How to Wash a Windbreaker

A windbreaker is a lightweight jacket made from synthetic fabric that is designed to protect against wind and light rain. Windbreakers are a wardrobe staple, but they can be tricky to wash properly. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn the best practices for washing a windbreaker to keep it looking and performing its best.

Supplies Needed

  • Windbreaker jacket
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Washing machine
  • Clothes drying rack or hanger
  • Fabric softener (optional)

Pre-Treating Stains

Before washing, inspect your windbreaker for any visible stains or dirt. Pretreating will help loosen and remove stains to prevent them from setting into the fabric.

How to Pre-Treat

  • Spot clean any stains with a small amount of mild detergent and warm water. For tougher stains, use a pre-wash stain remover spray.
  • Gently rub the detergent or spray into the stain using a clean toothbrush or upholstery brush. This helps lift dirt from the fabric.
  • Rinse away all soap residue with clean water.
  • Allow the windbreaker to air dry fully before washing. This prevents stains from setting.

Washing Instructions

Read Labels

  • Check clothing tags for specific washing instructions. Many windbreakers are machine washable, but avoid washing if the tag says dry clean only.
  • Look for information on water temperature, wash cycles, and drying methods. This will give the best results.

Wash Separately

  • Wash your windbreaker separately from other garments. Zip up zippers and velcro closures to prevent snagging.
  • Washing alone allows you to control the wash settings and prevents pilling from friction.

Use Mild Detergent

  • Choose a gentle, liquid laundry detergent for synthetics. Powder detergent can leave residue.
  • Don’t use detergent with added bleach or fabric softener. Harsh chemicals can degrade the fabric.

Select the Right Cycle

  • Use the delicate or permanent press cycle, which has a gentle agitation.
  • Set the water to cool or lukewarm temperature. Avoid hot water, which can damage the fabric.
  • Skip the extra spin cycle to reduce wrinkling.

Drying Your Windbreaker

Improper drying can damage your windbreaker or cause shrinkage. Follow these methods:

Air Dry

  • Lay your windbreaker flat on top of a drying rack or towel. Shape it to prevent creases.
  • Avoid hanging as this can stretch the shoulders.
  • Let it air dry completely before wearing or storing.

Tumble Dry Low

  • If needed, tumble dry on low heat. Remove promptly when dry.
  • Use wool dryer balls to fluff the jacket and reduce static.
  • Don’t overheat, which causes excessive shrinkage.

Steam or Iron

  • Once fully dry, use a garment steamer to smooth out wrinkles and creases. Avoid direct contact.
  • If ironing, use the synthetic fabric setting and iron inside out.

Storing Your Windbreaker

Storing your windbreaker properly between wears will help extend its life.

  • Allow the jacket to fully air dry before storing to prevent mildew.
  • Fold neatly along the seams rather than bunching up. This keeps the shape.
  • Use cedar blocks or natural cotton balls in the closet to repel moths.
  • Put in breathable garment bag if hanging. Avoid non-breathable plastic bags.
  • Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to avoid fading.
  • Avoid cramming on overloaded closet shelves or hangers to prevent distortion.

How to Wash Specific Windbreaker Fabrics

Different windbreaker fabrics require slightly different washing methods. Always check the care tag first.


  • Use cold water and mild detergent
  • Machine wash gentle cycle
  • Lay flat or line dry only
  • Cool iron inside out


  • Wash in warm water
  • Can machine wash and tumble dry low
  • Remove promptly from dryer
  • Warm iron inside out

Gore-Tex and Other Waterproof Fabrics

  • Pretreat stains and dirt to prevent buildup
  • Wash with non-detergent soap like Nikwax Tech Wash
  • Front-load washing machine only
  • Tumble dry low and remove immediately
  • Do not iron

Troubleshooting Windbreaker Issues

Follow this troubleshooting guide if your windbreaker develops issues after washing:

Pilling or Lint Balls

Cause – Friction and heat damage fibers
Fix – Use a fabric shaver or sweater comb to remove pills. Adjust washing and drying to be more gentle.

Loss of Water Resistance

Cause – Repeated washing breaks down DWR coating
Fix – Apply a DWR (durable water repellent) spray restoration product

Faded Colors

Cause – Hot water, direct sunlight, excessive drying
Fix – Wash in cold water and limit drying time. Store properly out of sunlight.


Cause – High heat washing, tumble drying
Fix – Stretch jacket to dimensions and wash cold, air dry only going forward.

Mildew Smell

Cause – Stored wet
Fix – Wash with bleach alternative. Allow to fully dry before storing.

Snags and Tears

Cause – Catching on sharp objects
Fix – Avoid washing with zippers, velcro, buttons done up. Hand stitch small holes.

Windbreaker Washing Q&A

How often should you wash a windbreaker?

Only wash a windbreaker when visibly dirty or smelly. Over-washing causes excessive wear. Unless heavily soiled, washing every 5-10 wears is sufficient.

Can you put a windbreaker in the washing machine?

Most nylon and polyester windbreakers can be machine washed on delicate cycle in cold water. Avoid the washing machine for waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex.

What temperature should you wash a windbreaker?

Wash windbreakers in cold or lukewarm water only. Hot water can cause fading, shrinkage, and damage the fabric. Check the tag to confirm recommended temperature.

How do you wash a waterproof windbreaker?

Use a special detergent for waterproof breathable fabrics, like Nikwax Tech Wash. This cleans without compromising the DWR coating. Front-load washer only. Air dry only.

Can you put a windbreaker in the dryer?

Most windbreakers can be tumble dried on low heat, but air drying is safest to prevent damage. Remove promptly when dry. Check tag for drying guidelines.

How do you dry a windbreaker fast?

Lay flat to air dry, or tumble dry low heat for up to 20 minutes. Excessive heat damages the fabric. For quicker drying, use a fan to circulate air.

How do you get wrinkles out of a windbreaker?

To remove wrinkles, hang the windbreaker in a steaming bathroom, lightly steam, or iron inside out per fabric instructions. Tumble drying briefly can also help reduce wrinkles.

How do you soften a polyester windbreaker?

Add 1⁄2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to naturally soften polyester. Tumble dry with dryer balls. Avoid fabric softeners which can cause windbreakers to lose water resistance.

Can you bleach a windbreaker?

Never use chlorine bleach on a windbreaker, as this will damage the fabric. For disinfecting, use an oxygen bleach alternative that is safe for synthetics.

How do you fix a windbreaker that shrunk?

Gently stretch the fabric diagonally to dimensions. Use steam or iron heat to help ease fibers back to shape. Update care routine to prevent future shrinking.


With the proper cleansing methods, windbreakers can handle regular washing while maintaining their functionality and performance. By following fabric care instructions, pre-treating stains, washing delicately in cold water, limiting heat, and storing properly, your windbreaker will resist dirt, wind, and rain for many seasons before needing replacement. Implement these best practices for keeping your windbreaker looking and working like new.