How To Clean Your Technical Outdoor Gear

©istockphoto/selimaksanWe all know how to wash clothes, but do you know how to get the grime off your Gore-Tex? Or how to clean a four-sea­son tent? It can be intimidating—but it doesn’t need to be. Try these easy tips to have your kit look­ing shiny and new.

Climb­ing Rope
First, take advan­tage of wash­ing day: it’s a great excuse to inspect your rope! Care­ful­ly look through the entire length for any dam­age like nicks, cuts, or places that are unusu­al­ly worn or frayed.

Assum­ing it’s in good shape, fill a clean bath­tub with luke­warm (not hot) water, then flake the rope into the tub and let it soak for an hour or two (Option­al: add a dol­lop of mild soap). Some com­pa­nies sell a kind of soap that’s made specif­i­cal­ly for wash­ing ropes, but Ivory dish soap works too.) Swish the rope around, then drain the bath water and repeat until the water is clear. Remove the rope from the tub and flake it out to dry some­where out of direct sunlight.

Hik­ing Boots
Start by dry­ing your boots completely—it’s help­ful to remove the insoles and place the boots near an open win­dow or in direct sun­light. Once they’re dry, wipe off any dirt or mud with a paper tow­el or old rag. If they’re extra dirty, remove the laces and scrub the boots with a sad­dle brush until all vis­i­ble dirt is removed. If your boots are designed to be water­proof, treat the leather or syn­thet­ic uppers with Sno-Seal every few months to keep your toes toasty and dry.

Sleep­ing Bags
Many peo­ple for­get to wash their sleep­ing bags, but it’s more impor­tant than you might think. Dirt, sweat, and oils can make the bags smell funky—but more impor­tant­ly, they can rob your bag’s down fill­ing of its insu­lat­ing loft.

If your bag just needs spot clean­ing, make a paste with water and laun­dry deter­gent. Spread it onto the dirty area with an old tooth­brush, then wipe dry. If the whole bag needs wash­ing, zip it up com­plete­ly and turn it inside out. Place the bag in a front-load­ing wash­ing machine with a spe­cif­ic down clean­er (avail­able online or at out­door stores.) Wash on the gen­tle cycle with cold water, and make sure the bag is rinsed com­plete­ly at the end of the cycle. Either air dry and re-fluff with your hands or use a large dry­er on very low heat. For extra loft, add a clean ten­nis ball to the dryer.

Still ner­vous? There are a lot of com­pa­nies that will wash your sleep­ing bag for you. It’s more expen­sive than wash­ing it your­self, but if the bag gets dam­aged it’s on them.

Gore-Tex
Check the tags! Most Gore-Tex has wash­ing instruc­tions some­where on the gar­ment. If you can’t find the instruc­tions, machine wash on a warm set­ting using a tiny bit of liq­uid deter­gent. (Def­i­nite­ly avoid pow­dered deter­gents, fab­ric soft­en­ers, etc.) Hang your gar­ment out to dry, then stick it in the dry­er for 20 min­utes to re-acti­vate the durable water-repel­lent (DWR) treat­ment on the out­er fabric.

Tents
Avoid the wash­ing machine! Instead, wash your tent by hand in the bath­tub, using cold water and a non-deter­gent soap (or spe­cial tent wash). Wash the fly and tent body sep­a­rate­ly so that you can thor­ough­ly rinse both pieces. If the dirt doesn’t come out with rins­ing, use a soft sponge—nothing abrasive!—to gen­tly scrub the grime. Hang to dry, and make sure you air dry completely.

Store all gear in a cool, dry place away from direct sun­light. Always fol­low manufacturer’s instruc­tions when wash­ing or cleaning.