation require more frequent re-impregnation (see “Shell Clothing with Fluorocarbon-free Impregnation“ section below).
Preventing the most common wear-and-tear issues with shell clothing
By far the most common wear-and-tear damage to shell clothing is either the loosening of taped seams in the shoulders, neck and hood, or zipper failures.
- Taped seams—In 9 out of 10 cases, taped seams in the shoulders, neck and hood release because of sweat build-up that has slowly dissolved the taping glue over time. This is easily avoided by wiping the inside of the garment after heavy use—typically during warmer months of the year when you sweat a lot—first with a dry towel and then with a slightly damp cloth.
- Zippers—It’s a good practice to open and close the zippers on shell clothing calmly and gently. This is because it usually isn’t the zipper itself that breaks, but the runner that malfunctions—typically when a user has pulled it too hard to its top or bottom position.
- Washing—On those infrequent occasions when you need to wash a shell garment, follow the instructions on the inside label. Never use fabric softeners (see “Why Not Use Fabric Softeners?” section below).
- Drying—Dry in a drying cabinet or tumble dryer; if access to either is not available [Again, I am unsure of my interpretation here; see comment below], iron on low heat with a towel between the iron and garment. Heating the garment in some way after washing restores the water-repellent treatment.
- Ironing—The garment does not need to be ironed until it is completely dry; use a steam iron on low heat and place a towel between the garment and the iron.
Repairing minor damage
Sometimes adventuring gets a little rough, and we end up with tears or holes in a shell garment. It’s usually possible to repair such minor damage with the help of tape (duct tape solves everything!) or a special patch repair kit for shell clothing that can be purchased at most outdoor stores. If employing the latter, keep two important things in mind:
- To ensure that the patch adheres properly, the fabric around the damaged area should be cleaned then wiped with a drop of rubbing alcohol (not acetone or gasoline, as either will destroy the garment).
- The repair patch should extend ~2 cm either side of the tear/hole; when cutting a patch it’s a good idea to round the corners to reduce the risk of it coming loose.
Shell clothing with fluorocarbon-free impregnation
Due to environmental concerns over fluorocarbons, modern shell garments increasingly feature fluorocarbon-free impregnation (if you’re unsure whether this applies to your particular shell garment, consult its product description on this website). Such garments require more frequent re-impregnation—but the environmental trade-off is worth it.
The dirt- and water-repelling properties of Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)—part of a larger range of compounds referred to as fluorocarbons—have made these chemicals popular in outdoor clothing and other products. However, fluorocarbons have also demonstrated some negative properties, such as breaking down slowly or not at all in nature.
Garments featuring new fluorocarbon-free impregnations need to be re-impregnated with a fluorocarbon-free treatment after about every other wash. Since shell garments don’t need frequent washing, we see this as a great compromise that aids the environment.
Softshell clothing can basically be handled in the same manner as shell clothing. The main difference is that unlike shell garments, softshells have no membrane, so their ability to resist moisture is more dependent on impregnation. Thus, by not washing softshells unless absolutely necessary, you won’t have to re-impregnate them as often.
Drying your softshell clothing in a drying cabinet or dryer as often as possible is encouraged. This is because heat helps reactivate the impregnation’s water-repellent qualities. If you do not have access to either, use an iron on low heat with a towel between the iron and the garment. Keep in mind that when you use a tumble dryer, there’s more wear on the garment than when using a drying cabinet. After the garment has dried, you can run it in the tumble dryer on low heat for 20 minutes, for the same effect as in a drying cabinet.
Why not use fabric softeners?
The soft feel and pleasant smell that fabric softeners impart may seem appealing, but these products not only damage functional and waterproof clothing, but come with environmental and health concerns.
To begin, fabric softener settles on the surface of the garment as a waxy or oily coating, severely reducing its carefully engineered breathability and moisture-transfer capacity. Aditionally, the invisible coating also prevents repair tape from sticking to the fabric.
Fabric softeners contain plasticizing ammonium compounds designed to prevent static electricity. Unfortunately, these long-lasting chemicals are also allergenic and, most often, bioaccumulative, damaging organisms and their environment. Likewise the fragrances, dyes and preservatives in fabric softeners, which consist of chemicals such as phthalates that are also harmful to the environment and human health.