How to Wash a Raincoat

A raincoat is an essential garment for rainy weather. Properly washing your raincoat helps maintain its water-repellent properties and prolong its lifespan. Follow these steps to clean your raincoat thoroughly without damaging its protective abilities.

Check the Care Label

The first step is to check the care label on your raincoat. This will specify the manufacturer’s washing instructions.

Some key things to look for:

  • Machine washable – Most raincoats are machine washable, but check if a gentle cycle is recommended.
  • Water temperature – Low or cold water temperatures are best for raincoats. Hot water can damage the protective finish.
  • Tumble dry – Some raincoats can be tumble dried on low heat. Others must drip dry.
  • Dry clean – Rarely, a raincoat may be “dry clean only.” Take it to a professional cleaner in this case.
  • Other instructions – The label may have additional directions, e.g. washing separately, zipping up closures etc.

Always follow the care label closely to prevent harming your raincoat during washing.

Prepare the Raincoat

Before washing, you need to prep the raincoat:

  • Shake out debris – Shake the raincoat outdoors so dirt, leaves and other debris fall out.
  • Close zippers/fasteners – Zip up the raincoat fully and close any hook and loop fasteners. This prevents snagging.
  • Check pockets – Empty out all the pockets. Loose items can damage the washer or get lost in the wash.
  • Spot treat stains – Use a pre-wash stain remover on any difficult stains. This helps lift grease, oil etc.
  • Turn the raincoat inside out – This exposes the inner dirtier surface during washing. Protects the outer layer.

These simple steps prevent damage and maximize cleaning.

Wash the Raincoat

With prep complete, it’s time to wash:

Washing Machine Settings

  • Cycle – Use the gentle or delicate cycle, or whichever the label recommends. This is a low agitation setting.
  • Temperature – Wash with cold water. Warm water if the label specifies. Hot water can degrade waterproof coatings.
  • Load size – Wash the raincoat alone or with other delicate items. Overloading can crumple the fabric.

Washing Machine Detergent

  • Type of detergent – Use a mild detergent, not heavy duty. Dish soap also works well.
  • Amount of detergent – Use less detergent than normal loads. Around 1-2 tbsp for a light load. Over-sudsing can affect performance.
  • No fabric softener – Fabric softeners and conditioners can coat and diminish the water-resistant finish. Avoid these.

Washing Steps

  • Allow the machine to fill with water first, then add the raincoat. This prevents stress on the fabric.
  • Let the raincoat soak briefly, around 5 minutes, before the wash cycle runs. This allows the detergent to penetrate the fabric.
  • Add a towel or two during the cycle. They act as buffer, preventing damage from agitation.

Wash the raincoat using this gentle process to get it clean without harming the special coating.

Rinse Thoroughly

Once washed, rinse the raincoat 2-3 extra times. This removes all traces of detergent residue.

  • Run a complete rinse cycle with cold water after washing.
  • Rinse again by hand if needed, until the water runs clear.
  • Squeeze gently to remove excess water. Don’t wring or twist aggressively.

Thorough rinsing is vital. Left-over detergent can affect the raincoat’s ability to repel water.

Let it Drip Dry

Unless the care label specifies tumble drying, always let your raincoat drip dry naturally. This preserves the fabric treatments.

Steps for Drip Drying

  • Lay the raincoat flat, away from direct heat or sunlight.
  • Smooth out the fabric and shape so it dries evenly.
  • Insert a rolled towel inside to keep the form.
  • Ensure the liner side faces down so moisture doesn’t collect inside.
  • Turn over halfway through drying so both sides get air exposure.
  • Move to a well-ventilated area to speed up drying if needed.
  • Avoid using clothes pegs on the fabric. They can leave crease marks.

Drip drying maintains the protective waterproof finishes. Tumble drying can cause premature damage.

Tumble Dry Cautiously

If the care label does permit tumble drying, do it cautiously on low heat:

  • Use the lowest heat setting only. High heat ruins the special coatings.
  • Remove promptly when done. Over-drying can damage the fabric.
  • Dry it alone. Other items banging against it while wet can cause pilling.
  • Add a couple of clean tennis balls. They help break up the fabric and prevent bunching as it dries.
  • Take the raincoat out periodically to check for wrinkles and creases forming. Smooth them out right away.
  • Turn it inside out halfway through drying. This exposes both sides to air flow.
  • Let it air dry the rest of the way if it feels stiff or crunchy.

Tumble drying is harsh on raincoat fabrics. Use lower heat and minimum time.

Restore Water Repellency

Over time, washing diminishes the raincoat’s ability to repel water. Restore the DWR (durable water repellent) finish using these methods:

Launder with Reviving Detergent

  • Wash the raincoat in a special DWR reviving detergent like Nikwax Tech Wash or Granger’s. Follow the product instructions.
  • This restores some of the lost water repellency and improves surface tension.
  • Revive treatments can survive a few washing cycles. Reapply as needed.

Use a DWR Spray

  • Spray on a DWR restoration product after washing. Try Gear Aid ReviveX or Granger’s Repel.
  • Apply a light even coating according to the directions. Let it dry completely.
  • The spray adheres to individual fibers and renews water beading ability.
  • It serves as a temporary fix between washes. Re-spray each time after cleaning.

Professional Re-proofing

  • Take the raincoat to a specialty cleaner periodically for professional DWR re-proofing.
  • This involves treating the fabric with durable water repellent chemicals to refresh the protective finish.
  • Re-proofing makes the raincoat look and perform like new.

Restore water repellency regularly so your raincoat continues shedding rain effectively.

Storing the Raincoat

Proper storage between wears prolongs the raincoat’s lifespan:

  • Allow it to dry completely before storing away.
  • Hang on a wide padded hanger to maintain the shape.
  • Keep away from heat and direct sun exposure which can degrade the fabric.
  • Store in a breathable garment bag. Not plastic which traps moisture.
  • Don’t fold or bunch it up tightly for extended periods. This can crease the fabric.
  • Check before storing to ensure linings are dried out fully. Mildew can grow on trapped dampness.
  • Use a closet dehumidifier if the storage area gets humid.
  • Check periodically for any musty smells indicating mildew, and wash immediately if found.
  • Air it out once in a while. Don’t leave packed away sealed for many months.

Proper hanging and breathable storage helps the raincoat last for years.

Common Washing Mistakes

It’s important to avoid these common washing mistakes:

  • Machine drying without checking label instructions.
  • Using hot water for washing or rinsing.
  • Overloading the washer leading to crumpling.
  • Forgetting to zip up closures causing snags.
  • Mixing with regular laundry causing color bleeds or fraying from zippers.
  • Using too much detergent resulting in a soapy residue.
  • Not double rinsing out all the detergent.
  • Leaving wet for prolonged periods inviting mildew.
  • Aggressive wringing or twisting damaging the fabric.
  • Hung outdoors where birds or insects can soil it before fully dry.
  • Storing damp leading to musty smells and bacteria.

Be mindful and take steps to prevent these laundry mishaps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wash my raincoat in the washing machine?

Yes, most raincoats can be machine washed but check the care label. Use a gentle cycle in cold water with a mild detergent.

How do I wash a rain jacket by hand?

Fill a tub with cool water and a gentle detergent. Let the raincoat soak briefly then gently swish it around. Rinse twice in clean water. Do not wring or twist. Roll in a towel to absorb excess water then hang to dry.

Can you put a rain jacket in the dryer?

Avoid drying in the machine unless the label specifically says tumble dry. Use the lowest heat setting if machine drying. Most raincoats should be drip dried.

How do you revitalize a raincoat?

Restore lost water repellency by washing with a reviving detergent, spraying on a DWR restoring product or taking it to the cleaners for professional re-proofing. This renews the protective finish.

Why does my raincoat soak through after washing?

Frequent washing using heat or harsh detergents removes the durable water repellent (DWR) finish. Restore water resistance by re-applying DWR treatments. Take extra care when laundering.

How often should you wash a rain jacket?

Only wash when visibly dirty or smelly. Frequent washing degrades the special fabric coatings. Spot clean between wears. Wash every 2-3 months during light use or 2-3 weeks with heavy use.


Caring properly for your raincoat helps keep it looking great and performing at its best. Always reference the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying. Use mild detergents in cool water for best results. Avoid frequent hot water washing or machine drying which deteriorates the protective finishes. Replenish water repellency after each wash using sprays or special detergents. With some care and maintenance, your raincoat will keep you dry for many seasons.