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DWR: You May Not Know It, But You Need It

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) is a treatment manufacturers apply to the outer fabric of waterproof-breathable technical outerwear – drysuits, drytops, splashwear, raingear, ski jackets, etc.


  • They’re chemical substances that bond with the individual fibers in the threads of the fabric.

  • Their chemical properties prevent water from soaking into the threads. Instead, they cause the water to “bead up” and roll off the fabric.

  • This keeps the spaces between the threads open and really helps moisture from your body escape more easily through the waterproof-breathable membrane or coating. Also, when water beads up and rolls off without wetting out the fabric, you reduce evaporative cooling.

  • It’s durable, but it doesn’t last forever.

  • Abrasion, dirt, oils, etc. will eventually wear it off or mask it.

  • When this happens, water no longer beads up. It soaks into the fibers, fills the spaces between threads and interferes with breathability. This is referred to as “wetting out” of the fabric.

What you can do about it:

  • First step – clean the garment. Household detergents leave residues that interfere with DWR performance. Use a product, like ReviveX Synthetic Fabric Cleaner or Nikwax Tech Wash, that’s specially formulated to clean these high-tech garments.

    Read instructions on the cleaner bottle carefully, and follow directions for best results. Wash the garment in warm water and rinse thoroughly. If it’s just dirt and other contaminants that are masking the DWR, this is likely all that’s needed to reactivate the water repellency.

  • Second step – after the garment is dry, spray or sprinkle a bit of water on it. If the water beads up, the DWR is back on the job and you’re golden. If not…

  • Third step – reapply DWR treatment to the fabric. For most watersports apparel you need a specific type of DWR retreatment product. Many DWR renewal products require you to heat the treated garment in a clothes dryer to “set” the DWR. With our gear that has latex and neoprene in it, that level of heat is a No-No.

    You need to use a product like 303 High Tech Fabric Guard, Gear Aid ReviveX Spray-On Water Repellent, Nikwax Spray-On Waterproofing or Nikwax Wash-In Waterproofing that doesn't require high heat to activate the DWR. Follow instructions carefully for best results.

  • Now your garment is shedding water and breathing like a champ again.

  • Happy, comfortable boating!

Mark, Marketing Coordinator and ace writer, does his laundry on the clock. In addition to the NRS Mission Drysuit shown in the photos, he also washed an old ski jacket and NRS Farmer John Wetsuit and Sea Tour Jacket in the same tub load. © Ashley Grittner

Spot treat really soiled areas with full strength ReviveX.

Add the correct amount of ReviveX to a container of WARM water.

Immerse the garment in the soapy water and let soak 5-10 minutes.

Agitate the garments in the soapy water to release all the dirt.

Rinse in successive changes of clean water until the water stays clear.

And lots of dirt came out of the gear!

When the garment is fully dry, spray with 303 Fabric Guard. Take care to wet the entire garment. It’s best to dry it on a hot, sunny day. Now you’re good to go!