Care of Performance Fabrics

Proper Care for Performance Fabrics

From the latest micro fibers to synthetics, blends, silk like cotton and wool, every fabric needs proper care to deliver maximum performance. Often the label instructions are intended to manage liability or facilitate sales rather than maximize the durability and features of the fabric. Some manufacturers specify "Dry clean only" hoping to insure that inexperienced owners won't damage a garment with excessive heat or improper drying. Waterproof Breathables will suggest powder detergent because they don't want to create the appearance that special care is required. This usually results in loss of performance after a single washing. Occasionally you are instructed to use residue - free detergent or dish detergent. The manufacturer may not know that superior detergents are available or want to be bothered by evaluating products and maintaining current data on availability for his customers.

Washing Performance Fabrics with ordinary laundry detergents destroys the very properties that you are trying to restore. Detergent residue is the chemical scum deposited on the fabric with every washing. In about 10 washings it reaches 2 % of the weight of the fabric. It consists of Perfume, Ultra-Violet Brightening Dyes, Salts, Surfactants, Processing Aids, Washing Machine Lubricants, and a variety of Oils, Fats, and Polymers to glue it all to the fabric. This stiffens the fabric by binding the fibers together. Now Fabric Softener is added to reduce stiffness adding more residue.

Residue stops water repellency, breathability, wicking, and moisture transfer. It attacks fibers, adhesives, elastomers, colors, and coatings. Residue irritates skin especially in warm moist areas where the residue is activated and the skin is more permeable. Detergent residue even attracts insects, spooks game animals, and increases flammability. Dry cleaning deposits similar residue gathered from all the items already cleaned.

The solution to most high tech cleaning problems is to remove soil, stains, odors, and the oils that fasten them without depositing a residue. Sport-Wash and Sensi-Clean restore fabric features by thorough cleaning without residue. No residue means No Problems, fabrics work like new.

Water-Repellent Fabric should be washed only in Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean Laundry Detergent. Durable Water Repellents (DWR) such as Scotch Guard, Zepel, Teflon, and others rely on changing the electrical potential of the fiber surface so that water is not attracted to it. Water should bead-up and roll off instead of sticking, wetting, and saturating. Typical detergents deposit chemical residue equal to 2% of the weight of the fabric (more on microfibers because of the increased surface area). The residue covers the fluorpolymer in the DWR allowing the water to spread out and soak into the fabric instead of beading up and rolling off.

Washing the residue away with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean restores the repellency. It can be further enhanced by ironing to activate the molecules of DWR enabling them to reorient themselves for maximum effectiveness. In some cases the factory applied DWR repellent may not recover because it was a poor application or has been removed. If after laundering with Sport-Wash / Sensi-Clean and ironing, the shell does not repel water it must be retreated.

The shell can be easily retreated by spraying with Silicone Water-Guard, this is simple and easy but not as permanent as a factory applied DWR. With a bit more effort, you can actually apply a DWR to exceed factory performance using Permanent Water-Guard.

Permanent Water-Guard, from Atsko, is a water based fluorpolymer that actually guarantees permanent repellent performance.

Waterproof Breathables are a special category of garments with a liner membrane made of Fluoropolymer (Teflon) in a non-woven web. The liner does not require any special care. The outer shell usually has a DWR. Simply care for the shell as if the liner wasn't there. Contact info@atsko.com for a tech sheet on Waterproof Breathables.

Insulation value is dependent upon fabric care. Insulation depends on the creation of air pockets to reduce the transfer of heat. Whether down, polyester, or anything in between, oils and other residues tend to stick fibers together. This prevents them from fluffing up and expanding to provide the big voids that stop heat transfer. When insulation mats down,heat moves thru it more easily.

Sport-Wash and Sensi-Clean leave insulation cleaner because they rinse out completely. Cleaner fibers can slide easily among each other to expand for maximum loft. This same freedom of motion is the reason why you never need fabric softener with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean.

Other detergents coat fibers with sticky residue that paste them together so they feel stiff, hard, and scratchy. Closed cell foam does not gain and loose insulation value with washing but is not breathable. Items using closed cell foam tend to have drying and odor problems, so it is important that they too be washed with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean. This is also true of Coated materials such as tents, bags, and packs.

Wicking and water transport depend on proper cleaning. Recent advances in active wear include socks (like Active Dry® by Second Wind), underwear, cycling shorts, shirts, expedition wear, etc. with the ability to move moisture away from the skin to maximize comfort. This can be a natural property as in the case of Wool and polypropylene or it may be the result of physical properties such as fleecing for separation or channeling fibers for increased surface. Surface treatments can also be applied to enhance wicking, transport, and evaporation. In all cases these properties are lost when coated with detergent residue. As with all performance losses, you can reverse the damage by washing in Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean, which not only leaves no residue but washes away residue left by other detergents.

Fabrics actually last longer when washed in Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean. This difference will be most noticeable on items that are washed daily like exercise leotards, swim suits, or socks. Detergent and hard water residues and chlorine compounds will attack fibers by filling micro fissures on the surface and deepening them as temperature and humidity fluctuate. Some detergents contain oxidizers such as hydrogen peroxides, etc. and actually try to bleach away soils and stains instead of removing them. This process usually burns up the good along with the bad. It is especially hard on natural fibers, colors, and elastic whether rubber, latex, lycra, or spandex.

Mechanical Damage can be reduced by proper cleaning. Fabrics exposed to abrasive particles as in concrete work or mining will last longer if these abrasive particles are removed. Webbing and rope for work, rescue, and recreational climbing can lose critical strength if used without proper cleaning. Sport-Wash and Sensi-Clean clean away particles, even those held in place by oil and grease, without damaging oxidation or chemical residue. This leaves ropes and webbing more flexible to further reduce damage and wear.

Hand wringing and even high speed spin can cause shrinking or stretching and other mechanical damage. Wool, Silk, and delicate items should be patted gently between towels and air dried while supported on a flat mesh or sweater rack.

Rinsing a garment with a few drops of Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean added to rinse water will actually leave it with less residue than rinsing in plain water. It easily removes salt, perspiration residue, and chlorine that plain water won't remove. Fabrics are cleanest just after the last of the surfactant rinses away. Continued rinsing actually adds back damaging minerals from the rinse water, shortening the life of swim wear and exercise wear.

Heat can damage delicate fabrics. Sport-Wash and Sensi-Clean are effective in cooler water than most detergents. Typical powders may waste the wash cycle just to dissolve in cold water. They are useless for silk, acetate, and other delicate items that must avoid heat. When a detergent has marginal solubility it will not rinse well. Sport-Wash and Sensi-Clean excel in solubility and rinseability.

Crafts and Wearable Art tend to be easily damaged. Paints, glue, heat transfers, glitter, and gems all adhere better when fabric is first washed in Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean. Detergent residue rapidly dulls bright colors, metallic, glitter, Rhine stones, etc. Adhesive, heat appliques, and screen printing won't last as long if washed with anything but Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean.

Color fading is often a case of stripping dyes from one area and redepositing them in other areas. Colors won't run on a white football jersey's or other uniforms if washed in cold water with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean and dried immediately.

Fabrics vary widely in their ability to resist U-V damage from the Sun. Heavy Vinyl coated polyester shelter material may last for several years of sun exposure but a typical light weight nylon family tent has a life of about 21 full days of sun exposure. A poly-cotton cloth used for camouflage clothing or a photographers blind will last about 1 year. The outdoor life of these fabrics can be extended by 200% to 500% simply by treating them one time with U-V-Block or U-V-Killer. Flags, bunting, streamers, banners, canopies, and outdoor decorations will all last longer with U-V-Block or U-V-Killer.

U-V-Block and U-V-Killer absorb the Ultra-Violet energy that destroys colors and fibers. They also protect anything shaded by the treated fabric. An old white dress shirt has an SPF of 4 to 6 when dry and 2 to 5 when wet. A single treatment enhances that shirt to SPF 20 to 30 and you avoid the expense, hassle and chemical exposure of repetitive sun screen applications. This is a great way to protect anyone who is vulnerable to sun damage.

Tents should be pitched in the shade or treated with U-V-Block or U-V-Killer. Always take them down when not in use.

Tents can be washed with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean and the breathable area treated with Silicone Water-Guard or Permanent Water-Guard. Water repellent should not be applied before U-V-Block. Coated areas such as flies, splash areas, and floor are already waterproof and benefit very little from addition of a repellent.

Many serious outdoorsmen still use oiled cotton canvas for tents and clothing. These have a long life and can be highly waterproof. The ideal treatment for such canvas materials is Sno-Seal Beeswax Waterproofing. As on leather boots, it is applied to warm material until no more is absorbed. See our Tech Sheet on leather care.

Most odors will wash away with Sport-Wash. Athletic shoes, waders, wet suits, bulletproof vests, polypropylene underwear, and baseball caps can hold odors tenaciously. But, if washable, Sport-Wash/ Sensi-Clean will make them odor free. As with serious stains a presoak of 10-30 minutes will often remove more odor without any additional physical washing damage. To control odor between washings apply N-O-DOR per label directions. It is safe for most fabrics and can even be used directly on the skin and hair.

High Efficiency (Horizontal Axis) Washing Machines now make it possible to machine wash items that have always required Hand Washing. The new machines cost more initially but will pay for themselves by saving water, heat, electricity, and wear and tear on clothes. They have gentle cycles that really are gentle. By eliminating the agitator, they greatly improve the life of stitchings and seams. To maximize the performance and savings of these new machines use only Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean in them

As you have read, the key to washing any special fabric by hand or by machine is to use Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean. The label information should be followed carefully regarding temperature, drying, ironing, bleaching, and separating of colors, etc. Our residue free detergents make the critical difference between leaving a residue that destroys the special features you paid for and the residue-free condition that enhances those features preserving the appearance, value, and life of your garments.

You may believe that dry cleaning leaves your clothes cleaner than detergents. This is not true, dry cleaning can add new residue (odors) extracted by the solvents from previous garments. The solvents are constantly distilled and filtered but gradually carry more and more as they are recycled again and again. That's why they are periodically replaced. You don't want your clothing to be the last item cleaned before the solvent is finally replaced. When you wash at home with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean you can be certain that other detergents and fabric softeners never contaminate your clothing.

Your skin will appreciate residue free clothes too. If you have a family member with sensitive skin, allergies, psoriasis, etc. they can enjoy relief from the irritation caused by laundry detergent residue. Your first few washes with Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean will be cleaning detergent residue from your clothes and your machine. There are several ways to enjoy being residue-free quicker. The simplest is to wash the clothes first without detergent. Your clothes actually contain enough detergent after 10 washings to equal the recommended measure for a standard load. Often, if the same powdered detergent has been used for several years it will be caked between the drums and under the agitator. This can usually be softened and removed by filling the machine (no clothes) with extra hot water and letting it soak overnight before running the cycle to wash it all away. Running a load of very wet towels should remove most of the residue from your dryer by the time they are done.

The front loaders at your local Laundromat probably see a wide variety of detergents that actually clean each other out. Smell the machine and run a load of "non-critical" items if there is any doubt. The big front loader is a must for tents, sleeping bags, big down coats, comforters, etc., unless you do them by hand.

Sport-Wash and Sensi-Clean make it possible to wash almost any fabric and leave it totally residue free. No fragrance, dyes, salts or surfactants to interfere with the properties you sought when purchasing the article. There are several cautions that must be observed, but an informed consumer can get excellent results washing just about anything. Be aware that you won't have a manufacturer or dry cleaner to blame if you ignore label recommendations, But you gain continued superior performance and save money by doing it yourself in your own home. Needless to say we can't take responsibility for unanticipated things that can go wrong, but I'm happy to answer any questions by phone, FAX, E-mail, or letter (preferably before the mistake is made). If you are uncomfortable about trying a new approach by all means stay with traditional / professional care.

But if you are looking for maximum performance and already have experienced the mediocre results common to most "proven" methods: why not try a bit of do-it-yourself and common sense for a totally different approach to "clean".

Read and follow label instructions, some have really good tips. Always use Sport-Wash or Sensi-Clean and feel free to call us for advice.

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