We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.