How To Wash Sailing Foul Weather Gear

Foul weather gear used for sailing is essential equipment for any sailor. The gear will keep you warm and dry in harsh weather conditions.  

But after a while, even the best sailing foul weather gear will become dirty and smelly after extended use. 

To maintain the quality of your foul weather gear, wash it regularly, inspect for damages, and repair as needed.

At a Glance:

1️⃣ Regularly washing your foul weather gear will help it last longer and maintain waterproofing and breathability.

2️⃣ Always read the care instructions provided by the manufacturer.

3️⃣ If possible, machine wash the foul weather gear in a front-loading washing machine or wash the garments by hand. Always use cold (cool) water.

4️⃣ Remove any stubborn stains with a gentle brush after you have let the material soak for a few minutes in an approved stain remover.

🫧 Preparing For Wash

Spending a little time preparing for the wash pays off in the long run and makes the cleaning process much easier. The prewash inspection should include the following steps.

Check The Care Label

Before washing your foul weather gear, check the labels for any specific instructions and precautions. 

Some gear may have specific washing requirements that you should abide by to avoid damaging the fabric or removing the waterproofing that is part of the gear from the manufacturing stage.

Inspect The Gear

Before washing your gear, scrutinize it for any damage or tears, and repair these as necessary.

First, remove any of the obvious debris or dirt that has accumulated on the surface. To do this, use a soft-bristled brush or a damp cloth and wipe away all dirt or debris. Never rub too hard, as this could damage the fabric.

Remove Stubborn Stains

Foul weather sailing gear often has stubborn stains caused by rubbing against greasy equipment or through poor storage practice. If the material is stained, you should try to loosen the impaired area by pre-treating it before washing. 

Apply an approved stain remover directly onto the stained area and leave it to lie for a short while before washing (check the instructions on the bottle).  

Once it has soaked for a short while, applying a soft brush to rub the stains gently will cause them to disappear.

Hopefully, this will loosen the stain and let it wash out.

🚿 Foul Weather Gear Inner Layers Washing

When washing your gear, use a mild detergent specifically designed for waterproof and breathable fabrics. 

Avoid using bleach, fabric softeners, or harsh detergents, as they can damage the fabric or remove the waterproofing.

Machine Washing

A front-loading washing machine is the best for your foul-weather gear. 

Front-loading machines are less likely to damage the fabric as opposed to top-loading machines, which may have a harsher action. 

Always ensure that you only use a gentle wash cycle with cold water and use the recommended amount of detergent.

Hand Washing

Hand washing foul weather gear’s Inner Layers is the safest method. It allows you to inspect the material while you are washing and concentrate on any stubborn stains you come across.

Use a tepid water temperature and work the material until it is cleaned to your satisfaction.

Rinse Thoroughly

After washing, rinse the foul weather gear thoroughly to remove any remaining detergent or suds. 

You can rinse your gear by running it through a second cycle in the washing machine without detergent or by hand rinsing it with cold water. 

Drying The Foul Weather Gear

Once your foul weather gear is washed and rinsed, hang it to dry in a well-ventilated area. 

Try not to hang it in direct sunlight, and don’t use an electric tumble dryer, as this could damage the fabric or remove the waterproofing.

🚿 Foul Weather Gear Outer Layers Washing

Avoid using hot water when washing the outer layers of your foul weather gear, as it can damage the fabric and will also remove the waterproofing.

If there are stubborn stains that you want to remove, the best method is to gently scrub them with a brush (soft-bristled) or sponge.

If the outer layers of your foul weather gear have any reflective strips, ensure you cover them (for protection) with a cloth or tape before washing them.

Never iron the outer layers of your foul weather gear, as this can damage the fabric and remove the waterproofing.

🌬️ Drying And Storage

The foul weather gear must be dried correctly before being stored away.

Air Drying

When you dry the foul weather gear, concentrate on the inner layers as far as possible. These are the layers that come into contact with your clothes. 

They will become moldy and quickly transfer that smell to your clothes if they are not dry.

Hang the washed foul weather gear up in a shaded area away from the sun. 

It should have good ventilation or airflow, and there should always be drains on the ground or surface that allow the water to run off from the floor.

Storage Tips

A good rule on a boat is that no one can walk through the living area with foul weather gear on. 

If you break this rule, your living area, which should be a dry haven, will soon become wet and smelly. 

It is very unpleasant to have someone leaving a trail of dripping seawater as they walk through the boat.

Instead, the rule should be that you require that all foul weather gear be removed in the cockpit and hung up until it is needed again.

Installing racks in the cockpit where the gear can be stored between use is a great idea. It also allows them to drip dry before the next time they are used. 

Ensure the dripping water can run off and not pool in the cockpit. Installing as many grates or grated floorboards near the companionway is a great idea.

After the foul weather gear has been washed, dry them thoroughly before storing them. You don’t want mold and mildew to start growing. 

The ideal place for longer-term storage is to have a heated cupboard with an air vent; of course, this depends on the size and facilities of the boat. 

💦 Maintaining And Reapplying Waterproofing

After you have had the foul weather gear for some time, the waterproofing may wear off. Instead of giving the kit away (as many do), it is a simple process to renew the waterproofing by applying one of the many available products.

Reapply The Waterproofing

You can apply a waterproofing spray or wash the garments in an approved product to maintain its functionality. 

Follow the waterproofing product’s instructions carefully to ensure you apply it correctly.

Choosing A Water Proofer

There are two main types of waterproofing products, each using a different application method.

Spray On Water Proofer– Apply outdoors due to safety concerns.
– Hang garment outside on a clothesline or hanger.
– Spray waterproofer thoroughly all over the garment.
– A typical can covers one foul weather suit. Respray high-wear areas if leftover spray exists.
– Focus extra spray on abrasion-prone areas: arms, legs, shoulders, armpits, crotch/upper thigh.
Wash-In Water Proofer– Best applied with a front-loading washing machine.
– Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, typically setting the machine to a warm-water (+-30oC) gentle cycle.
– Some products may suggest a low-heat dryer cycle to seal the coating. This is not recommended due to potential garment damage.
– Always check the instructions on the product bottle first.


Can You Machine Wash Waterproof Jackets?

You can machine wash waterproof jackets; however, we recommend only using a front-loaded washing machine set to a gentle cycle that uses water at a cool temperature. 

Never leave the garments in the washing machine after the washing cycle. Always remove the foul weather gear and hang the garments in a position that is not in direct sunlight and has good airflow.

🔑 Key Takeaways

Follow these steps and tips to ensure your gear lasts longer and remains in good condition. 

Washing your sailing foul weather gear regularly is essential to maintain its waterproofing and breathability.

Ensure that you follow the specific instructions on the label. Don’t use harsh detergents or hot water when washing.

If you are going to machine wash the foul weather gear, ensure you use a front-loading model.

Never use a harsh cycle or high water temperature in the washing machine, and dry the gear in an open area with no direct sunlight, good ventilation, and moving air.

Being properly equipped and maintaining all of the equipment and clothing in a boat is essential. Several reading resources provide useful information, some of which are listed below.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.