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The Art of Keeping Dry
I'll never forget the day I took a spin around Hood Canal and wound up on the Bremerton Ferry with my Ballistic Jacket held over the hand dryer in the men's room, trying to dry out my waterlogged sleeves. What happened? The manufacturer said the coat was waterproof?!
Yep, it was... for the first year I had it. After that, elements such as: sun, rain, hail and day to day movement took the urethane coating off the jacket and pants. Know anyone in Puget Sound who re-urethanes the mighty Kevlar? Me, neither. Even if I did, what would I do about my leather boots, gloves, etc... Should I get a new Ballistic combo for $500. Could I spend $50 and re-waterproof?
I started asking around and someone suggested I check out Nikwax products. I did, and I'm thrilled to report no one seems to make better products for staying dry. Waterproofing your clothes is not about a single product, it's about many. Nikwax has come up with a broad range of products suited for every piece of clothing in your arsenal, including your blue jeans.
Born in the UK a few decades back, Nikwax began producing a product called Liquid Nikwax. The product was petroleum based and worked well for leather. It was popular with both motorcyclists and equestrians. That soon led to more research and development, which covered a world of other products. Today, Nikwax manufactures more than 20 products related to waterproofing.
Waterproofing is an Art
Waterproofing your clothing for the Northwest is an art, not something you take for granted, and surely not something that takes a single product. Leather, Nylon, Cotton and combinations thereof, all require separate techniques to keep the wet out, and you dry. Ever thought you might get away cheap by just buying some Scotch Guard at Fred Meyer and spraying everything you own with it? I tried that once. Flood City, baby. It was as if I had done nothing at all. Follow me, and let's explore the art of waterproofing together. We'll cover leather, nylon, cotton and the combinations thereof.
Wherever Water Goes...
Before we journey into each category, let's get something straight. Wherever water goes, is where Nikwax goes. Most Nikwax products are water based, not petroleum, and are able to penetrate your clothing deeper than most products you grew up with. Things like Mink Oil, Snow Seal and urethanes don't follow this premise. They work on the surface, but not deeply in the material.
The premise of Nikwax is to get the product wet, that carries a polymer made up of highly refined wax and E.V.A into the garment. The water evaporates and leaves the polymer behind. Products like Gortex, nylon and cotton breathe as normal because Nikwax is virtually invisible on these products and does not leave a clogging residue behind.
Let's Start With Leather
Mark Samuelson at Nikwax best describes leather as "Dead Skin." After a weekend of doing home improvement, that's how mine feels. Imagine what skin is like after it really dies. It no longer is receiving any minerals or oils until you apply something to it. So whether it's gloves, leathers, a jacket, or boots, Nikwax takes you through a 3-4 step process.
You begin by cleaning the outer surface so that every nook and cranny is penetrated. You can do this with a rag, or apply their Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel. Next you apply Nikwax's Liquid Conditioner, which will helps open the pores and make them supple. Finally, you put on either their Liquid Nikwax or Aqueous Leather Wax, and this should be reapplied every few months or so.
There are those who say to apply the product seasonally. As far as motorcycling goes in the Northwest, seasonally is January through December.
For those with Nubuck or Suede substitute, use Nikwax's Nubuck and Suede treatment so you don't discolor your garment.
Gloves? Leather? Nylon and Leather?
As for gloves, the previously mentioned Aqueous Leather Wax is the way to go, unless you've got combo gloves that utilize both nylon and leather. For this, Nikwax makes their Fabric and Leather product, which deeply penetrates both nylon and leather.
Nylon and Kevlar
The secret with nylon products and Nikwax is to get the product clean and wet, then treat it. You begin by tossing your jacket, pants and nylon gloves into the washer and washing them with Tech Wash. This cleans the fabric without leaving detergent residues in the fibers, making room for Nikwax to adhere.
So now you've got a clean load of laundry, and you set the machine up to wash again, only this time you'll use TX Direct in the wash. The great thing about this is that you'll waterproof the entire garment, not just the outer surface.
You may then dry the garment on low or air dry. A low dry will cause the polymers to adhere immediately to the garment's fibers. An air dry will mean it will be a few days before the polymers adhere. In either case, waterproofing will be achieved inside and out and your clothes will still breathe well.
If you want some added insurance, after a while you can use Nikwax's TX Direct spray between washes.
So what else can I waterproof? Yep, you can waterproof your cotton articles, too! Clothing like Jeans, t-shirts and even a long sleeve chamois can be waterproofed with Nikwax's Cotton Proof. The downfall with this product is that the garment is only waterproof until the next time you wash it normally. But that's okay if you're planning to ride in the rain on a warm spring day and want to beat the water without rain pants.
Where to Buy It!
Nikwax is available through the Sound RIDER! store.
At Sound RIDER! one of our goals is to provide you with the knowledge to ride as safely and comfortably as possible year around. We believe Nikwax goes a long way in allowing riders to do just that. For much more information check out the domestic website for Nikwax at http://www.nikwax-usa.com
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