We recently had the chance to check out five great products from the people at Nikwax—their Down Wash, Base Wash, Tech Wash, Wool Wash, and TX.Direct Spray. These are some great products for specific needs, but here we will look at the washes.
Nikwax is perhaps best known for its spray-on or wash-in water repellent, but they have also created a line of products for cleaning your technical gear. Nikwax claims a green card over detergent as a “gentle, green, and effective way…to clean, protect, improve performance, and prolong the life of most athletic wear, outdoor clothing, and footwear.” The washes are water based and biodegradable and don’t contain fluorocarbons or VOCs from those spray-on DWRs and are as much as five times more effective. Nikwax’s products tout being safe for your family, your washer, and the environment—in short, green.
The Down Wash is specially formulated for use with down insulation, claiming to revitalize loft and insulation and to not leave behind water attractive residues, which you apparently get with standard detergents. We checked it out, and the down we put through the wash came out clean, fluffed, and with its DWR unaffected. The small bottle runs a reasonable $9.75, as you can use it very sparingly and it goes a ways.
The BaseWash is specifically for synthetic base layers. It safely cleans, deodorizes, softens, and apparently enhances wicking and accelerates drying. The synthetic base layers we ran through the wash lost their odor and turned out very soft. Nikwax claims that the BaseWash also revitalizes wicking properties and helps spread sweat more quickly, but we honestly weren’t able to verify this claim one way or another during our testing. (There’s also a BaseWash Gel for your travel needs, which we didn’t test.) The small BaseWash runs $9.50.
Nikwax’s Tech Wash is an investment in the future of your DWR products and is said to safely revitalize breathability and water-repellency. We used the Nikwax on the super high-end gear we test, like the $400 Mountain Hardwear Drystein. The benefit here is that you can use the Tech Wash as often as you need to on that expensive jacket you purchased but live in daily, cleaning it effectively. The Drystein and other tests turned out great, even after repeated washes. At $9.75 for the little 10oz bottle, this is a great investment.
The Wool Wash Travel Gel “softens, refreshes, speeds drying, and keeps you cool,” and if you make an investment in high-end Merino wool and want to take good care of your gear it’s totally worth it. A teaspoon hand washed into that expensive sweater in the sink is all you need, however, so if you have wool gear, this is worth checking out. We tested it out on an Icebreaker LS shirt, and it turned out flawlessly, and I think I can have done with less product for just a shirt, stretching the $10 3.52 oz squeeze bottle of gel a little further.
We were impressed with the Nikwax cleaning products, and when you account for the investment you make in good gear, $10 for a specialty washing product to keep it in top shape seems pretty reasonable. I strongly encourage you to check out Nikwax’s site or great outdoor retailers to pick some up and clean that stinking piece of high-end gear you’ve held off washing to preserve the DWR. Everyone will thank you for finally getting the trail smell off it.