getting caught in the rain is represented on the screen with a frequency close to the comic strip. From makeup scenes in the Nicholas Sparks film to Shawshank drama Redemption and Point Break, stormy skies have long been a marker of heightened emotions, desperate statements, and a willingness to get wet.
With the La Niña weather conditions already making this a particularly wet Australian summer, on the plus side we can plan some big romantic gestures with a little more oomph. But that doesn’t mean our clothes have to suffer. Here’s how to take care of your outfit after that dramatic downpour.
When you get home from getting caught in the rain, assess what you’re wearing and how wet it is to determine what to do next. Corey Simpson, communications manager for the apparel company Patagonia, says, “Some materials may not require care after being picked up in the rain; others, like natural fabrics, may need to be dried.
Clothing like coats and jackets that have natural water resistance can simply be shaken or wiped off, while t-shirts, sweaters, and pants that have absorbed rainwater will require more attention.
Once you’ve removed wet clothes, it’s best not to leave them in a pile or inside a laundry basket, as this can cause mildew and odor. Damp clothes should be hung on a rack to dry or wash immediately.
If you’ve been particularly adventurous (or unlucky) and your clothes are dirty and wet, Simpson says to “wipe off pieces of mud and debris” first, “then wash the garment according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”
For delicate fabrics like fine wool and silk, a dry cleaning may be necessary to avoid water spots.
Simpson says synthetic fabrics coated with “a durable water repellency generally do better in the rain,” but they also require special treatment to maintain performance.
Unfortunately, water repellency doesn’t last forever. It can be affected by dirt, your skin’s natural oils, sunscreen, and smoke, so it’s important to keep your raincoat or down jacket clean. Simpson says, “Make sure to wash and dry your garment often – it helps remove oils and anything that can hinder the performance of your down jacket or raincoat.”
Check the care instructions, but most nylon or polyester rain jackets and waterproof shells are machine washable. Use a high performance wear-specific cleaner (Simpson recommends Granger).
Proper drying is also important to maintain water repellency properties. Raincoats should be put in the dryer on medium heat for at least half an hour, he suggests. If the care instructions allow it, ironing can improve the water repellency as well, but this should be done on a towel over very low heat to avoid melting your jacket.
For less technical rain gear – like waxed cotton parkas or poly-cotton trench coats – it’s best to follow the care instructions on the label. Ironically, some waterproof trench coats can only be dry cleaned.
Down jackets should be washed with a down-specific detergent and can take a long time to dry. They should be left to drain for 24 to 48 hours, while being inflated from time to time to prevent the down from clumping. When it is almost dry, put the puffer in the dryer on low heat with dryer balls to completely break up any remaining clumps.
If the water repellency of your outerwear has diminished after a few years of wearing, the good news is you can reapply. Patagonia recommends rinse-off or spray Nikwax – which also work on waxed cotton.
Special care for shoes
Getting caught in the rain is the number one reason to waterproof your shoes and sneakers when you first buy them. Jenny Velakoulis, owner of Evans Leather Repair, says to apply three coats of a waterproofing spray to your leather shoes, then reapply every six months.
The same goes for sneakers. Eugene Cheng, the founder of Sneaker Laundry, a maintenance service in Melbourne, says the first and most important step is protection. A waterproofing spray will form a barrier around the sneaker, making it easier to maintain.
If the rain has already reached your shoes, make sure they are clean before drying them. Use a material specific shampoo to prevent dirt from drying in the shoe, then place the leather shoes in a dry place away from heaters and out of direct sunlight to dry. Once dry, apply a balm to nourish the leather.
For sneakers that have been soaked, take out the laces and insoles and leave them outside in the sun. Cheng warns that sneakers can go moldy if stored in closets or left indoors when wet.