Cleaning Efforts: How to Clean Windbreakers Like a Pro

As you are here I will assume you are learning about thru-hiking and managing gear and what you want to ... Read more

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

hiking in a windbreaker on the trail with gear on
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As you are here I will assume you are learning about thru-hiking and managing gear and what you want to bring with you which includes items like a windbreaker.

This lightweight jacket is perfect for protecting you from the wind while engaging in outdoor activities helping to maintain that vital core warmth. However, with constant use, it’s inevitable that it will eventually need a good cleaning.

So the question remains: Can you put a windbreaker in the washer? The answer is yes but with loads of care and concern to not cause damage to the fabric and make the performance fail when you critically need it.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the proper way to clean your windbreaker to keep it looking great and functioning properly for years to come.

hiking in a windbreaker on the trail with gear on

Check the care label of your windbreaker

Before washing any article of clothing, it’s important to read and follow the care label instructions, for my Outdoor Vitals Nebo windbreaker (Image below) is a simple machine wash cold.

For windbreakers, it’s especially important to check if the jacket can be machine-washed without damaging it.

If the care label indicates that machine washing is possible, make sure to follow the recommended washing instructions.

This includes choosing the right cycle and water temperature. By correctly following the care label instructions, you can prevent damage to your windbreaker and help extend its lifespan.

Remember, taking the time to check the care label is a small step that can make a big difference in the longevity of your jacket.

My tag on my Nebo Windbreaker that I take hiking

Nebo Windbreaker

How to wash a windbreaker jacket in a washing machine

To wash a windbreaker jacket in a washing machine, set the machine to a gentle cycle and choose cold water.

Add a mild detergent to the wash, but avoid using fabric softener or bleach as this can damage the fabric. If you can you want to place the jacket in a lingerie bag to protect it from any snagging during the wash cycle.

Once washed, air dry your jacket or tumble dry on low heat. If necessary, you can retreat the water repellency of the jacket after it has been washed.

Always check the care tag for specific washing instructions to ensure that you are treating the jacket properly.

Additionally, if you’re unsure about washing the windbreaker in a machine, you can always choose to hand wash in a sink or basin.

By following these steps, you can effectively clean your windbreaker without causing any damage to the fabric.

Choose the right detergent and settings for your washing machine

After checking the care label of your windbreaker, it’s important to choose the right detergent and settings for your washing machine.

Always opt for a mild detergent and avoid using bleach or fabric softener, as these can damage the fabric and strip away its water-repellent properties.

When selecting your settings, make sure to choose a gentle cycle and use cold water to prevent shrinkage or damage to the windbreaker’s fibers.

It’s also a good idea to check all pockets and zip up the jacket before washing to prevent any snagging or tearing.

If you’re uncertain about using your washing machine, you can always wash the windbreaker by hand instead.

However, if you decide to use a washer, be sure to follow these washing tips to keep your windbreaker looking and performing its best.

Avoid using bleach or fabric softener

When it comes to washing a windbreaker jacket, it’s crucial to avoid harsh chemicals like bleach or fabric softener.

These chemicals can not only damage the fabric of the jacket but can also strip away its water-repellent properties.

Instead, opt for a mild detergent that is specifically designed for delicate fabrics. Ensure that the detergent doesn’t contain bleach or fabric softener before you start.

Be mindful of the settings on your washing machine and choose a gentle cycle with cold water to avoid any damage to the jacket’s fibers.

By avoiding bleach and fabric softener, you can prolong the life of your windbreaker jacket and retain its functionality.

Air dry or tumble dry on low heat

After washing your windbreaker in the washing machine, it is important to properly dry it to maintain its shape and functionality.

Air drying is always a great option, but if you’re short on time, tumble dry on low heat is a viable alternative.

Allow your windbreaker to dry until it is slightly damp and then remove it from the dryer to air dry the rest of the way.

It’s important to avoid using high heat, as it can damage the fabric and decrease its effectiveness. Remember to check the care label and choose the right settings for your machine to ensure the best results.

Retreating its water repellency, if needed, will help keep it in great condition for future use. Overall, with proper care, your windbreaker will last for many adventures to come!

Re-Treat water repellency as needed

Once your windbreaker is washed and dried, you may find that it’s no longer water-repellent like it used to be.

But don’t worry – you can easily retreat its water repellency. There are various waterproofing sprays and wash-in treatments available on the market, such as Nikwax, which can help restore the jacket’s ability to repel water.

Before applying any waterproofing treatment, make sure your windbreaker is clean and dry. Follow the instructions on the product label, which may involve spraying or washing the treatment into the fabric, then allowing it to air dry.

With renewed water repellency, your windbreaker will be ready to take on any rainy day with ease.

Washing a windbreaker by hand: pros and cons

Although it’s possible to machine-wash a windbreaker jacket, washing it by hand has its pros and cons.

One advantage of hand washing is that it reduces the risk of damaging the jacket’s delicate fabric, zippers, or button snaps.

Additionally, washing by hand allows you to control the temperature and avoid using harsh detergents, which can strip the jacket’s water repellency.

However, hand washing can also be a bit messy and can take more time and effort than using a washing machine.

When washing a windbreaker by hand, it’s advisable to use only cold water and a gentle detergent, such as Woolite or Nikwax.

After washing, rinse the jacket thoroughly with cold water to remove all the soap residue. Finally, hang the jacket to air dry or use a dryer on low heat.

Whether you choose to wash your windbreaker by hand or using a washing machine, always check the care label and use the appropriate cleaning method to preserve its quality and durability.

Common mistakes to avoid when washing a windbreaker

Common mistakes can easily be made when washing a windbreaker jacket, which can result in damaging the fabric and its water-resistant properties.

Firstly, it is important to avoid using bleach or fabric softener, as they can cause discoloration and damage to the jacket’s material.

Additionally, washing a windbreaker in warm water or using a high heat setting in the dryer can cause shrinkage or deformation of the fabric.

It’s also essential to avoid over-washing windbreakers, as this can cause the material to break down and degrade faster.

To prevent these mistakes, it’s recommended to carefully read the care label of the jacket, choose a gentle cycle with cold water and an appropriate detergent, and let it air dry or use low heat in the dryer.

Retreating water repellency if required is also essential for maintaining the jacket’s quality. By following these tips, one can effectively clean and care for their windbreaker jacket without ruining it.


In conclusion, washing a windbreaker jacket is not as complicated as it may seem.

By following the care label, choosing the right detergent and settings for your washing machine, avoiding bleach and fabric softener, and air drying or tumble drying on low heat, you can keep your windbreaker clean without damaging it.

Don’t forget to retreat water repellency if needed and use the right water temperature and gentle cycle for best results.

If you prefer to wash your windbreaker by hand, remember to rinse thoroughly to remove soap residue. By avoiding common mistakes, you can prolong the life of your windbreaker and keep it looking great for years to come.

If you are looking to purchase a new windbreaker for an upcoming thru-hike check out my page.

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