Back in the ‘50s, Wilbert Gore was the employee of a famous American company. Without the approval of his superiors, he used Teflon to create a new fabric, which was later perfected by his son, Robert Gore. Needless to say, the product now bears the name of its creators: Gore-Tex.
Gore-Tex is a special waterproof membrane that provides a great level of breathability. The clothing which uses Gore-Tex membranes is generally designed in activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, winter sports, winter hikes, etc. In order to get the best out of the advantages Gore-Tex offers, it’s best to use such clothing in low temperatures, so that when sweat is eliminated, it has a cold exterior where it can be dispersed.
The Gore-Tex membrane was initially made of 2 components: PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid). Long story short: Gore-Tex is turned into a membrane made out of millions of microscopic fibers. The extended PTFE portion has more than 1.4 billion microscopic pores per square meter. The spaces between these microscopic fibers are 20.000 times denser than a drop of water. Due to the pores’ size, water (in its liquid form) cannot penetrate the membrane, but humidity vapors can. This is why Gore-Tex membranes are waterproof, but also breathable (since they allow sweat vapors to be eliminated). Gore-Tex is also windproof, which helps maintain the body temperature.
There are several types of Gore-Tex membranes, each different than the other because of its properties:
Gore-Tex Pro Shells – This is a membrane used in manufacturing clothing for extreme conditions, created out of 3 breathable layers, which are also durable, waterproof and windproof.
Gore-Tex Active Shell – It immediately eliminates sweat and the unpleasant feeling of humidity, while also being soft to the skin. It is used in the manufacturing of waterproof clothing, especially items made for athletes, runners, fitness enthusiasts or those who practice any kind of sport that involves intense sweating.
Gore-Tex Windstopper – It’s a multilayer material which is covered in Gore-Text on the outside, while the inside is covered in polar fleece, soft to the touch and extremely comfortable. Because the material itself is very flexible, it is often preferred because it can take any body shape, while still allowing free movement and heat preservation.
Gore-Tex PacLite – The characteristic that sets apart this material from the others is that it is extremely easy to pack. Purchasing clothes made with PacLite is essential when weight is of utter importance, like when you’re looking for a rain jacket for hiking. The external layer is made of either polyester or nylon and the interior of the PacLite is made of carbon and oleophobic substances. This means that it doesn’t require any extra lining and is, therefore, easier to pack.
Gore-Tex Performance Shell – This fabric is not meant for any particular sport, but it can be used for running, biking or even walking. It comes in either 2 or 3 layers.
Gore-Tex Performance for Footwear – It offers comfort, being optimized for extreme weather conditions and it is used for a wide range of footwear designated for strenuous outdoor activities.
Surpassingly enough, cleaning such a complex membrane is not that complicated. You will need, however, to care for Gore-Tex items the proper way if you want to ensure a long lifespan. In general, every Gore-Tex items comes with clear cleaning instructions which are typically sewn into the garment.
The instruction for cleaning Gore-Tex clothing is pretty basic: just wash the item in the machine, using warm water and liquid detergent. Make sure the temperature is not too high, as it can damage the membrane. For drying Gore-Tex clothing, make sure you use medium heat as well.
Every Gore-Tex piece of clothing features a DWR coating. This is a Durable Water Repellent treatment which is applied to the fabric so that the water can bead up on the surface of the garment and then roll off without being absorbed by the fabric. This will help keep the surface of the fabric clean so that the pores can eliminate your body’s sweat and the heat coming from inside the garment. As with every other treatment applied to clothing, DWR will eventually start to wear off more and more, with every washing cycle and every time it’s exposed to the elements. In this situation, 2 things will happen: the fabric will start absorbing water instead of beading it up on the surface and the Gore-Tex barrier underneath the outer fabric will still prevent some moisture from getting to your skin.
You can also use special cleaning products for waterproof garments. Granger’s Performance Wash For Outerwear is one great example. It was specifically designed to clean all technical fabrics, by removing dirt and neutralizing unpleasant odor. This Granger product will protect the waterproof coating of your Gore-Tex clothing, making it automatically better than regular detergents.
Instructions are pretty simple: you have to use about 50 ml of Granger Performance Wash for each large item (like a waterproof rain jacket) or for 2 smaller items (such as waterproof socks). You can apply the product directly on the garment, so it can remove any stains. It is recommended that the washing machine temperature is set to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, you can dry the garments by following the instructions provided on the label of each particular item.
It is important to mention that even if you take good care of your Gore-Tex garment and prolong the DWR coating lifespan, it will still wear off eventually. You can renew your DWR coating by ironing the garment using a warm steam setting. This will restore the water beading on the exterior surface of the fabric, just as long as the original DWR treatment is there. No DWR treatment is permanent, but there are ways for you to reapply the coating. There are several wash-in or spray-on treatments that you can turn to. The benefit is that you can reapply a DWR coating every time it’s necessary.
Signs that DWR coating is wearing off
When DWR treatments begin to fade, some people think that it’s due to some faults in the Gore-Tex fabric. That opinion is generally mistaken, so you need to know what are the signs that your garments need a fresh coat of DWR.
First of all, the outer layer of the garment will start to absorb water. Then, because of the water absorption, the clothing items will start to feel heavier. Next, the garments will start to condensate on the inside, because humid air will no longer be eliminated from under the clothing.
Of course, there are situations where the fault could actually be that of the Gore-Tex membrane. For example, if you notice that there is a significant level of moisture inside the garment just minutes after the rain started, this could be a sign of a more serious problems. Such leakage could be caused by a defective seam or maybe some garment damage.